Virtual Gourmet

  July 9, 2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


"Pullman Car" by Norman Rockwell (1946)


By John A. Curtas


By John Mariani


By Geoff Kalish


Part Two

By John A. Curtas

René and Maxime Meilleur at La Bouitte,




    In my travels, I try to toggle back and forth between planning big deal meals in highly regarded restaurants and just looking around and seeing what gastronomic finds we can stumble upon. Thankfully, France still makes this kind of gastronomic touring very easy. Food may be a passion in Italy, and a science in Germany, but in France it's a religion.



12 Rue Royale, Lyon

Tel: 33 4 78 23 17 20

     Lyon, the second largest city in France, sits on an island between two rivers, much like Manhattan. On one side is the Saône, and on the other, the Rhône. Both act like long wet refrigerators chilling all air passing over them. This is probably a welcome thing in August, but I’ll never know. For three days in Lyon, we froze our keisters off. What I do know is that our meal at La Mère Brazier warmed the cockles of my heart like no other.

     The centerpiece was the classic poulet de Bresse demi-deuil—poached Bresse chicken "in half-mourning," a lavish preparation Larousse Gastronomique calls one of the most famous Lyonnaise dishes and mandates that the bird be of the highest quality and poached. The name comes from the dark meat and the truffles beneath the skin which give the appearance of a mourner's veil hiding her white skin.

     If you've never had Bresse chicken, the bird itself is a revelation. The white meat has none of the bland stringiness that plagues American chicken, and the dark meat has a finish that lasts until next week. The dish is served in two courses—one festooned with black truffles (right), the other a rich, chicken-truffle soup under a puff pastry dome—and is so good it could justify a transatlantic flight.

     I had thought long and hard about whether to book a table here or at Paul Bocuse. Both are old-fashioned restaurants (LMB dates to 1923, PB has held 3 Michelin stars since 1965), but too many chefs told me the food at Bocuse is tired and metronomic, so I opted for the older restaurant with one less star. I'm glad I did, as there was nothing old-fashioned about La Mère Brazier, except the building, the intensive-care service and that beautiful bird.



3 Place Kléber, Lyon

Tel: 33 4 78 89 57 68


     I hate wasting a meal. Any meal. Especially when I'm traveling in France. Ten years ago, we visited Pierre Orsi and were thoroughly charmed by the place. A decade on, the food tasted as dated as the pink and glass décor. One dish dazzled us—a ravioli with foie gras and black truffles—but the rest of our meal, pedestrian escargots, filet of sole drowned under noodles and cream, tired, sauce-less lobster, and a forlorn piece of turbot surrounded by a few peas and an indifferent beurre blanc could’ve come from some pseudo-bistro in Bosnia.
    On the plus side, the service was wonderful and the wines (Cuilleron Condrieu, Davenne Chablis Les Preuses, Endinger Engelsberg 1976 Ruländer Beerenauslese) were spectacular, as were the cheeses. But the level of cooking was far below what one comes to expect from a Michelin one-star in France, and it’s going to be a long time before I forget that dried-out lobster.



Saint Marcel, Saint-Martin-de-Belleville

Tel: 33 4 79 08 96 77

    After leaving Lyon, we made the spectacular two-hour drive due east to Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) of the French Alps to La Bouitte  (“Little House”) for a three-star “worth a special journey” dinner from the stoves of René and Maxime Meilleur. In a perfect world, this would have been our first ‘big deal’ meal of the trip, not our last. As it was, dinner came after a week of eating and drinking among the Burgundy stars. When that happens, sometimes you hit the wall. And by "hit the wall" I mean you experience what the French call la crise de foie (liver crisis),  when hunger is the last thing on your mind.  

     Having been through these Michelin-starred rodeos before, my digestive system is well acquainted with this temporary malady, and the best one can hope for is a quick recovery after skipping a meal or two. Thus we ate our three-course dinner at La Bouitte (more like eight courses when all the extras are factored in) but weren't hungry for any of it in the least. It is a testament to the cooking of the Meilleurs that the food was more than memorable, despite our condition.

     The father/son team features the elevated cooking of the Savoyard, an area rich in pastures, lakes and rivers, and renowned for its fresh water fish. The Haute-Savoie borders Switzerland and northern Italy, and its cheeses and potatoes are just as sought after as its fish.  Giving this hearty mountain fair a sophisticated spin is what La Bouitte is all about, and, after a stunning trio of oyster, codfish and foie gras appetizers, the raclette soup we had to start the meal was light on the tongue yet dense in flavor, as if the Meilleurs have solved the riddle of how to capture the essence of raclette without the weightiness. Modernist this cuisine is not, but this particular bit of  alchemy produced a cheese soup I’m still dreaming about.

     Maxime started cooking with his father in 1996, and in 2003 they received their first Michelin star. The second arrived in 2008, and the pinnacle was reached in 2015, making La Bouitte the first restaurant in the Savoy to gain the distinction. (These days Michelin tosses out multiple stars to restaurants in New York and Tokyo open less than a year!)

       Many of the dishes pay homage to the bounty of the area, but definitely reflect a 21st century sensibility, as when caviar is showered with a bracing cauliflower "snow" (right) or when small bits of fresh pasta are perfumed by cheese, local mushrooms and wild sorrel and bound by Beaufort cheese, "like a risotto." More satisfying winter fare you will never find.  

       Just as striking were the omble chevalier (Arctic char) and the lake trout "bleu”—both revelations in the beauty of the local waters. The flavors were pure, simple and direct, as if the fish had jumped out of the stream and onto your plate. Every bite was a testament to confident chefs who know they are working with supreme raw ingredients and only want to make them shine.

       As good as these were, it was the mélange of warm, Savoie root vegetables (above) that had us fighting over every bite—proof once again that great chefs are the best vegetarian cooks. It was as much a delight to the eye as it was to taste, and helped revive my flagging appetite all by itself.

     Unfortunately, an artistic display of just-picked produce can only go so far to restore a worn-out liver, so, for the first time in twenty-five years, I did something unthinkable in a French restaurant in France:  I skipped the cheese course. To repeat, I skipped the cheese course.  In a Michelin-starred restaurant. In France. Right smack dab in the middle of the best cows' milk cheeses in the world. No Tomme de Savoie, Beaufort, Reblochon, Gruyère or Comté would pass our lips this night.  Au revoir to any Tamié, Vacherin du Haut Doubs, Tomme des Bauges or Chevrotin. "Quelle horreur!" we could hear Julia Child crying from her grave. But I simply could not stomach another bite.

     Everything about La Bouitte—the room in a rustic Relais & Chateau style, the staff, the spa, the dinner and the breakfast—was impeccable. We can't wait to return,  next time with a big appetite.


182 Route d'Annecy, Duingt

Tel: 33 4 50 68 67 19

     Our last lunch in France took place on the shores of Lake Annecy, known as "Europe's cleanest lake." Its Alpine, crystalline waters are known for all sorts of water sports, and also some of the tastiest omble chevalier on the planet.

     We stumbled upon Auberge du Roselet as we were driving to Lausanne, Switzerland. The sign said "Spécialties des Poissons," so we took the bait and walked in, not knowing what to expect. What appeared was a surprising treat, and the kind of out-of-the-way, knock-your-socks-off meal that only exists in France.  The welcome was warm and cordial; the tables were dressed with thick linens, and the menu was the prettiest and heaviest I've ever seen.  So pretty was it that we begged to take one; they said no. Then we offered to pay for one; they said "non, merci." Finally, we contemplated stealing it. But the food was so good, the view so stunning, and the staff so nice, we demurred.

     Our appetite restored, we feasted on delicately smoked ham, beautiful salmon fumé and, finally, a whole, gorgeous fish, swimming in butter. All of it from a modest little place on the side of a road, on a country drive along a lake. Amazing, but seemingly par for the course in this part of the world; it was proof once again that some of the most delicious finds occur when you quit reaching for stars and let your curiosity take over.




By John Mariani


240 West 56th Street (near Eighth Avenue)


    NYC is not rife with elegantly appointed Indian restaurants, but it teems with more modest ones offering both high quality and very good value. Indeed, Indian cuisine is one of those that most people assume will always cost less than others, like Italian restaurants charging $30 for pastas and Mexican restaurants charging $125 for wagyu fajitas.

For a while now Benares has occupied a space in the Theater District (with a newer branch in TriBeCa) on a Restaurant Row that includes two other Indian restaurants along with the venerable Italian-American Patsy’s two doors down.  Owner Inda Singh (formerly at Devi), Executive Chef Peter Beck and Chef Qutub Singh Negi are featuring northern Indian food, but, like so many competitors’ the Benares menu is very, very long with standard regional dishes that range from Goan lamb vindaloo to Kozhi Varutha curry.

    Benares (also called Vanarsi) is said to be the oldest continually occupied city in the world, or, as Mark Twain quipped, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”  As a pilgrimage city, it naturally drew the culinary influences of other countries to it, as evidenced on the Benares menu that features a dozen appetizers, vegetarian dishes, seafood, goat and lamb.  The food tends to be a little lighter than at some Indian restaurants around town, which makes it a good choice in hot, muggy weather.

    Our party of four chose from all over the menu, beginning with classic samosa, triangle turnovers stuffed with potatoes, cumin coriander, ginger and mango powder ($8); the pastry was fine and crispy and the seasonings provided layers of flavor.   Bhel puri ($8) are puffy rice crisps with chopped onions, potatoes, the interesting addition of avocado and corn kernels, all tossed with sweet-sour chutney.  Lahsooni gobi shows a Chinese influence in a dish of cauliflower marinated in tomato, garlic and green chili sauce ($9), while chicken tikka as a starter were tender grilled morsels of chicken richly marinated in yogurt and spices ($12). You may also have chicken tikka masala as a main course, simmered in fenugreek-scented plum tomato sauce ($16).

    Among the main courses I certainly recommend the aamiya jhinga jumbo prawns marinated in mango, chili, rice vinegar and ginger (below), then plucked out after mere seconds in the tandoori oven, sizzling and smoky but very moist, too ($22).  Rare is the Indian restaurant that doesn’t serve lamb vindaloo, though so often it is cooked into gray shards of tasteless meat; at Benares it comes juicy and suffused with vinegar, hot chilies and spices ($17)—hot but not incendiary on the palate.  

    Whether you are a vegetarian or not, you will find a dish of baby eggplant simmered in coconut, peanut, curry leaves and topped with stuffed peppers, a dish named baingan mirch ka salan ($13), riddled with contrasts of flavor and texture.  Paneer-style dishes, made with Indian cottage cheese, are extremely popular in Benares, here cooked with spinach and tempered with cumin, ginger and garlic ($14).  You’ll need to order a rice dish because none of the entrees come with rice, and I loved the jeera basmati version so aromatic with cumin ($7).

    The breads are always a stand-out in northern India, so the garlic naan ($4) is irresistible, and the balloon-like poori ($4), often oily, is greaseless and crisp to the touch, deflating dramatically and releasing wonderful yeasty perfume into the air.

    Desserts (left) run from the traditional rasmali cottage cheese dumplings in rich coconut milk ($5) to the rarely seen shahi dawat, a creamy carrot pudding served on saffron bread and topped with raspberry and a nut-rich rabri sauce ($6).

    The midtown Benares is comfortable, if not particularly impressive in its décor (the downtown branch is more modern), with copies of paintings of India from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum printed on aluminum.

        The extremely affable manager, Ranbir Bhatia, runs a tight ship, so that the timing of the courses’ arrival is down pat.  There is a wine list and the usual Indian beers, but the cocktails are clumsily made and not worth the effort to wait for them.

Frankly, I have not tried the other Indian restaurants along 56th Street, but in the future Benares will be my standard by which to judge them.  


Benares is open daily for lunch and dinner




A Somewhat Irreverent Look at the Situation in Tuscany

By Geoff Kalish


 OK, so I understand the DOCG, DOC, IGT and VdT classifications of Italian wines. For those not familiar with these classifications, my interpretation -- which may cause protest among iconoclastic Italian imbibers -- is as follows:  In the 1960s a group of government officials set out to somewhat emulate the French AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) categorization by developing a classification specific for Italian wines.
     Of note, at that time many areas had so called “promiscuous vineyards” in which grapes, wheat and olives were grown close together –- in some cases in alternating rows -- so, when the grapes were harvested, not uncommonly other substances made their way to the hopper. So, first came the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), which legally meant that the wine was made from grapes grown in a well-defined area by rules of that area, but which in reality meant that grapes could not come from “promiscuous vineyards.” However, as with eliminating anything promiscuous, there was a lot of “hanky-panky” and rules for some areas were less stringent than for others. And then there were the scandals. In one, wine from the south ‘somehow’ made its way to bottles in the north, where the price was higher; in another, toxic methanol (which increases the measured alcohol content and price of a “weak” wine made from poorly ripened grapes) was added to wine, thereby illegally increasing its value and making the wine toxic.  

        All this led to the apocryphal story being told of a winemaker in the early 1970s lying on his deathbed with his three sons pleading for him to tell them his secrets of winemaking, and with his last breath says, “Sons, it can also be made from grapes.”

        So the government, looking to rectify the situation, and perhaps add a few jobs to the public roles, created the DOCG (Denominizaione di Origine Controllata Guarantita). This classification means that the government guarantees that the grapes that are in the wine are from the area the label proclaims and that the wine was made by the strictest rules of that area and that government agents have tasted the wine and have documented its quality. And, so there’s no hanky-panky, the wine is then immediately sealed in the presence of some official with a number on the seal that’s across the closure.

        But what about wines that don’t fit into either of these categories? Well, there’s two more vague classifications, the IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), meaning that the wine is merely typical of wines made in the area in which it’s made. And the VdT (Vino da Tavola), which merely means that the wine was made in Italy and should be consumed as “table wine,” although many of these wines are often sold “under the table,” to avoid taxation.
        In any event, none of these classifications really says anything about the aesthetic qualities of the wine. Case in point, so called “Super Tuscan” wines, a number of which retail for more than $100 a bottle, are merely classified as IGT. “How can this be?” you ask. Well, the situation has to do with the production (or overproduction) of Chianti in the 1960s and 1970s. Like France’s Chateau-de-Pape, the wine is a blend of a number of varietals, and originally contained juice from white as well as red grapes. Chianti was wildly popular after World War II – especially in the U.S.  -- but overproduction and dilution of the bouquet and taste by the use of inferior varietals and poor winemaking measures caught up with the wine and sales dropped precipitously in the late 1970s.
    Adding to the problem was the classic straw “fiasco” (right) that surrounded the bottle, which in a number of instances cost more to produce than the wine itself (a literal “fiasco”). So, the laws were changed to require Chianti to contain at least 80% of juice from the red Sangiovese varietal and the virtual elimination of the inclusion of white varietals. In addition, a Chianti made by very strict methods could be called “Superiore,” but not if it came from the demarcated “Classico” area, which already adhered to strict methods. However,  many brands of Chianti made outside the “Classico” area, not labeled as “Superiore,” are excellent and offer much better value than some of those bearing those labels. All very confusing. And  adding to the confusion is the use of the term “Riserva” to denote wines aged for longer periods of time, for which producers charge higher prices, but do not necessarily provide higher quality. In fact, some of the “Riservas” have been aged in oak for so long that only beavers like them.  


o what’s happened?
Classifications were created with a variety of rules and restrictions and the result was that the quality of a considerable amount of wine was, and is still, not worthy of the prices asked. However, on the brighter side, a number of Tuscan producers have said “to hell with the rules and restrictions and let’s just  make the best wine we can and call it simply Toscana Rosa (red table wine from Tuscany). If the critics and public like it, and people buy it, why not?” And that’s just what’s happened in Tuscany, with many of these wines now called “Super Tuscan,” a meaningless “classification” as there are no rules to follow for such a wine – with varying percentages of red varietals (most commonly Sangiovese, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and Syrah as well) and various lengths of aging, and not to say anything about differences among vintages and winemaking techniques. 

        So how does the consumer of wines from Tuscany know what they’re getting in terms of price for quality? The best advice I can offer is to heed the counsel of your local retail shop owner or manager or trust the recommendations of a respected wine critic (generally one who writes for an “edited” publication, who does not have an axe to grind, and has been to the areas he or she is writing about). And remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good and try any selection not only alone but with food, as many Italian wines, especially from Tuscany, taste very different with the right fare. 

        Finally, from the results of a number of recent tastings, the following half dozen bottles are some suggestions for some sensibly priced Tuscan wines widely available on the market (independent of their varietals and classification).


2013 Tenuta di Trinoro “Le Cupole” Toscana Rosso ($32)

This blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot – fermented in stainless steel vats and aged in oak barrels and cement tanks --  shows a bouquet and taste of cassis and ripe cherries with hints of cinnamon and dark chocolate in its finish. It makes a great match for grilled lamb or veal.


2013 Petrolo Torrione ($26)

This fruity wine is fashioned from a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented primarily in oak (with a small portion fermented in cement) and aged entirely in oak for 15 months. It has a lush flavor of ripe blackberries and cherries with a hint of cassis in its vibrant finish. It makes a good mate for grilled ribs, blue-veined cheeses and even grilled tuna steaks. (Note: Based on tasting older vintages of this wine, this vintage should be expected to improve over the next 5 to 6 years, developing aromas of violets and notes of earthy herbs in its taste.)


2014 Luce della Vite Lucente ($20)

A blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Sangiovese, this wine provides a fruity bouquet of strawberries and ripe cherries, with a smooth well-integrated taste of fruit and oak and a memorable finish that matches well with grilled duck, barbecued chicken and salmon. (Note: For the bouquet and taste of this wine to reach its peak, it should be decanted and exposed to air for an hour or two before serving.)


2013 Castello Banfi Excelsus Sant’ Antimo ($44)

Made from a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has aesthetics more reminiscent of a top-tier Bordeaux than a ‘Tuscan red table wine.’ With a bouquet and bold taste of cassis and ripe plums it’s perfect to pair with grilled steak, pork chops or baby-back ribs. And -- based on experience with other vintages -- with a few years of aging it should be quite indistinguishable from a premium red Bordeaux.


2013 Conte Guicciardini Il Cortile di Castello di Poppiano Chianti ($20)

This wine is an excellent example of what a well-made, modern-day Chianti can be –- showing a fragrant bouquet and mouth-filling taste of ripe plums, cherries and strawberries, well integrated with oak and a bit of acidity and tannin in its elegant finish. It mates well with most fare, especially red-sauce pasta, pizza and grilled flank steak Also, expect this wine from Colli Fiorantini to improve with 5 to 6 years of age, some of its fruity flavors muted with a taste of exotic herbs emerging.

2014 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto ($37)

Better known as the producer of legendary “Super Tuscan” Sassicaia, this winery uses a Bordeaux-like blend (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot) to make this oak-aged quite a worthy “second wine.” It shows a bouquet and taste of ripe cherries and cassis with well-integrated notes of spice and a touch of tannin in its finish. Mate it with grilled meats, especially veal chops, as well as flavorful cheeses like cheddar and Jarlsberg.




The bagel chain Einstein Bros. has released  what it calls the “world’s first caffeinated bagel"--Espresso Buzz, containing 32 milligrams of caffeine, which is about a third of what you’d get in a shot of espresso or an eight-ounce cup of normal coffee. Head of marketing and research Kerry Coyne said the bagel will help the chain ride the “fourth wave,” for a category of coffee that isn’t by a coffee brand. 




“The menu at King, which was opened last fall on the western edge of SoHo, by three enterprising young women, reads like a lusty love letter to Italian simplicity—something like what Meryl Streep’s Italian-Iowan housewife in ‘The Bridges of Madison County' would cook for Clint Eastwood’s lonely photographer, to show him the lost art of food as pleasure.”—Shauna Lyon, “King,” The New Yorker (April 24, 2017).






 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 Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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