Virtual Gourmet

  July 29,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Sean Connery and Barbara Carrera in "Never Say Never Again" (1983)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


Part One

By John Mariani



By John Mariani

Riverhouse on Deschutes River


    It’s tough to tell the billionaires from the millionaires in Bend, because they dress like everyone else—a de rigueur uniform for both men and women that focuses on gray or brown Patagonia t-shirts, Orvis cargo pants, Big Lebowski sweaters and Puma baseball caps, often worn backwards, set with Oakley sunglasses above the peak.  In all seasons some wear wool beanies over their ears.
    It remains to be seen if the current boom in Bend real estate can be restrained enough to keep this beautiful small-ish city of 90,000 people as the kind of place people retire to and that over-taxed, smog-poisoned Californians move to to escape.  Bend is the kind of town where a gigantic fir tree grows through the roof of the Pine Tavern (below, left), where the outdoor food market has a tent that sells only kabocha products and where “awesome” is the most common adjective used.
    Depending on the direction you take to get to Bend, which was named after a “farewell bend” in the Deschutes River, you’ll find a flat, arid landscape of high desert dotted with aromatic sagebrush and juniper; on the horizon just 23 miles from the city are the totemic Three Sisters (below), a trio of 10,000-foot mountains that are part of the Cascade Range; Mount Washington is just an hour away, persnickety Mount Hood two.  Looming over downtown Bend is Pilot Butte, a 500-foot volcano easily trekked in a day; The High Desert Museum, set on 135 wooded acres, features both indoor and outdoor attractions that include a reverential history of the Plateau Indians.
    Vast state and national parks lie within a two-hours’ drive of Bend, and the fast-rushing Deschutes River, which bisects the city, is ideal for kayaking, canoeing and good fishing.  As you’d expect, you can book jeep and rafting tours, and a company called Riddle Routes creates scavenger hunts for teams to ferret through.

More leisurely adventurers might well prefer the Bend Ale Trail, the largest of its kind in the West (there’s an app for it for your mobile phone), along which you can visit sixteen breweries, stretching outside of town to Redmond and Sisters. Right smack in town are Boneyard, 10 Barrel, Bend Brewing Company, Cascade Lakes, Crux, Deschutes, GoodLife, Immersion, Sunriver, Worthy, and Old Saint, this last carved out of what was once Old Saint Francis School, now with a hotel, movies and bars.  Monkless, opened in 2014, is the creation of an organic chemist and Immersion offers a “Brew It Yourself” option.  A crop of new cideries has also popped up around the city.
    Nearby the start of the Ale Trail, the Bunk + Brew Historic Lucas House has been converted to a very low-cost place to stay, so much so that you get your choice of a bed or a bunk.  A Doubletree by Hilton is set smack in the middle of town. Way higher up the pole are the Wall Street Suites, with 17 fully equipped suites, including kitchen, but no restaurant.
    The  most enticing hotel-resort in the city is Riverhouse, straddling the roaring river.  On-premises it seems the hotel’s buildings are imbedded into the Oregon woodlands, even though Route 20, Bend’s main drag, is only steps from the front entrance, with a strip mall across the road.   Once through the door, however, you enter a huge lobby and restaurant called Currents (which I’ll be writing about next week), with a shaded terrace overlooking the Deschutes, which at that point runs over rocks and swirls around boulders as it courses off into the distance.
    Across a wooden bridge are the newer Riverhouse rooms (right), all spacious and minimally decorated, with wide, tall windows that take full advantage of the hilly landscape outside. Riverhouse is also the only hotel and convention center facility in the State of Oregon to be awarded a LEED Silver Certification.
    A city with a very high per capita dog population, Bend earned Dog Fancy magazine’s “Dogtown USA 2012” award for having 40 restaurants allowing canines outside the premises and more than 13 off-leash areas in city parks and National Forests. Watch where you walk.
    Strolling through downtown Bend, which fans out in every direction, you’ll find a converted movie theater for live entertainment, plenty of stores selling woolen shirts, jeans, Birkenstocks and trail gear, and, this being Oregon, if you’re over 21, a slew of emporiums where you can legally buy marijuana, with names like Jenny’s Dispensary, Oregrown “farm-to-table cannabis company,” and Higher Elevations, which offers “discounts to veterans.”  There’s also a boutique called Gypsy Soul Vagabond selling gypsy home furnishings and clothes, and Ranch Records still carries vinyl recordings, cassettes and DVDs, along with rock and roll memorabilia of many musicians who have long ago left the stage. Also worth noting is that Bend is home to the last remaining Blockbuster store anywhere. Homage should be paid to such a landmark, at least if you’re more than 30 years old. 




By John Mariani
Bridges to Astoria, Queens, from Manhattan

    The debate over which American cities have the best restaurants will go on and on, but in sheer numbers and in every borough (save Staten Island) New York wins on points. One salient proof is in Astoria, Queens, where on five short blocks, bisected by an elevated subway track, a score of restaurants of every stripe lines 36th Avenue from 29th to 34th Street, with still more on the next block and the next block and the surrounding blocks, too.
    Astoria was settled in the 17th century and in the 19th was re-named after the richest man in America, John Jacob Astor, in hopes of getting the tycoon to invest in the area, which ended up being a paltry $500.  But the name stuck and the neighborhood grew commercially to include the Steinway piano factory and America’s first movie studios, whose premises now house the superb Museum of the Moving Image and Kaufman Astoria Studios.
    At first Astoria was a German and Czech neighborhood—the Bohemian Beer Hall and Garden is still thriving off 31st Street—then the Jews and Italians came at the turn of the century, followed by the Greeks and in recent years Eastern Europeans, Hispanics, South Americans and Africans, all of whom have opened their own kinds of restaurants, all enriching the food culture immeasurably.
    Since my son and daughter-in-law live in Astoria, and my wife and I are weekly babysitters, I’ve gotten to know the restaurants, bars and eateries in the area, not all of them wonderful but in enough profusion to keep us fed for weeks without ever repeating a national cuisine.
    Heading southeast from 29th Street, near the Mosque Masjid el-Ber, you come to Aladdin (2906 36th Avenue), a new Bangladeshi eatery where at lunch they keep bringing out trays of fresh hot samosa pastries and meat patties and a daily menu of biryanis, curries, pulaos, all variants with goat, chicken and beef. At breakfast the room fills with the aromas of sweet pastries.
    Two and a half years old and very popular is Boishakhi (2914 36th Avenue), also Bangladeshi but serving halal Indian and Pakistani fare too, in a bright room with a brisk take-out service. Portions are very generous for plates of Bengali bhuri and chana dal of lentils, plenty of different kababs and cheese-rich spinach saag paneer, and the unusual river fish called hilsa. The chef is Shahara Khan, who hails from Dhaka, and her family members run the dining room with a great rush of enthusiasm. They stay open till midnight most nights.
    LIC (Long Island City) Bagel (3108 36th Avenue, next to the El), is something of a misnomer if only because Mexican owner Armando serves big breakfasts—all day—along with Mexican items like burritos and quesadillas.  Frescos Tortillas (3112 36th Avenue) meanwhile is owned by Asians who sell Tex-Mex items like  chile con carne and Mexican pizzas.
    There are, of course, Italian pizzerias and American bars all claiming to serve the best burger in Queens.  Arharn Thai (3205 36th Avenue), which has flourished for 25 years, serves the standards of Thai cuisine like mee krob, pad Thai noodles, tod mon fish cakes, khaum jep dumplings, yum pla muk squid salad, yum koong spicy lemongrass and shrimp soup, and chef’s specialties like pla duk pad ped of fried bone-in catfish with red curry and coconut milk.
    Across the street is a new Greek restaurant, Psari Greek Captain (3210 36th Avenue), with very pleasant outdoor tables that allow you to see the entire panoply of recent immigrants pass by. As you’d expect, seafood is the draw (the word psari means “fish”), grilled and served whole and glossed with lemon and olive oil, along with classics like saganaki, tzatziki, taramasalata and lamb chops.
    When Brazil was still in the World Cup action, Rio Grill and Café (3215 36th Avenue) was packed with local boosters wearing yellow and green t-shirts (which can purchase here) and shouting and lamenting in Portuguese, while enjoying a buffet of barbecue, pastel de queijo cheese pastry, codfish cakes, rice, beans and sandwiches of ham and cheese on a Brazilian sweet bun.And at the Copacabana churrascaria (3113 36th Avenue) the specialty is Brazilian rodizio barbecue.
     There are also two Ecuadorian restaurants on the avenue, but the most popular spot at any time of day is the Venezuelan Arepas Café (3307 36th Avenue), where the draw are the fat stuffed corn pastry-wrapped arepas of pork, chicken, beef, and tangy shredded cheese with bottles of hot sauce on the side. Yuca strips are served with a creamy cilantro dressing while the parilla of mixed grilled pepper steak, chicken strips or shrimp over rice is as hearty a dish as you’ll find in the neighborhood.  The colorful dining rooms are decorated with Venezuelan flags and murals of the owners’ countryside. Ask Ricardo for his suggestions and you’ll be an old friend by the end of the meal.
    Next door, at the corner of 36th Avenue and 34th Street, is a small storefront named Joe Asian & Sushi (3319 36th Avenue), where I go for a quick sushi fix—the Sushi Deluxe is nine pieces and a tuna roll for $20; Sashimi Deluxe is 17 pieces of assorted sashimi for $22.
    By the way, most of these places offer special prices, discounts for first-timers and all sorts of inducements to bring you through the door.
    As the photos here show, there are a lot more places I haven’t mentioned and that I have yet to try.  It’ll take some time. Stay tuned.



Part One

By John Mariani


                                                                                                    Sokol Blosser Vineyards
    I’ll just out and out say it: Overall, Oregon makes the best Pinot Noirs in America. There are, of course, several notable California bottlings well worth savoring, a handful from Washington State, but the terroir of Oregon, particularly the Willamette Valley, seems to possess the perfect aspects of soil and climate to produce Pinot Noirs that rival the better Burgundies.
    In his authoritative book North American Pinot Noir, John  Winthrop Haegar wrote in 2004, “The model for too many American Pinots is too large a wine, made from grapes that are picked too ripe, sporting too much alcohol, struggling for balance in a space in which balance is, in fact, hard to achieve.”
    Since then there has been progress on all fronts, especially in Northern California’s Sonoma Valley, but my assertion still holds true about Oregon’s terroirs.   It’s not surprising that Robert J. Drouhin of Burgundy’s illustrious Maison Drouhin started plantings in Oregon back in the late 1980s, after investigations suggested it would be an ideal terroir to grow Pinot Noir.
    I was happily reminded of this on a recent visit to Domaine Drouhin, and it’s really a family story.  In 1986, Robert' Drouhin’s  daughter Véronique came to Oregon to work the harvest with three Oregon wine families, the Letts (Eyrie Vineyard), the Casteels (Bethel Heights) and the Adelsheims (Adelsheim Vineyards).  Her reports to her father drew him the following year to participate in the first International Pinot Noir Celebration—which has become a premier annual event in the wine world—where he was impressed by the similarities of terroir to his native Burgundy. He thereupon purchased a Christmas tree farm in the Dundee Hills and began planting  Pinot Noir, appointing Véronique as winemaker and her brother Philippe head of viticulture (above).  In 1988, Domaine Drouhin (right) produced its first vintage, albeit from grapes purchased from other estates. A year later the fully operational winery was erected, with a four-story gravity flow distilling system.

    To this day Domaine Drouhin is one of America’s finest examples, not because it tastes just like the best Burgundies but because the estate takes full advantage of Drouhin’s historic knowledge of a grape often called “finicky” and grows it accordingly in a cool climate terroir—whereas the high temperatures of Napa Valley can often cook the delicate Pinot Noir.  Drouhin’s success was the kick that gave Oregon bragging rights, for although other wineries had made Pinot Noir, Drouhin’s was, and still is, a benchmark that does indeed express the estate’s motto, “French soul, Oregon soil.” A tasting of recent vintages with Managing Director David Millman corroborated my view that the estate’s consistency, finesse and evolution show that breeding counts.
    Drouhin's Dundee Hills 2015 Chardonnay ($35) has a light peppery minerality and bite without too much oak. The 2014 Pinot Noir Laurène ($70) was rich in aged fruit flavors and had "rustic tannins" that gave it earthiness, while the Eola Amity 2015 Roserock Zépherine Pinot Noir ($60) had layers and layers of flavor and aromatic bouquet that promised years of aging will only make it better and better, comparable to some of Drouhin's finest Burgundies.
    I also had the pleasure of visiting Sokol Blosser, which has an older family history—46 years now—dating to a time when vineyards were scarce in the Valley or anywhere else in Oregon. (There are now 725.) Located on a certified organic, 85-acre planted vineyard in Oregon’s Dundee Hills sub appellation, Sokol Blosser Winery was founded by Bill and Susan Blosser in 1971 and is now overseen by their son, Alex, and daughter, Alison, as co-owner and CEO (right).

    Since I last interviewed Alex a year ago in New York, he’s become more concerned than ever about climate change in the world’s vineyards, especially since Sokol Blosser has always been committed to the environment and sustainability. “Global warming is scary,” he said. “I really don’t know what to do, except to be as aggressive as we can with the politicians in an effort to slow the roll of what seems at this point inevitable.”
    Sokol Blosser makes a very wide range of wines, sometimes from other vineyards’ grapes, the reason being, simply, that “there’s a market for them,” not least at the winery’s beautiful hilltop tasting and sales room (below, right) and through on-line marketing and sales.  He described how “volcanic soil makes great Pinot Noir at higher elevations, but below 300 feet the soil is full of calcium and produces very vigorous vines, which in turn make for good but not great Pinot Noir.” But such soils are good for other varietals, so Sokol Blosser also makes estimable Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and a nine-grape blend in magnum called Evolution. It even makes a Müller-Thurgau, a German cross-breed of Riesling and Sylvaner, which is highly unusual in Oregon.
    “We make some of our wines, like the Pinot Gris, as experiments,” he said, “to learn what works.”  On the other hand, those “very vigorous vines” of Pinot Noir are ideal for Rosé of Pinot Noir.  “I farm for rosé,” he said, “and the grapes achieve 21 Brix [sugar content] to retain that essence of Pinot Noir flavor at 12% alcohol. We plant in soil that gives us lots of tons per acre, all certified organic.”
    But Sokol Blosser’s reputation is solidly built on well-balanced Pinot Noirs. The 2015 I tasted that day had wonderful aromatics along with the richness of fruit and the brightness of acid. “The most important component in Pinot Noir is acid; complexity hangs on that acid,” he said, differentiating the styles of Pinot Noir: “In France the earthiness of their wines make for a softer, rounder texture and more minerality. In California, Pinot Noir is usually picked in September or October to make a heavier, showy style. The riper the grape the more phenolics, the sugar goes up and ferments into higher alcohol. Here in Oregon, we’re in the middle, between France and California. We don’t have the former’s soil but we don’t get California’s heat. Our summers are drier and last year we had two weeks of snow on the ground, so we treat the grapes more delicately, and we harvested in August last year.”
    There are dozens of high quality Pinot Noirs coming out of the Willamette Valley now—I’ll be writing about some others next week—and they are proudly Oregonian in style, which is all about balance and, from estate to estate, a personality that comes first from the soil, then, so often, from the family.



"Bar Primi: Bensonhurst native Sal Lamboglia uses loads of garlic and ‘nduja, the red chile–laden pork sausage — this one made by La Quercia — to make a slightly sticky sugo to coat his spaghetti and clams. . . .  A shot of heavy cream, along with mussel and clam juice and a little white wine, also figures in, and the dish is finished with copious bread crumbs and plenty of chopped parsley."--
--Hugh Merwin, "15 Versions of Clam Sauce, New York’s Great, Undervalued Dish," NY Mag 7/618


Coworking rental space tech start-up WeWork, a NY-based company that rents space and gives tech consultations, announced  the company will no longer serve meat at its corporate events and that its 6,000 employees won’t be able to expense any meals that include red meat, pork, or poultry; fish is allowed. The policy change was made in order to counter the "negative environmental effects of eating meat."




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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