Virtual Gourmet

  May 27,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


American G.I.'s celebrating the liberation of Sicily, 1943



By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani

Gott's Roadside, St. Helena, CA

    By international standards San Francisco is a very young city, especially since it was destroyed back in 1906 by an earthquake. But it's got history on its side and in its restaurants.  Napa Valley, on the other hand, has a much younger gastro-history, when back in 1988 Mustards Grill set a Northern California style and standard for roadside restaurants. Here are some enduringly good places to eat.

933 Main Street
St. Helena

         I’m asked all the time if, dining out as I do, I ever eat a hamburger. The question is naïve at best, for the obvious answer is, “Of course I eat hamburgers, but only really good ones.” I do not eat the junk food they serve at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and the rest, and I do not order $50 burgers topped with foie gras and truffles at high-end restaurants like Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne in New York.
    Burger culture in America has become so extravagant that every menu—even seafood restaurants, Italian restaurants and French bistros—have to have one on the menu, usually made with beef better suited to a T-bone or beef tartare. When I want a burger I want one that tastes like what I actually crave in a burger: a good grind of meat, a good bun, careful cooking made perfect by repetition, and a few condiments or additions, like onions or tomato that enhance rather than dominate the favorite American sandwich.
         This is what I get at Gott’s, a small chain in California whose original restaurant was opened by brothers Joel and Duncan Gott in 1999 in St. Helena in the Napa Valley wine country. (There are now branches in Napa, San Francisco, SFO International Airport, Palo Alto, Walnut Creek and Marin.) It had been a place called Taylor's Refresher since 1943, and the Gotts kept the old sign. Back then, hamburger menus had not taken over the foodie media ravenous for extravagant concoctions on a bun. What the Gott brothers did do was to use the best locally sourced ingredients and purveyors, such as Niman Ranch beef, Zoe’s bacon, Panorama Bakery breads, and Osprey Seafood.  In addition, Gott’s stocks a list of California-centric wines and beers unlikely to be found at any other burger chain.
         The burger menu includes a dozen variations, including the California Burger with a fried egg, Zoe's bacon, and balsamic onions, which to me is a great American sandwich. The fries are excellent, the soft serve ice cream and shakes irresistible, and the price is right: $7.99 to $12.99.
         Oh, they also have added a bunch of trendy items over the years, like a kale salad ($7.99) and ahi poke tacos ($14.99), but it’s impossible for me to go to Gott’s and order such things.  I want to pull into the parking lot, get on line, wait longingly for my order, sit outside on a bench under a white umbrella and watch the cars go by on Main Street, just before they slow down to get into the town of St. Helena.


63 Ellis Street

         Enduring now for 100 years, John’s Grill almost never happened because the 1906 San Francisco earthquake delayed its opening for a while. When it did open it was the first restaurant to do so in the devastated city, and in all that time hasn’t changed very much. The wooden walls are original, the style of tables and chairs the same and the tradition of hanging photos of celebrated guests has been maintained right up to the present. The tablecloths are still white and starched; there's a good breadbasket with plenty of butter; there's even a flower in a vase on the table. John’s still serves about 500 diners every day.
         You’ll see it from up the block for its neon sign is as totemic as any in San Francisco, and the three-story building is unlikely to budge from its location off Market Street because owner John Konstin’s father, Gus, bought the property forty years ago. One of the few changes that reflect a less genteel trend is the dropping of a gentleman’s dress code, after Silicon Valley billionaires started traipsing in in t-shirts and jeans.
         No one would deny that a good deal of John’s appeal is that it was mentioned in a single paragraph as the restaurant where Dashiell Hammett’s detective Sam Spade had his dinner in The Maltese Falcon (above)—lamb chops, a baked potato and sliced tomatoes (left)—a combo still available on the menu ($36.95). Indeed, the Konstins have long had a glass-enclosed black falcon exhibited on the second floor, along with more of the novel’s memorabilia. Over the years everyone from Ronald Reagan to Hillary Clinton, Brian Wilson to Johnny Depp, and Julia Child to Truman Capote have eaten at John’s.
         I’ve been a fan of John’s for a long time, and while I know that the Konstin family buys first-rate meats, seafood and vegetables, there’s little I’ve eaten there that I’d rave about. It’s just good, solid American fare, competently prepared and generous in its portions.  You get half a dozen of those lamb chops, and there must be a half pound of Bay shrimp with a Louis dressing on the plate ($16.95).  I do recommend the petrale sole (below) with a shower of buttered almonds and butter sauce surrounded by mashed potatoes ($27.95), and the Dungeness crab cocktail ($19.95) is sweet and delicious.  The red snapper is topped with a mound of shrimp, crabmeat and mushrooms and lavished with a lemon cream ($34.95). You can safely skip dessert. (Prices, by the way, are quite a bit less for the same items at lunchtime.)
         The veteran bartenders at John’s take their craft very seriously and make a number of special cocktails like Spade’s Manhattan ($14) and Bogie’s Old Fashioned ($15). The wine list is not among the comprehensive lists found elsewhere in the city but it is solidly selected and focused on very good California labels.
         I guess I go to John’s mostly for the history, the jaunty mood of the place, and those dishes I crave, and I’m just as happy sitting alone watching who’s coming and going, taking my time to nurse my cocktail and then finish off dinner with a nightcap.  I’ll hear the clang of the cable car outside and I’ll just forget what year it is.


1 Market Street

    Few restaurants ever get to celebrate their 25th anniversary, especially when it started out in a derelict corner of a city.
    “There was a soup kitchen across the street and the restoration of the old Ferry Building was years away,” says owner Michael Dellar (below on the right), who, with general manager Larry Bouchard, opened One Market Restaurant in San Francisco in 1993 on Market Street.
    The grotesque Embarcadero Freeway had been torn down after the 1989 earthquake, and grindingly slow construction of the city’s BART rail system ruined Market Street’s retail business. Street crime soared. Even as late as 2009 Streetsblog SF described the area as “congested, hazardous, and in poor repair.”
    “When we opened the restaurant people asked us if we’d be here in twenty-five years,” says Dellar, “and I told them, `Of course we will; we signed a 30-year lease!” He paused, then added, “At a dollar per square foot.”
    An affordable thirty-year lease on a less-than-prime property allowed the partners to gamble on a neighborhood largely devoid of any restaurants, much less a grand American brasserie with an open kitchen and rotisserie, vast wine cellar and its own meat locker for aging.
    Now, twenty-five years later, One Market has served three million diners, which Dellar notes is “three times the population of San Francisco.” And the blossoming of the area—now nicknamed Soma for South of Market—was kick started by the restaurant and the restoration of the Ferry Building into a marketplace by bringing a vitality and tourists to the block.
    If not ideally situated, One Market was among the first of a new generation of San Francisco restaurants that followed trailblazers like Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse (in Berkeley), Jeremiah Tower’s Stars, and Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio. By the mid-‘80s San Francisco had changed from being a tourist dining town with a slew of brocade-wallpapered continental restaurants like Ernie’s and The Blue Fox to a crucible of so-called “New California Cuisine” that stressed the freshest local ingredients and the best wines coming out of the nearby Napa and Sonoma valleys. Dellar’s wife, Leslye, still does the restaurant’s flower arrangements.
    Dellar first joined forces with young chef Bradley Ogden at the acclaimed Lark Creek in Marin County. In 1993, they returned to San Francisco to take on the biggest restaurant project seen in the city in many years.  In 1997 chef George Morrone, whose restaurant Aqua pioneered a new style of seafood cuisine in the city, took over One Market’s kitchens, followed in 2001 by Adrian Hoffman, and in 2004 by the current resident, Mark Dommen, who earned One Market its first Michelin star (above).
    To celebrate One Market’s silver anniversary the restaurant threw a charity gala in January for invited guests and included a performance by San Francisco’s iconic jazz singer Paula West—-an original employee at the restaurant. For the event Ogden, Morrone and Hoffman joined Dommen for a five-course meal of dishes they made famous over the years: Ogden’s Point Reyes blue cheese soufflé with a blood orange gastrique; Morrone’s Pommery-poached lobster with vanilla, jalapeño butter and saffron potato; Hoffman’s tortelli pasta of veal breast with bottarga and pine nuts; and Dommen’s prime New York steak with beef cheeks, marrow, smoked mashed potatoes and truffles. Pastry chef Patti Dellamonica-Bauler contributed a chocolate gâteau with chocolate-caramel sorbet.
        California wines were poured by Sommelier and Wine Director Tonya Pitts.    
    In speaking to his guests Dellar stressed that from the beginning the straightforward style of One Market’s food would always be maintained—Ogden’s Caesar salad is still on the menu—whoever the chef may be, and that he had little interest in trendy foods, instead focusing on West Coast seafood like Alaskan halibut, Dungeness crab and Pacific swordfish and not complicating the dishes, many cooked over an open wood fire.
    One Market refined that idea and has stuck with it. Persistence seems to have paid off. While most of the first generation of New California restaurants have closed—Stars, Postrio, Masa’s, Santa Fe Bar and Grill, and others—after their fashion wore thin, One Market thrives on keeping to basics it established a quarter century ago in a location whose current gentrification started when One Market turned its lights onto the street.




By John Mariani
Food photos by Wallace Jordan

    The story of Barbetta has been told ever since its inception in 1906 in its original location on West 39th Street and ever since it moved to West 46th Street in the heart of the Theater District.  The founder, Sebastiano Maioglio, whose brother Vincenzo’s little beard gave Barbetta its name, and his wife, Piera, ran it for decades, drawing every personage of the art and music world from Puccini and Caruso to Mick Jagger and Madonna to its rambling townhouses for Piedmontese cuisine one could find nowhere else in the city.
    With the passing of her parents, the continuance and legacy of Barbetta fell on the shoulders of their daughter, Laura, who had been groomed for a career in the arts but suddenly found herself carrying on in their absence. Laura threw herself into saving Barbetta by bringing to it a unique Italian antique décor and a gorgeous outdoor garden. She was the first to bring Piedmontese wines like Barolo, Barbaresco and Grignolino to the U.S. as well as the first white truffles of Alba (1962) sniffed out by the Maioglios’ own truffle hounds!  Barbetta was also one of the first restaurants to discourage smoking in the dining room by replacing matchbooks with mints on the table.
     Who takes over Barbetta next is very much open to question.  Laura’s husband, Günter Blobel, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1999, passed away recently and now Laura is by herself, with no children to undertake the restaurant’s future. Not that Laura Maioglio has lost any of her legendary spunk and standards, hovering over tables with a spoon out of place, asking why a guest ordered a tomato dish with Champagne and recalling old memories with friends who have dined there for fifty years.
    Barbetta’s menu is long, with dishes with the dates they were added, like a beautiful quail’s nest of fonduta cheese in 1962 ($12). Robiola cheese, rarely seen in the city, is wrapped with grilled zucchini ($11). The salmon is house smoked ($12), and there is an antipasti sampler I’d recommend for the table.
    As in most Italian ristoranti, the pastas are the showpieces, and the Piedmontese specialties are definitely the way to go. Tajarine (tagliolini) are served with a lush, oven-roasted tomato sauce ($11), and agnolotti (above) with ricotta are hand made, of course ($12).  Risotto is the pride of Piedmont, so Barbetta offers several variants (each $12), including with porcini mushrooms, roasted red beets, with herbs, and with Gorgonzola and Camembert, and Rose Champagne. The happy news is you can sample three of them together for $23. By the way, the pasta prices are for second-course portions; for a main course portion figure $21 or a bit more.
    Old fashioned but very good is a main course of jumbo lump crabmeat sautéed in Sherry and served with wild rice ($27), and the roasted rabbit alla Piemontese is done in a delicious white wine sauce ($26).  A break from Piedmont is the Venetian-style calf’s liver with onions ($26) while roast chicken comes in a pomegranate sauce with chive-laced mashed potatoes ($22).
    There are many good reasons to try the desserts, for some are unique to Barbetta, including monte bianco, a chestnut cream topped with snowy whipped cream made to look like Mont Blanc in Switzerland. Also very good is the Gianduja chocolate cake (right) and the pears baked in red wine, once a standard of Italian restaurants now rarely seen.
    I should mention that, despite the beauty of the décor, Old World service, grand wine cellar and superb cuisine, prices at Barbetta are considerably below other Italian restaurants of its ilk, such as Ai Fiori, Del Posto, Babbo or Marea.

    Right now the exquisite and quiet garden is open for dining, and one would search fruitlessly for a more romantic place to dine well in the Theater District,

Barbetta serves lunch and dinner daily. Pre-theater dinner $58.



By John Mariani

    Summer is struggling to arrive here on the East Coast, which means cleaning the grill for outdoor dining and considering wines that will go well with the season's food.  Here's what I've chosen thus far.

JOEL GOTT PINOT NOIR 2016 ($18)— Joel Gott, beginning in 1996, has a catholic approach to making wines through blending of grapes from California, Oregon and Washington, though largely from Santa Barbara, which enjoys cooling breezes from the Gabilan Range and Santa Lucia Mountains.  This means you’re not getting one of those hot, high alcohol western Pinot Noirs; instead the acidity keeps it of light to medium body with nice cherry flavors, at a fine 13.9% alcohol. Being aged mostly in stainless steel helps maintain its freshness before going into new and 2-to-3-year-old French oak barrels to tamp down the tannins.

POLIZIANO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2014  ($28)—A very good price for a very good example of a Vino Nobile, made from 85% Prugnolo Gentile along with out-of-fashion Colorino, Canaiolo and a touch of softening Merlot. It spends  14 to16 months in wood, both in large casks and barriques. The website says this is a wine to keep for ten to twelve years, but it’s too good right now to wait around and hope it gets better.

LUIGI EINAUDI PODERI IN CANNUBI BAROLO CANNUBI 2012 ($78)—One wine magazine finds this bottling full of “Leather, underbrush, earth, iris and woodland berry,” which I would prefer not to drink. Instead, I find the excellent expression of the illustrious Cannubi terroir, 720 feet above sea level with a southern and southeastern exposure, gives the grapes a finesse lacking in warmer terroirs.  This is Barolo as it should be, warm, satisfying and at a fair price. It will improve for the next five years, but it’s eminently drinkable with pleasure right now.

DOMAINES SCHLUMBERGER PINOT NOIR LES PRINCES ABBES 2014 ($24 )—Anyone looking for a blockbuster Pinot Noir will not find it in Alsatian examples. Rather, this varietal, which for a long time pretty much disappeared from Alsace vineyards, has made a comeback and is showing its own special characteristics that come from the high limestone content of the soil.  It is actually better to drink this wine while it’s young, for it has wonderful flowery notes in the bouquet, and it’s ideal for a summer red wine, at only 12.9% alcohol.

GOUGUENHEIM VALLE ESCONDIDO MALBEC 2014 ($8-$9)—Yes, you read that right: eight or nine bucks a bottle for this admirable Mendoza Malbec, whose grapes grow at 3,600 feet in what is basically a desert climate. Those grapes struggle and irrigation from the Andes Mountain waters is allowed. Patricio Gouguenheim took a brave leap to open his winery in 2002, just when Argentina’s  economy tanked, and he has now built it up to sell his wines in 15 global markets. You could drink this—especially at this price—several times a month with all sorts of meat dishes.

MATANZAS CREEK WINERY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 ($14.99)—Matanzas Creek in Santa Rosa has been making wine on what was once a dairy farm since 1997 (now under the Jackson Family group), and since 2010 winemaker Marcia Torres Forno has transformed the estate’s production of Sauvignon Blanc through new plantings and harvesting. They now make five different bottlings from the varietal—highly unusual for a California winery—and the result is a creamier, more refreshing example without the cloying punch-like flavors of so many others.  I love this with grilled chicken and seafood during the summer, and it’s excellent paired with cheeses.






After Yesha Callahan posted a negative review of the burger platter and zeppoles  ordered through Yelp from La Porchetta in Sterling, VA, she went to bed. only to be disturbed around ten PM by a knock at her door followed by a phone call that left a message saying, "“Hello, this is [inaudible name], the manager of La Porchetta. I am outside your door. I want to speak to you about your Yelp review.” Callahan, who said she didn’t want to get “ax murdered,” stayed in bed and called the police, who arrived and warned the restaurant manager to stay away from the house.



ad motto is "Raised in the Wild."




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, benefitted 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 hillside in 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.


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


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