Virtual Gourmet

  April 16,   2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Christ Feeding the Multitudes



By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



By John Mariani

Deanes Meat Locker

    The thing that baffles me as to why it took so long for Ireland to have a first-rate gastronomy is that ever since the once ice-bound island separated from mainland Europe around 12,000 BC, its rippling coastline has provided those who eventually settled there with an enormous sea bounty.  Tribal strife, Nordic and Norman  invasions, and centuries of British domination stifled a healthy farming economy, but that has revived, not least among the small farms and dairies whose fine products now flood into the Irish cities, both north and south.
    Now Belfast is as rich in provender and seafood as any country in Europe, and it is splendidly manifest in the current restaurant scene, which has as much tradition behind it as it has international influences at its forefront.  Here are several that would compete with the food scene anywhere.

36-40 Howard Street
00 44 28 9033 1134 

    True, it sounds a bit like one of those movies in which unwitting teenagers wander into a dungeon to be tortured, but in fact Deanes Meat Locker is one of the most attractive and convivial restaurants in Belfast.  Its rosy walls, spanking white tablecloths, black wooden chairs and window onto the kitchen are beautifully lighted by small crystal chandeliers, and the staff is engaging at every level.  It’s also one of the few new restaurants in Belfast to use cloth napkins, bless their hearts.
`Michael Deane has a growing empire of restaurants since opening his first, Eipic (another odd name) in 1997, now added to by the Meat Locker, Deanes Love Fish, Deanes Deli Bistro, Deanes at Queens, Deanes Deli Vin Café, and Deane & Decano.  Obviously, the food business in Belfast has been good to him.
    The Meat Locker’s menu is straightforward and wholly unpretentious in presentation, so very creamy, fat-rimmed duck liver parfait (left) comes with an honest smear of chutney and excellent sourdough (£8).  (Psst! The service of bread and wonderful Abernathy butter comes with a £4.50 charge, but you get slices of it with the parfait, mussels, and other dishes gratis.)  
    You’ll not find better salmon (right) than that from Walter Ewing’s Belfast Fishmongers, which here is smoked lightly and served with dill crackers and capers (£9).
    Deane’s meats are cooked over an asador grill, which allows the meat to be lowered and lifted to and from the fire, so it gets a perfect char.  The meat itself is from Bóruma, called the “high king of Irish beef” (left). It is grass-fed and therefore lacks the fat marbling of American corn-fed beef, but this is a very good product, impeccably cooked.   My dry-aged sirloin (£30) was very delicious indeed, as were the accompanying French fried potatoes.
    For dessert go with the Valrhona chocolate pot, salted caramel and milk ice cream (£6) or the bracing lemon tart with pink pepper meringue and gin and tonic sorbet (£6).
    The wine list is of modest size (there is also a “private cellar list”) but all bottlings are well chosen, and prices are not unreasonable at all.

Open Mon.-Sat. for lunch and dinner. Fixed price lunch from £6.50 for one course and £18 for three courses; £18 three-course prix fixe dinner.


34-36 Bank Street
44 28 9024 8544

    Mourne Seafood Bar, with a branch in Dundrum, clearly aims to please its guests, first by a display of genuine friendliness upon entering, then a delightfully casual ambiance, a wine bar feeling, and a long menu appended with numerous specials each night depending on what was best in the seafood market. Factor in very fair prices and there’s much to love about this out-of-the-way spot.  Reservations are highly recommended.
    Chef-owner Andy Rae knows well enough to leave his seafood well enough alone, creating flavors, accents and textures on the plate through vegetables, sauces and good bread on the side.  You may begin with oysters (£8.5) or peel and eat langoustines (£9), or mussels in white wine and garlic sauce (£8.5).  Smoked eel comes from Lough Neagh and is served with a Niçoise salad and horseradish aïoli (£8).  Of course, there’s fish and chips (£11), and I’m sure they’re very good, but I went with the specials on my visit.
    Lobster and prawn cakes with a tomato and pepper salsa and red pepper mayonnaise (£7.50) was crunchy and good but I’d like a little more kick to the salsa.  There were two whole fish offered as specials that night, a megrim sole with mussel-herb butter and roast potatoes (£12.50) and my choice of whole brill with crab, tomato, basil and a white wine cream, chips and salad (£13).  Brill is a bony fish but it’s got its own distinctive flavor, enhanced by the rest of the ingredients on the plate.
     For dessert I slowly polished off a gooey, sticky toffee pudding (right) with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream  (£5.5). A better ending was impossible for me to imagine at that point in a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

56 Howard Street

    The spacious premises of Howard Street, now going on four years, provide for a buoyant atmosphere every evening, and it can get a little loud at peak hours, though not enough to prevent good conversation over the well-made cocktails at a well-tended bar. (The woman bartender muddles the ingredients, which you rarely see anymore.)  Rough brick walls, candles, antique mirrors, sturdy bentwood chairs and nicely separated tables add to the conviviality.
    The quality of ingredients I keep harping on is critical to Chef Marty Murphy’s kitchen, especially in the fish of the day, which might be the roast hake I enjoyed  with a celeriac fondant, Serrano ham, prawns and peas in a wild mushroom broth (MP)—imaginative, sensible food that is very easy to love. You might begin with a good classic French onion soup with Gruyère croutons (£6) or a creamy chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche, stewed grapes, crispy chicken skin to add textural interest, and a hazelnut vinaigrette (£8.50).  Do have the butter-rich champ potatoes and scallions on the side (£3.50).
    Desserts (all £6.50) include a luscious apple crumble with toffee ice cream,  and a toasted coconut and lemon grass crème brûlée with coconut shortbread. But there is also an excellent selection of cheeses (four for £7.50) from all over the region, including Wicklow Blue, Corleggy, Coolattin Cheddar, and Humming Bark, which is aged in spruce bark, from County Wexford.
    The wine list, as in many good restaurants in Belfast, is of modest interest, with most bottles under £35. There are pre-theater menus at £17.50 or £23.

Howard Street is open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat.

33 Donegall Street

    Located on a quiet lane near St. Anne’s Church and Commercial Court, Hadskis is minimalist and modern, a long strip of a room, with tables outside, all of it done in bold colors, and a bar and counter central to the proceedings. Here the wine list is quite creditable, with loads of bottles under £30.
    The restaurant is named after Stewart Hadskis, who in the 18th century had an iron foundry nearby and made pots and pans in this building. There is a remarkably priced £6.50 lunch (Mon.-Fri.), but even à la carte, the prices are very reasonable, beginning with crisp squid with romesco sauce and fines herbes (£8.50).  The spiced meatballs with orechiette pasta and Parmigiano (£6.75 or  £13) was a bit bland, despite a dose of hot harissa.  I was delighted with a perfectly grilled  stone bass  with grilled lettuce, peas and broad beans (£17.50), and harissa entered again with a first-rate flatiron steak with well-wrought potato gnocchi (£20).

Open Mon.-Sat. for lunch and dinner. 6.50 lunch.



Among the pleasures of strolling through Belfast is to come upon an enchanting small place like Co Couture (7 Chichester Street; 078-8889-9647), a new chocolate shop as perfectly small and as darling as you might wish, its wares arrayed like luscious jewels, with superb chocolates and a hot chocolate service that, for me, puts the idea of afternoon tea wholly out of mind.



    As in every modern Irish city, the pubs of Belfast range from the very basic taverns with a good array of Irish whiskies, Guinness flowing like water, and the usual basic pub fare to more contemporary gastropubs that put much more effort into their menus.  Many have Monty Python-esque names like The Barking Dog, Lobe & Death Inc., Molly’s Yard and The Sooty Olive.
     One of the best for its astonishing collection of spirits is Duke of York (above) on one of the quaintest little cobbled streets in the Half Bap neighborhood.  It has a lot of history, including the fact that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams used to be barman.
     Even more famous is The Crown Bar (or Crown Liquor Saloon) on Great Victoria Street near the modern Europa Hotel. Originally opened as The Railway Tavern, it became the Crown in 1885, set just across from the Opera House and all the more popular for that before and after theater. 
In 1978, the National Trust purchased the property and did a £400,000 rehab, bringing back all the original Victorian artwork and woodwork, with its red granite bar, etched glass,  cheery yellow and polychromatic tiled façade and Roman pillars. There are ten booths—called snugs—inside with the original bell system for alerting the servers. (In the movie Odd Man Out, an IRA gunman played by James Mason takes refuge in one of them.) The menu actually has a large selection of sausages and chops, with a liquor list as strong in gins as it is in whiskies and more than a dozen ales.



By John Mariani


36-05 30th Avenue


    The evolution of Indian cuisine over the past two years in NYC is as impressive for its variety as it is for its dispersion throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.  This last borough has long had thriving Indian neighborhoods where storefront restaurants have thrived, but they all have been largely of a stripe—Pan-Indian, with the same long menus offering beef, chicken, or lamb in the same array of six sauces, along with numerous tandoori items, mulligatawny soup, and wonderful breads.
    Few zero in on a particular region, and there were none I knew of until the opening in Astoria two years ago of Kurry Qulture, which features the cuisine of Punjab, a state of 27 million people.  Known for its basmati rice and freshwater fish, Punjab—called the “land of five rivers”—is where the tandoori clay oven was created, becoming popular elsewhere in India after the 1947 partition, when Punjabis moved to other regions and brought the cooking technique with them.
    Kurry Qulture’s owner, Sonny Solomon, worked his way up at some of NYC’s well-established Indian restaurants like Dawat, as well as being part of the opening team at the outstanding restaurants Devi and Tulsi. Executive Chef Binder Saini also worked at Dawat and Tulsi, as well as Bukhara Grill.


  The restaurant’s interior goes well beyond the clichés of Indian décor, with a long front room and bar decorated with striking artwork and photos of Punjabi festivals. The main dining room is in the middle, and beyond is an outdoor patio that is just beginning to open up to the season’s sunshine.
    There is a $60 six-course chef’s tasting available, so I just asked Solomon to choose for our table of four.
    You will certainly not find elsewhere the fabulous pav bhaj
buttered bread rolls with vegetable gravy ($8), which went fast at our table, even though we knew tandoori-baked breads were coming later.  Acharu chicken tikka ($9) took its flavors mainly from a pickling spice marinade, while shrimp chettinad ($9), a dish from the south, had plenty of tang from mustard seeds, along with coconut and a tapioca wafer for texture.
    There are several kababs here, and we loved both the chicken bukhni with a fiery three-chili marinade sweetened by pineapple chutney ($9), and perfectly tender cauliflower florets with garlic and tomato chutney ($8).  These kinds of hot, sweet, spicy, tangy flavors are a signature of the kitchen’s method, so baby eggplant ($14) is given the treatment via a tomato-tamarind sauce.
    All the food is made to specific spicings and long cooking, not just a slew of stews and all-purpose sauces.  Thus, chicken kali mirch ($15) incorporates black pepper and pungent garam masala into luscious, thick yogurt, and duck bihari ($20) uses grilled duck breast carefully cooked and paired with cumin-scented rice and tomato gravy.  The very traditional lamb rogan josh ($20) comes not as the usual morsels of overcooked, gray lamb but as a whole succulent shank, glistening in its marinade while retaining all the flavor of the meat itself.
      Salmon is given the tandoori treatment ($20), but it came out dry and overcooked, and the fish itself was not of the finest quality.
    All of this was accompanied by the steamy, puffy, seared breads like onion and garlic naan ($4) and a surprise—onion kulcha dusted with parmesan cheese ($6).
    I’m a fan of freshly made Indian desserts but was not impressed with the mango cheesecake ($7) or the run-of-the-mill gulab jamun ($5).
I recommend the fancifully named cocktails, and the wine list is pretty good, though I prefer Indian beers with this food.
    I’ve always found the hospitality at Indian restaurants of good cheer, and Sonny Solomon’s enthusiasm is a great part of the charm at Kurry Qulture.  Do ask to meet the chef, if he’s not too busy, because, like Solomon, he is very proud of what they’re doing at their fine and innovative  restaurant.

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



By John Mariani


    I suppose that back in 1974 a longshoreman-police officer who came out of the Great Depression and put himself through law school could actually dream of owning a California vineyard. For that’s what Jess Jackson (left) did, starting with 80 acres of a Lakeport fruit and nut orchard in Sonoma County,  then turning it into a vineyard that produced its first vintage in 1982.  That first wine was Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, which grew to become the most popular California Chardonnay in the world.
    They still make it—now on 14,000 acres—and it sells for a very digestible $17.  In addition, the company has expanded to more than 50 brands, with an immensely popular Fulton Road Wine Center that offers fine food and tastings of bottlings available only at the winery itself.  There is also the Kendall-Jackson Estate Gardens (below, left), as much devoted to sheer beauty as to inspiration for wine and food marriages.
    The cool climate of K-J’s chosen estates in Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Barbara County, Anderson Valley, Alexander Valley and Napa County has made its wines more consistent and less prone to the effects of too much California sunshine and heat.  Yields are kept lower than many competitors’ and the blockbuster alcohol levels sought by others is not something K-J’s winemaker, Randy Ullom, seeks in his wines, though it occurs after a long hang time for the grapes.
    “I’m always looking for freshness and good fruit in our wines,” says Ullom (right), who came to K-J after more than a decade at De Loach Vineyards in Sonoma.  Growing up in Michigan, he watched his father make homemade wine, but the appetite for a career in the wine business came to him after spending three years in Chile, afterwards earning his degree in viticulture from Ohio State University in 1975. 
    Jess Jackson hired him first to reopen Edmeades in Mendocino in 1992 and as winemaker for a new family label called Camelot Vineyards.  Ullom then returned to Chile to manage J-K’s Vina Calina there as well as wineries in Argentina and Australia.  In 2006 he was appointed COO of the entire company.
    The mantra at K-J has always been to stress fruit and to make wines that are affordable for a wide range of people, although their Stature Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon sell for $100 and $125, respectively.
        Over dinner in New York I asked Ullom why K-J makes so many different wines.

    "I look at all of the vineyards we own, and all of the individual lots of wines that we make, and the thousands of barrels we have sitting in our cellar,” said Ullom, who with his white hair and sheriff’s mustache looks more than a little like the actor Sam Elliott. “And sometimes I think, you gotta be kidding me! After I've sufficiently recovered from my daily panic attack, I take off my coat, dig in my heels and take it one barrel at a time. It's a rewarding job that I love."
    Ullom insists that each wine he makes shows a different
expression of where the grapes come from and its climate—the terroir—and K-J owns a lot of acreage in a lot of regions.
     “We may specialize in Chardonnay, but we try to make the best Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, even Muscat Canelli, we possibly can,” he said. “Then we sell it at prices that give people a good reason to try these varietals. The Muscat Canelli is only $13.  We make a K-J Avant line California red blend from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot, and it’s just $17. People will take a chance at that price level. It’s worked out pretty well for the brand.”
    In the lower priced lines K-J may use screwcaps, while corks are standard with the wines that can take some age in the bottle.  Ullom wishes corks were more foolproof but, contrary to Portuguese cork producers’ insistence that it’s getting better, Ullom said that in his experience, “Eleven percent of corks still have TCA [a potent taint compound], and three percent have it bad. Still, people think the corks have some romantic allure.”
    Over dinner we tasted three K-J Chardonnays, including the world’s best seller, Vintner’s Reserve 2015 ($17), from grapes grown in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties.  Leaving the wine on the lees and stirring them (a process called battonage) gives the wine its characteristic creaminess, and seven months in French and American oak barrels give it oak-rich flavors. The result is, as Ullom notes, full of tropical flavors “like pineapple and mango,” along with “vanilla and honey.”
    Clearly, given Vintner’s Reserve’s popularity, that is a style Americans love and many California Chardonnays are criticized for.  I, too, feel Chardonnay, which can be a fairly neutral grape, should have more natural complexity, not cellar-induced flavors.
    Far more to my liking was the 2015 Grand Reserve ($22), which is crafted from the top five percent of all the K-J lots, 70% of the wine from the same vineyard blocks year after year.  It still has the creaminess that defines the K-J style, but I find this Chardonnay more layered and with a far better balance of fruit and acid.  It is quite elegant, closer to a fine white Burgundy.
     I also tasted Jackson Estate Santa Maria Valley 2014 Chardonnay ($32), which comes from a cooler climate that allows for better acidity.  It spends nine months in oak and reaches a high 14.5% alcohol level, yet it doesn’t have the overpowering wallop of some others in that range.
    I really loved the satiny bright fruit of the 2014 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir (left), which at $26 is easily one of the best priced varietals out of California.  Again, the cooler climate keeps this Pinot Noir from tasting cooked, despite its 15.5% alcohol, something too many examples from California become.  It’s definitely a California Pinot Noir but shares an admirable finesse with Burgundian bottlings.
    Last, I tasted the K-J Jackson Estate 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($38), which has just enough age on it in bottle to open up nicely, for this is not a very tannic wine, though its dryness has loosened up over the last three years; fruit predominates, and the blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 1.7% Cabernet Franc and .3% Merlot provides the complexity found in Bordeaux.  This one I’m looking forward to drinking in a few years.
    Even after Jess Jackson’s death in 2011, K-J’s constant experimentation has led to innovations all other vintners monitor carefully, and with several family members still intimately involved, including Jess’s wife, Barbara Banke, their generational devotion to the land is not likely ever to change. 



A 16-year-old boy in Osaka, Japan, craving some curry one night was so upset to discover the restaurant was closed that he decided to light it on fire.  After his arrest, police asked him why he had started the fires, and the suspect explained he went to a curry restaurant to find it closed and was so angry he used his cigarette lighter to start a fire at a car dealership, then at a restaurant storehouse. 


“Fried Chicken at While We Were Young (183 W. 10th St.). This Instagram-worthy West Village gem opened largely under the radar, but the dishes are anything but subtle. The fried chicken sits atop green kale waffles and is drizzled with house-made hot sauce—as savory as it is snappable.” –Gabrielle Pedriani, “What We Ate This February,” Gotham Magazine (3/1/17)



Sponsored by Banfi Vintners



    As Spring finally kicks into gear, we are reminded of the fragility of Mother Earth and her bounty.  As an importer representing several family wine makers from around the globe, I often like to point out that all the wines that we represent are green, some of them greener than others.  The greenest of all are classified as Biodynamic or certified Organic.  One of the most interesting selections of eco-balanced, organic and biodynamic wines comes to us from Chile and the vineyards of Emiliana. 
     Emiliana was founded by our friends, the Guilisasti family, who have a long and proud history of winemaking with their Concha y Toro brand.  Three decades ago, well ahead of the curve that has made organic wines all the rage today, they set up dedicated and, most important for organic farming, isolated vineyards for this type of agriculture.  Many may picture the small farmer as being the most “organic,” but in the reality of our wine world, sometimes it takes the “big guys” to act as a locomotive to get a movement such as this on track.
    Organic farming is a form of agriculture which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth regulators, and livestock feed additives.  

       Organic farmers rely on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures--including llamas (below)--and mechanical cultivation to maintain soils productivity and health, to supply plant nutrients, and to control weeds, insects and other pests.  To call a wine organic in the US, government regulation says that it must be produced from 95% organically grown ingredients with no added sulfites.  If you add sulfites in the relatively minimal amount of 100 parts per million, you can only say that the wine is “made from organically grown grapes.”  Now, not to go into a chemistry lesson, but it is virtually impossible to make a wine without that modest dose of sulfites, at least if you want to drink it beyond ten feet of the cellar it was made in and wish it to survive any moderate amount of aging.

       Biodynamic farming adheres to the same principles, but takes it one step further by relying on the cycles of the moon and the sun to dictate much of what is done in the field, and uses animal treatments such as compost teas, horns buried with fertilizer, deer bladders, etc., to treat the soil.  It may sound a little hocus pocus, but in reality it is very comparable to homeopathic medicine, using the body’s (in this case, the earth’s) own energy to heal itself.
    Emiliana has four distinct collections of lovingly crafted organic wine now available in the US – the base line of Natura, the next step up in Novas, a stand-alone wine in Coyam, and the ne-plus-ultra of bio-dynamic wines, Ge.  One taste of any of these and you too may find yourself turning green – not with envy, but for a newfound love of organic winemaking!

Recommended – green wines for Spring:


Natura Chardonnay In the cool coastal Pacific climate of the Casablanca Valley, organically grown grapes are hand picked during the last week of March, and vinified in stainless steel tanks, free of the domineering influence of oak.  On the nose, tantalizing citrus aromas of grapefruit and lime blend with notes of pineapple, all of which reappear on the palate and finish with balance thanks to the wine’s freshness and natural acidity.  Delicious with spring salads and seafood dishes.

Natura Carmenere –  From the rustic isolation of the Colchagua Valley, this intense and voluptuous offers aromas of cherries, chocolate and spice, coming together in ramped up volume on the palate with soft, round tannins and firm, well-balanced structure.  Great balance between fruit and oak, with a long, juicy finish.

Novas Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva – Hailing from the San Antonio Valley’s thin rocky and clay soils, the organic grapes for this wine are harvested by hand in March and undergo fermentation in stainless steel to preserve their bright fruit character.  Herbal notes mixed with citrus and soft floral hints fill the bouquet; the taste is medium bodied with grapefruit flavors joined by a delicate acidity and a touch of minerality.

Novas Pinot Noir Gran Reserva – The grapes for this wine are grown in the cool, coastal Casablanca Valley’s permeable sandy loam soils, and harvested by hand.  After a cold soak on the skins, the wine is aged for 8 months in French oak barrels to add character, depth and roundness. 

Bright ruby red in color with attractive aromas of berries, strawberries and notes of spice and cocoa, this wine bursts with fruit flavor, layered with earthiness. Delicious with white meats, light sauces, full flavored fish and shellfish, cured ham and sushi.

Coyam –
A blend dominated by Syrah with nearly equal parts of Carmenere and Merlot balanced by “soupcons” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Petit Verdot, from the Colchagua Valley estate called Los Robles – Spanish  for the oaks, called “Coyam” by the native Mapuche people in their own language. Hand harvested certified biodynamic grapes are naturally fermented in French oak barrels.  Coyam is largely unfiltered and aged for 13 months in barrels.  Aromas of ripe red and black fruits integrate with notes of spice, earth and a hint of vanilla bean.  Elegant expressions of fruit are delicately interwoven with oak, mineral and toffee.

Ge –
Chile’s first certified biodynamic wine, the name Ge is a nod to Geos, the earthly environment pulling together all the elements that surround us.  Ge is a blend of nearly equal parts of Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the deep soils of colluvial origin in the coastal range, which lends mineral complexity. Naturally fermented in oak barrels, Ge is deep plum red with violet tones; it offers intense aromas of black fruits and berries alongside mineral notes and a soft touch of tobacco leaf.  Generously fruity with cedar notes, Ge is well balanced with tremendous volume, well rounded tannins and a long finish.

For more information please visit


 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, as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;

MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Geoff Kalish, Mort Hochstein, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click here.

© copyright John Mariani 2017