Virtual Gourmet

  March 25, 2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney in "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani

Apple Lake, Highlands NC

    You know you’re in a small, sleepy North Carolina town when the headline on lead story on the front page of the local paper, The Highlander, reads—in 72-point type—“Town Tackles Pothole Fix.”

    Still, while the town of Highlands has only 3,200 year-round residents—up from 924 in the 2010 U.S. Census—come summer the population swells to 18,000, despite being an almost three-hour drive from Atlanta and two from Greenville. In winter the town tries mightily to attract visitors with events like Root Bound (left), a celebration of Appalachian food, craft and music culture, which I attended last month in venues spread over 6.2 square miles. Along with The Bascom: Center for Visual Arts, the cross streets of town are lined with galleries, boutiques, restaurants and a first-rate wineshop within the Mountain Fresh Grocery.
    One of the town’s principal draws is that it’s not so hot, by which I mean climatically. But it's very cool. For centuries wealthy North Carolinians escaped the brutal summer heat and humidity of the rest of state by ascending to 4,118 feet in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where summer temperatures in Highlands average 76 degrees. And those deep, piney mountains are very beautiful, punctuated with hollows and waterfalls, rivers and lakes that filled in for upstate New York in the 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans, which was filmed nearby Bridal Veil Falls (below).


            The Root Bound festival, spread over a weekend, had workshops in everything from biscuit making to whiskey tasting, salt tasting to songwriting, and at each night’s dinners top-flight bluegrass bands performed, including the Forlorn Strangers, Nitrograss, the SteelDrivers and the Dixie Bluegrass Boys.
    Sadly, the updated Appalachian food served at the luncheons and dinners by young restaurant chefs failed to please many of those Southerners who attended. The chefs insisted on cooking up grub like souse (headcheese), rabbit liver mush and grits soup that North Carolinians gave up eating as soon as they had money enough to eat better things. Even one of the attending great Southern chefs, Louis Osteen, told me he never grew up eating that kind of food.
    One of the best events I attended was a fascinating conversation between Kentucky-born food historian Ronni Lundy, formerly of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and best-selling author Sharyn McCrumb (below), whose books The Ballad of Tom Dooley and The Unquiet Grave brought to life the reality behind the folklore.  McCrumb explained that the enduring tradition of Appalachian people cherishing their own ghost stories goes back to Scottish immigrant folklore brought to the misty hills of North Carolina with names like “The Story of Boojum and Hootin’ Annie,” “The Moon-Eyed People” and “The Demon Dog of Valle Crucis.”  Hiking the extensive trails of the region is always finished before twilight.
    During the festival I stayed at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa, whose elegance depends on a décor well adapted from Appalachian and European traditions wed to all the modern amenities. One of the most comfortable and comforting places to loaf over well-made cocktails is at the Inn’s Hummingbird Lounge or in the beautifully appointed library. One of the Inn’s principal virtues is its bucolic quiet, maintained by an enforced policy for a “sleep-friendly environment” and “zero-tolerance noise policy,” with too-loud revelers booted off the property.
    The Inn also has one of the finest restaurants in the South, Madison’s, with a menu that features sustainable, local provender from purveyors with regional names like Sunburst Trout Farm, Painted Hills Farm, Anson Mills, Benton's Country Ham and Sequatchie Cove. Executive Chef Chris Huerta uses them all to create the sumptuous menu backed by a first-rate wine list overseen by the ebullient sommelier Philippe Brainos.
    At breakfast, as the sun dissipated the morning mist outside, I enjoyed hot buttermilk biscuits with pan gravy and housemade sausage.  At dinner, I stayed close to the kitchen’s North Carolina roots with a potato-and-ham hock soup with bacon jam, cheddar, a fried egg yolk and green onions ($9); very well-wrought charcuterie; and what is possibly the best rendering of sunburst trout I’ve ever had in the South, with spaghetti squash and andouille cream, roasted beets, baby bok choy and almond-beet pesto ($27). Lobster bisque is touched with American caviar ($9), and beer tartare is graced with balsamic vinegar, an egg and grilled bread. Seared sea scallops ($15) were superbly rendered, with creamy cauliflower, and acorn squash, farro, dried raisins and cashew jus ($16). Pheasant breast is stuffed with mushrooms and accompanied by a lentil ragôut, squash ratatouille and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms ($28), and short ribs are braised slowly for 48 hours and sided with root vegetable risotto and cheddar ($30). Dishes can be too complicated, confusing flavors, but largesse fills every plate, not least in pastry chef Vinzenz Aschbacher's  desserts like English toffee pudding. seven layer cake and the warm seasonal fruit cobbler.
    The Inn also runs a sprawling nearby property called Half-Mile Farm (right) overlooking Apple Lake, offering both contemporary lodgings and several still rustic cabins set close to the woods.
    I can’t say that Highland gets overrun with second homers and tourists in summer, but spring is breaking out just about now, reminding me of the old folk song “Wildwood Flower” as sung by the Carter Family:

I will twine, I will mingle my raven black hair
With the roses so red and the lilies so fair.
And the myrtle so bright with it's emerald hue
The pale amanita and the hyssop so blue.



By John Mariani
imes Square
365 West 46th Street


    Whatever you think of the overwhelming dazzle of today’s Times Square and the Great White Way, the restaurants in the area have never been better, especially when it comes to Asian food. In sheer numbers it would be hard to pass by more than half a dozen storefronts on any street extending east and west from Times Square and not find a sushi bar, Chinese restaurant, Thai, Korean or Indian eatery, at various price levels, usually with pre-theater menus.
    Sushi Seki Times Square—named for Chef Seki Shi—is the flagship of a group of three, with branches on the East Side and Chelsea, and it distinguishes itself by having a sushi bar and lounge up front, an omakase sushi room upstairs where Chef Seki works, and the six-seat Kappo Room to the rear, featuring both à la carte and a fixed price menu at a remarkably fair $75, as well as a sommelier of sake and wine.
    Chef Seki learned his craft and developed his knowledge of fish at Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Market, moving to New York in 1991 to work at a series of Japanese restaurants that included Sushi of Gari, then opening the first Sushi Seki on First Avenue uptown. In 2014 the Chelsea branch debuted, and this past year Times Square opened.
    Yasuyuki Suzuki serves as both general manager and sake sommelier, having completed the Brewing Society of Japanese Sake Tasting Master Program to certify as an Advanced Sake Professional. So the array of sakes is superb, and “Yasu” happily provides information about all of them to match with your meal.  What Yasu does not provide, service and beverage director Rick Zouad does with wines, and I trust his judgment with pairings..  Both are very affable fellows, as is the whole staff.
    At the entrance  there is a “mini-omakase bar” sushi counter (above),  where Chef  Qing Yang (who is actually Chinese) shows a deft hand at seeming to do very little with delectable results to top quality seafood. The fat strips in the toro are evident, the red snapper glistens, and the rice is impeccably formed and seasoned—no need for soy sauce and wasabi dipping.
    My problem with sushi is I can’t get enough of it—which is why inferior sushi bars push “all you can eat” menus.  And after such delicacies as Yang’s toro taku (bluefin toro with pickled daikon tartare); hamachi of yellowtail with a sliver of jalapeño, garlic puree and ponzu; New Zealand King salmon with onion sauce and tomato sauté; tai shio of red snapper with lemon juice and Okinawa sea salt; and “Tofu Tofu” of lean bluefin tuna akami on pan-seared tofu topped with tofu sauce, I was both blissful and ravenous for more.
    But we were on our way to the Kappo Room (right)—kappo means to cook, and refers to a dining spot somewhere between the traditional kaiseki cuisine and the casual izakaya style cuisine.  There we sat at another counter in front of an open kitchen—not a particularly attractive or well-lighted one—to feast further on an array of modern Japanese seasonal cuisine, beginning with a fried Pacific oyster with tomato tartare, and slowly poached, velvety tender Hokkaido octopus with simmered daikon and pan-fried gyoza of pork and cabbage, accompanied by a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from Soliste “Lune et Soleil.”
    Next was a crisp tempura dish of anago (sea eel), kuruma ebi (black tiger shrimp), wakasagi (lake smelt) and assorted vegetables, with a Domaine Ferret “Le Clos” 2013.
    Lustrous yuzu and miso-infused cod had its characteristic richness, which paired well with a Guy Breton Morgon Régnié 2015, then came a soothing hot pot of duck and tofu in sweet dashi broth with which a Choryo “Tarusake” Junmai Yamahai sake from Nara went beautifully.
    All of this food lay lightly on the stomach, so we were happy to try several desserts that were way out of the ordinary for a Japanese restaurant: creamy yuzu panna cotta; a honeyed crème brûlée; and mochi ice cream of matcha, salted caramel, Mandarin orange cream and double chocolate. All were part of the $75 menu, though all items are also available à la carte.
    I’m sure I’d be just as happy upstairs eating nothing but classic sushi made by Chef Seki, but I’d be missing so much more from the downstairs menus. What a happy dilemma to have!

Open nightly for dinner.




By John Mariani

Fred Astaire and Ann Miller in "Easter Parade" (1948)

      Thanksgiving is so identified with a lavish turkey dinner that the Easter meal seems to divert deliberately from such a menu. Depending on one’s own family origins, lamb or ham are traditional Easter dishes, so choosing wines for the feast brings a different set of criteria.
       For one thing, the meal is usually held in the middle of the day, which suggests lighter wines might be considered. At Russian Orthodox Easter, the meal is traditionally held after midnight Mass and involves only cold foods and plenty of vodka shots, not much wine.
      After 40 days of Lent, seafood is banned from the Easter table, and although colored eggs may decorate the table, they are rarely consumed, unless among the ingredients for a cheesecake at the end.
   Baked ham, usually spiked with spices like cloves stuck into a brown sugar glazed skin and often topped with caramelized pineapple slices, is not the easiest dish to pair up with wines.  Among white wines a French Burgundy can be too subtle, while a California Chardonnay may be too oaky. Craggy Range’s Single Vineyard 2015 Chardonnay ($21) from New Zealand is neither, with very pleasing fruit and citrus at a very good price.
   I prefer the slight hint of grassy sweetness in a Sauvignon Blanc, either a Loire Valley Sancerre or perhaps Sonoma Valley’s Château St. Jean Fumé Blanc 2015 ($12), which has a definite pineapple note to it.
      Best of all with such hams would be a Gewürztraminer, a wine defined by its spiciness and aromatics, and my first choice would be an Alsatian example from a fine producer like Trimbach ($25) or Hugel (18). Washington’s Hogue Cellars’s 2015 ($9) from Washington State has a slightly gingery component.
   And then there is Lambrusco, the sparkling red wine from Emilia-Romagna; too often too sweet, the drier versions are excellent choices for spiced ham.  Look for
Otello Nero di Lambrusco ($22). Aged Beaujolais, like Domaine des Quatres Vents 2015 Fleurie ($22), have just the right acid to cut through sweet ham.
   But my favorite red wine with baked ham is Italy’s Amarone della Valpolicella, made in the Veneto by drying Valpolicella grapes on straw mats to intensify their flavors and sugar.  It is vinified dry but always retains a luscious underpinning of sweetness, more like an off-dry port than a tannic red wine.  That undercurrent of sweetness is a complement to the seasonings and salt of the ham. The producers I like on a regular basis include Bertani, Zenato and Bolla.
   If lamb is being served at Easter, perhaps served with a mint sauce, a good choice because of its own spice and a bright raspberry fruitiness is the Pinot Noir from Cuvaison 2015 ($52). Well-fatted baby lamb begs for a refined red like a Piedmontese Nebbiolo grape, which goes into the making of that region’s great Barolos by Rocche dei Manzoni 2011 ($50) or Fontanafredda 2013 ($40), which is a fine, robust traditional style.
   If a big Cabernet Sauvignon is your wont, Clos Pegase’s 2012 Hommage ($152) will be impressive to your guests.  Considerably fruitier is a Cab from Australia’s Barossa Valley Estate 2016 ($15). Spicier still is Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz aged in whiskey oak barrels ($19).   More austere but a good match for the richness of lamb is a Bordeaux by Légende 2016 ($12).



Toymaker Mattel has released 19 new Barbies to celebrate present day and historic female role models. including  French chef Hélène Darroze, 51, who has restaurants in The Connaught in London and her  namesake Hélène Darroze in Paris and Moscow. 


“The frenzy around Vespertine eclipsed the arrival of Dialogue, which is the restaurant I’d much more readily recommend. As in opera or art or theater, enjoyment at this altitude becomes a matter of preference. To couch it in cinematic terms, Vespertine puts me in the mind of Luis Buñuel’s surrealist
 The Exterminating Angel. I gravitate toward Beran’s menu. It certainly doesn’t shy away from surrealism, but its setup is as satisfying as Robert Towne’s screenplay for Chinatown — a paradigm of the three-act form.”—Bill Addison, “Dialogue,” (12/26/17)




Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


   Wine is a joy year-round but in cooler weather one grape varietal has really taken center stage in my daily activities – that most Italian of grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression – Brunello di Montalcino. 

From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines are be harvested, culminating with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.
    Second, cooler weather here means it is time to start enjoying more red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines.  That includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura, literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino and a Riserva of Brunello.  Rosso is sort of like the younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to the four required for Brunello.  The Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year before release.
        What is so special about this cru Poggio alle Mura?  Well, it is the result our over 30 years of ongoing research at my family’s vineyard estate, Castello Banfi.  When we first began planting our vines there in the late 1970s studies from the University of Bordeaux indicated which strains of many varietals we should plant, based on the soil type and microclimate of each vineyard.  But when it came to the region’s native Sangiovese, there was only local lore, no scientific research.  So we took it upon ourselves to figure out this vine, and set off on three decades of incredibly detailed research. 

    We started with 600 apparent variations on Sangiovese, because it is so susceptible to variations in weather and soil, and narrowed that down to 160 truly genetically different clones.  We planted a vineyard with two rows of each type, made wine from each of them, and charted the differences – remember, you only get one chance a year to make wine, so this took time.
    It took about ten years to get some concrete results, though we continue to experiment today and always will – you never stop learning in science and nature!  Once we determined which were the best, complementary clones that could be planted together to make the best Brunello, we chose to plant them in what we determined to be the optimal vineyard sites.  Coincidentally, the best soils and climate conditions are in the slopes surrounding the medieval fortress today known as Castello Banfi, known since Etruscan times as Poggio alle Mura – the walled hilltop.  Hence the name of our most special “cru” of Brunello, representing a synthesis between tradition and innovation.
    Though the focus of this study was our Brunello, all of our Sangiovese-based wines, including the super Tuscans SummuS, Cum Laude, and Centine, benefited from this work.  And that’s the third reason for celebrating Sangiovese this month, for the range of wonderful reds that usher us into autumn!  One wine in particular was inspired by our research – the BelnerO, a Sangiovese dominant blend with what I like to call a kiss of Cabernet and a whisper of Merlot.  We grow the grapes a little differently for BelnerO than for Brunello, make the wine with less oak aging and released it earlier from the winery, providing a counterpoint to Brunello and a lovely terroir-driven wine in its own right.
     If you know Italians, you know that by nature we are multi-faceted, varying in mood, and always passionate.  As a nation, we span from the hot sunny beaches of Sicily near the African coast to the rugged mountains and Alpine ski slopes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north.  Sangiovese is grown in almost all of Italy’s regions and reflects the unique nature of each; it is most famous (rightfully so) in Tuscany, yet even there it reflects the nuances of each hilltop, valley and subzone.  It has something a little different to say in Brunello than Chianti, Morellino than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montalcino than Super Tuscan blends. 

    Here is a smattering of Sangiovese-based wines that you may wish to get to know better, reflecting a spectrum that appeals to every occasion, every taste, and every budget.  We can assure you that the conversation will never become boring.

Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese 

BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites. 

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage. 

Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish. 

Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation.  Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.

Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape.  Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name.  The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky.  Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red.  The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut.  It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note.  It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillsidein southern Montalcino.

SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet.  An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine. 

Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.

Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table. 

Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti.  An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes.  This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.

Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining. 

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.

Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice.  It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.  

Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.



 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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