Virtual Gourmet

  July 2, 2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


January Jones as Betty Draper in "Mad Men" (2011)



Part One
By John A. Curtas

By John Mariani

By John Mariani

By John Mariani


Part One
By John A. Curtas

Le Montrachet in Puligny-Montrachet

    The plan was to eat our way to the biennial world chefs championship called the  Bocuse D’Or. Flying non-stop into Frankfurt makes it easy to get to eastern France by way of western Germany. It also makes it easy to tour the Mosel region before hunkering down for a Michelin-starred road trip.
Auf dem Eichelfeld 1, Dreis, Germany
Tel: 49 6578 406

    After a quick stop in Bernkastel to sip a few current releases at Weinbach Thanisch Erben-Thanisch, we barreled thirty minutes down the road to the Waldhotel Sonnora, tucked deep in the woods between the wine village and the city of Trier. Unfortunately, we’d lingered a bit too long with vintner Sofia Thanisch, so we were a half hour late for our reservation. Normally, this would not be a big deal in a three-star Michelin restaurant, deep in the countryside, on a Saturday afternoon in the dead of winter. But this was not your average destination restaurant. This was a German destination restaurant, and if you know anything about Germans, you know that they take punctuality very seriously. (In France they would've shrugged at our tardiness; in Italy they would've smiled; in Spain, the chefs wouldn't have arrived for another hour.)         
      Calling the Sonnora picture perfect is an understatement. To get to it, you wind down a narrow road, a tributary of a local road off the main highway. Gorgeous conifers and deciduous trees line the driveway, and in winter you can imagine yourself entering a storybook land of wood sprites, apparitions and snow elves. It's about as cozy as a country inn can get and has the effect of putting you in the mood for something magical,  in this case the culinary stylings of chef Helmut Thieltges, who has held three Michelin stars since 1999.
    Because of our delay, we were informed (in a very German, matter-of-fact way), that all of us would be taking the tasting menu. "You mean we all have to eat the same thing?" I asked the proprietress. "Yes, you will order it and you will enjoy it," she replied. (The only thing missing was an "Achtung!")
 And thus began our week-long eating adventure. The food and service at Sonnora were perfectly fine, but having everyone (five of us) eat the same thing, at 175 euros a head, for lunch, is not my idea of an epicurean outing and, figuratively, left a bad taste in my mouth. What made up for that taste was a venison dish (left) of uncommonly rich, wild, gaminess. The menu stated it came from the Eifel Forest, not far from the restaurant, and the flavor made you believe it. This wasn't some namby-pamby deer that tastes of denatured animal flesh; this was the real deal, the kind of wild deer hunters live for, gorgeously enhanced by the wine-laced reduction sauce. It didn't compensate for my overall disappointment, but it came close.
    The venison came on the heels of a number of noteworthy dishes—a creamy, intense mussel soup with saffron; a hockey puck of lacquered goose foie gras; plump scallops dressed with lemon foam; and a meaty rectangle of sea bass sitting atop green ribbons of thickened olive oil-balsamico vinaigrette, each dish a high-wire cooking act displaying the precision and balance you expect from a top flight kitchen.
    The service was equally precise, and the wines,  Egly-Ouriet champagne, J.J. Prüm Kabinett Riesling, Roblet Monnot Bonnes Mares Burgundy, were wonderful, as was the selection of schnapps offered. And those wines were a relative bargain: Thanks to the strong dollar, you can drink very well in the gastronomic temples of Europe, if you're willing to spend around 120 euros a bottle.
    With a setting right out of a fairy tale, a knowledgeable staff, and garden gnomes aplenty to bring you luck, it's hard not to be charmed by the Sonnora. We didn't feel rushed, exactly, but the setting was a lot more relaxing than the meal. Next time, we'll try to show up on time.

64 Rue Monge, Dijon, France
Tel: 33 3 80 41 31 21

    After a night in Trier, it was off to Burgundy, three hours south by car. I had always wanted to see Dijon, but quickly found that winter is not when this classic medieval city shows its best. Mostly, it just seemed deserted and dingy, but our overnight stay was salvaged by an incredible cut of beef.  Guy Savoy once told me that he didn't serve any beef in his restaurants in Paris because he didn't like French meat. I love Guy Savoy, but after tasting a local Charolais côte de boeuf at Le Savauge in downtown Dijon, I think he needs his head examined. The grain may not have been as fine and supple as some wagyu and American beef, but the char was perfect and the flavor was a knockout. It was every bit the equal of any steak I've had in America—rich, dense and almost sweet with intense beefiness.
      Dijon may not have impressed, but this restaurant was a treat—an informal atmosphere with an open grill, a superior wine list and one of the best steaks of my life (58 euros for a gigantic steak for two).
      The jambon persillé (left) was trés magnifique as well, as was the frisée salad—it being "garnished" with thick rounds of Époisses cheese the size of a walnut. In all, a fabulous little find in dreary old Dijon, thanks to the concierge at the Hotel Woodrow Wilson.


10 place du Pasquier de la Fontaine
Tel: 33 3 80 21 30 06

     It has often been posited that the reason French food is so good is because the wines are so good. Or maybe it's vice versa. However you slice it, it's no coincidence that France's most iconic cuisine begins at Dijon's doorstep, which is exactly where the great vines of Burgundy begin to grow. When you dine at Le Montrachet, you feel as if you’re eating in the center of the wine universe. The restaurant is part of a small inn tucked on one side of the town square in the village of Puligny-Montrachet. Surrounding you are the vineyards of the greatest white wines in the world, and the signs (Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault) clip by with the kilometers as you drive down the Route des Grand Crus, or turn up into the villages that host these iconic vineyards.
     As charming as these villages are, good restaurants are few and far between. Le Montrachet came highly recommended and proved the perfect spot for a midday repast after hiking around famous vineyards in sub-freezing weather. This being white wine country (the famous reds of Vosne-Romanée, Chambertin and Nuit-Saint-Georges are made about 12 miles to the north), we settled on the Les Jardins de Puligny menu, which, at 64 euros for five courses, including cheese, was a steal.
     This is hearty Burgundian fare—pâté de campagne, squash soup, torchon of foie gras, guinea hen with lentils—lightened by a 21st century chef's touch; food paired perfectly with a mid-weight, earthy Aloxe-Corton and a Puligny-Montrachet from Vincent Giradin.  And then, of course, were the cheeses course, all local, all unpasteurized, each one having that deep, animal funk that comes from the earth and gets lost in the voyage across the pond.  Le Montrachet is not especially fancy or formal, but it is exceptionally of-its-place, and its one Michelin star is well-deserved for a great lunch amidst the world's greatest vineyards.



By John Mariani

    One of the finest originators of France’s la nouvelle cuisine, Alain Senderens, died last week at the age of 77 at his home in southwest France.   Among his colleagues he was universally respected and was mentor to some of France’s next generation of great chefs.
    Senderens was not so much an iconoclast—he never betrayed the principles of classic French cuisine—but when he introduced dishes like lobster with vanilla sauce and roast duck Apicius (a dish from ancient Rome), he was considered among the true innovators of the movement called la nouvelle cuisine that began in the late 1960s.  La nouvelle cuisine was never doctrinaire and was many things to many people; the accepted rubrics of the movement, which encompassed everyone from Paul Bocuse and Michel Guérard to Alain Chapel and Roger Vergé, were to simplify menus, respect regionality, buy only the finest seasonal ingredients and to take heed of their guest’s health, although the idea of la nouvelle cuisine being much lighter than traditional French cuisine was only a small part of the movement.
    I met Senderens twice, once when he consulted on a restaurant (briefly) in New York and again in 2012, towards the end of his career in Paris, where he had taken over the legendary Lucas Carton (opened in 1925) on the Place Madeleine. His own first restaurant, named L’Archestrate, opened in Paris in 1968, when he was in his heyday.  He closed that Michelin three-star flagship in 1985 to go to Lucas Carton, where he maintained the restaurant’s three stars.  There he introduced the concept of wine pairings with each dish.
Then, in 2005, he shocked gastronomes worldwide when he chose to “return” those stars—Michelin refused to accept them back—downscaled the restaurant’s décor, changed its name to Senderens, and charged 100 euros for a meal—less than half what it was at Lucas Carton.
"I feel like having fun," he told the NY Times. “I don't want to feed my ego anymore. I am too old for that. I can do beautiful cuisine without all the tra-la-la and chichi, and put the money into what's on the plate."
    On meeting Senderens at his namesake in Paris, I found him extremely affable, despite elementary English, and still very excited about new ideas for his menus.  I remember enjoying an appetizer of
foie gras with fava beans and wonderful bread, and a variation on his lobster with vanilla—open ravioli and lobster flavored with vanilla, served with spinach.
        A more classic side was shown impeccably with a rabbit à la royale, as well as squab with corn and a puree of peas.  Scallops came with glazed turnips and the crunch of hazelnuts.
       The desserts included a mousseline of pumpkin with vanilla jelly and bourbon ice cream, lemon zest and "chips" of pumpkin, as well as "pom. . . pom. . .pom," a dessert of apple confit, cooked very slowly, and roasted in wine.
    In retrospect, I now think that Senderens’s best contribution to French gastronomy was not in those innovations of the 1970s but in using his name to promote the idea that haute cuisine had indeed become too haughty, with not enough clientele to support it.  That idea paved the way for many of his three-star colleagues to open their own bistros and brasseries (which, ironically, made them more money than their three-star flagships) and to stop agonizing over whether next year the draconian Michelin Guide might take away a star.
    Throughout his career Senderens was about loosening things up in French cuisine, nudging not pushing, winking not declaiming, and always showing concern that his guests truly enjoyed their experience.   The older he grew the younger his attitude became, and that made him a very lucky man.


By John Mariani

116 East 60th Street (near Park Avenue)

    Back in 1774 John Adams remarked of New Yorkers, “They talk very loud, very fast and altogether.  If they ask a question, before you can utter three words of your answer they will break out upon you again and talk away”—this from one of the great loudmouths of the American Revolution.
    But Adams was right, and it’s no different today. New Yorkers feel the need to talk at the top of their lungs and nowhere is this more evident than at most NYC steakhouses, including in the lounge area up front at the year-old Blu on Park, set in a 1920s East Side brownstone.  Push beyond that, however, and, after the bar crowd staggers out around 7:30, you’ll find yourself in a somewhat refined two-story dining room done mostly in hues of gray and dark brown, with a shimmering wine wall to the rear and widely set, capacious tables set with white linens lighted by clear glass bulb chandeliers.  The decibel level drops to a courteous level, and my request to turn down the unnecessary booming music was granted immediately.
    On my first visit a year ago I found the steaks at Blu on Park (heavens knows why they dropped the “e”) of very high quality, but much of the rest of the menu was lackluster and the service amateurish.  These days new Executive Chef Rory O’Farrell has maintained the high quality of the beef while elevating everything else on the menu, so that the once chintzy crabcake may now be the best in the city—true jumbo lump with next to no binder ($22).  More on service in a moment.
    Other straightforward appetizers include a moist tuna poke tartare with cucumber, radish, mango coriander, red onion, and a mango yuzu vinaigrette that really brightens the flavors ($22), and a roasted beet salad with caramelized goat’s cheese and a balsamic glaze ($14).  Colorfully arranged hamachi crudo  was equally as impressive.  Sautéed jumbo tiger shrimps with
baby spinach, baked polenta and a tangy lemon-garlic dressing were meaty, sweet and  delicious ($36).
    Back to the beef: Buying top quality is crucial for a NYC steakhouse, but knowing how to cook it is as well.  Too often the exterior hasn’t enough char (unless the guest asks for it to be lightly seared);  at Blu it gets a true, sizzling crust that combines fat and caramelization, yielding beautifully rare or medium-rare, well-marbled meat beneath and just enough oozing juices to add to its magnificence.  Blu’s is one of the best steaks I’ve had in Manhattan in a while, and I’ve had plenty of very good ones.
    You can get a sweetly-marbled ribeye ($49), a tomahawk (below) for two ($99), a filet mignon ($52), porterhouse cut for two to four ($50 pp), or a hefty NY sirloin ($48), all offered with a variety of sauces.  I also recommend the lamb chop ($48) with goat’s cheese-drenched macaroni and baby arugula.  Lobsters are offered at market price.
    All the sides are ten bucks, including pan-roasted Brussels sprouts, rich creamed spinach, hand-cut French fries and generously buttered mashed potatoes.
    If you’ve got the room, split a classic Jewish-style sour cream cheese cake with macerated strawberries ($12) or a double chocolate mousse with raspberry gelée ($12).
    The wine list is not among the top screeds in NYC but is more than adequate for this type of fare.  Prices are steakhouse high.
    Service is still a problem.  Last year it was spotty and it still is.  After we ordered and received first courses, the few staff members in the dining room seemed to disappear and were hard to flag down. Also a mix-up in ordering resulted in the wrong dishes served or forgotten entirely until reminded.  Blu has a ways to go in this department at a time when the traditional brusque steakhouse waiter has, thankfully, become something of a dinosaur.
    Blu on Park deserves attention for the quality of the food and an atmosphere that contrasts with the boisterous hyper-macho tone of most competitors.  Just get the service in synch and this would rank even higher.

Blu on Park is open for lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on the weekends, with the addition of jazz every Sunday.




By John Mariani


    The graphic above shows but one hall connected to many in the vast Parc des Expositions in Bordeaux, where the 2017 VINEXPO show was held in June as a showcase for the world’s wines and spirits.  Indeed, walking from one end of the connected hallways—without stopping and saying “par-don” to a hundred people standing in the aisles—can take close to fifteen minutes. Along the way tens of thousands of bottles of wines and spirits in state-of-the-art lighted stalls make it all the more dazzling—the proverbial kid in the candy store reaction—for anyone visiting this four-day event. It has its glitzy  glamour—the vendors always pick the prettiest girls in France as hostesses—but it’s even more about business.
    Each of the 2,300 exhibitors from 40 countries comes seeking to attract the attention of the 45,000 visitors who pour in from more than 150 countries.  (Even so, VINEXPO is second to VINITALY, held each spring in Verona, Italy, with 4,100 exhibitors and 128,000 visitors.)
    Some are merchants and distributors, others restaurateurs and sommeliers, and—the most prized of all—buyers from the world’s supermarkets, who might wrangle deals and sign contracts to buy thousands of cases.  There were also 1,000 journalists from 50 countries, including myself, a first-timer at VINEXPO, set 20 minutes by tram from the city of Bordeaux, which is the center of the wine business in the region of the same name.
    The importance of inviting journalists to the event is for them to afterwards spread the word garnered from special tastings, seminars, interviews, and luncheons.  This year, in league with Wine Spectator, a Taste of Spain event (left) was held in Bordeaux’s sprawling Palais de la Bourse to showcase both modern viniculture—Spain was the Country of Honor this year—and the food by an array of young Spanish chefs hand-picked by the master Ferran Adria.  Sadly, a 100-degree heat wave made the un-air conditioned Palais a bit stifling.
    Each morning an edition of VINEXPO Daily appears, detailing the myriad events of the day and featuring interviews and opinion on the trends in the global wine world. And global is the key word. Where once exhibitors courted U.S. buyers and distributors with high fervor, equal attention is now being paid to China, which is set to become the world’s second largest wine drinking country by value by 2020, overtaking the U.K. and France.
    Discussion of the Chinese market was paramount throughout the event, with consumption expected to grow by nearly 40% over the next three years, to the tune of $22 billion and 52.7 million cases.  In an article in VINEXPO Daily, Lei Zhao, director of Fast Moving Consumer Goods for  the Chinese retail giant Tmall Food, said that China is already the fourth largest importer of French wine.  “China is a country enchanted by wine,” he insisted. “After France, Spain, Italy, Australia and the U.S. are the most important partners. A growing share of the population, including younger generations, are refining that taste for wine and becoming more sophisticated when they choose what to drink. It’s also a mindset shift, as consumers understand that wine is great to pair with food.”
    He did advise exporters to take regional Chinese tastes into consideration in their marketing: “For example, consumers from certain parts of China such as the southern Jiangsu province, tend to appreciate fruity wine to go with the cuisine, which is founded on sweeter flavors.”
    On another front, Japan is now Asia’s next largest importer of wines, but the biggest for imported spirits in the region, with a 15% growth in spirits in 2015, even as sake and shochu consumption declines in Japan.  But outside of it, sales are rising, with exports currently 3% of production, with 50% going to the U.S. and 25% to Hong Kong.  This year a powerhouse of 28 brewers came to VINEXPO under the umbrella of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, the result of two years of planning to get to Bordeaux.

    Old and new products in brand new bottles are rife throughout the exposition, and there was a significant promotion of rosé wines by producers and companies that believe that market will continue to soar, and not just as summer wines.  There was also a good deal of buzz about the wines of developing countries like Slovenia and Serbia. One of the real surprises for me was to find a new vodka—a category that might seem way over-represented in the market—called Taiga Shtof, from Siberia (left), which was far smoother than any I’ve tasted. It will be in the New York market this fall.
    The success and sheer size of VINEXPO—which will also have a smaller version in Vienna this year, then bring a new event to New York next March—precludes opening the doors to consumers.  But for wine professionals it is critical both to be represented and to check out what’s new as well as renew old business partnerships.  Thus, you will find most of the finest chateau owners of France, Italy, Spain and Germany along with historic vintners like Spain’s Torres and France’s Mouton-Rothschild, which both have strong holdings in Chile.
    Strolling through the long aisles at VINEXPO allowed me, as a journalist, the extraordinary opportunity to stop at hundreds of stalls of wineries and buyers I know well along with scores new to me, asking questions of the owners in attendance.  A Press Center was open for journalists to file stories and do interviews, and there was a new area called WOW! devoted to the “World of Organic Wines.”
    The seminars I attended ranged from technological—the one on the concerns of the wine community about global warming deserves an entire report I will be writing soon for this newsletter—to talks dealing with digitalizing wine marketing and sales.
    Tasting as you go along is part of the pleasure of VINEXPO—the doors open at 9:30 a.m., when there’s already a line outside—but can be tough going.  This is in addition to dozens of sit-down tastings held by wineries and regions, including the Cru Bourgeois of the Médoc; Sauternes and Barsac; the Loire Valley; Port and cheese; an “Irish spirits renaissance;” nine Italian wineries given Tre Bicchieri awards by Vini d’Italia magazine; wines fit for banquet service; a Riesling master class; and Spanish white wines.
    There were also dinners at Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour I was privileged to attend, both ending up with spectacular fireworks displays.  More to come on those evenings.
    Much of what I took away from the four-day event will find its way into upcoming articles, as soon as it all settles down into various parts of my brain, which may be just in time for VINEXPO to land in New York in 2018.




A former rapper named Terry "2Pec" Peck (right), who ordered $466 worth of food and alcohol at Omeros Bros Seafood restaurant on Australia's Gold Coast, was arrested after running out on his bill and into the ocean. The police rode out on the water on Jet Skis to coax Peck in, then dragged him ashore and charged him with theft and two counts of seriously assaulting a police officer.



Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


    As Summer 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 Summer: 

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." 

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 Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click here.

© copyright John Mariani 2017