Virtual Gourmet

  August 5,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 



By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



By John Mariani

Flatbreads at Currents

    Given its attraction as a place where most visitors spend more time outdoors than in, canoeing down the Deschutes River, climbing Pilot Butte, biking all over the region or just sitting around (legally) smoking dope, Bend is a city where you expect to find taverns, pizzerias, gastropubs, Mexican-American eateries and Thai storefronts, and you will.  But you can also dine extremely well in this out-of-the-way Oregon city within the Cascade Mountain Range. Here are some places I really enjoyed when I was there this spring.



The Riverhouse

3075 US-97 BUS



    Currents has a double meaning: Just outside, beneath the restaurant’s terrace, the Deschutes River rushes by at its own will, while  inside Chef Michael Stanton follows currents in American cuisine with a menu on which even the most expected items, like a hamburger, are given his admirable local touch and spin.

    Stanton, here just a year, is very fortunate in being able to draw on a deep cornucopia of Northwest provender and suppliers: Eberhard’s Dairy, High Desert Produce, Double R Ranch and Snake River Farms; the bread is from Big Ed’s Artisan Bread; the coffee from Stumptown Coffee; the charcuterie from Zoe’s Cured Meats. With such ingredients at hand,  Stanton has to show respect to their producers, so his cooking is a reflection of the best of the Pacific Northwest.

    The vast dining room is spacious, with high ceilings and the kind of timbers you expect in a lodge, with big, roomy booths set along the wall and shadowy light at night. Whenever it’s good weather, the terrace will be packed with people watching the Deschutes run through the property.

    I had lunch and dinner at Currents, and so favorably was I impressed with the former that I wanted to order some of the same dishes at the latter, some on both menus. The array of offerings is impressive, but not unreasonably ambitious. So, the Margherita flatbread with heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella, parmesan basil pesto ($10) at lunch had all those elements melded into a fine, flakey crust. In a similar way the chorizo flatbread ($11) had the same virtues, with more mozzarella, peppers, parmesan and a drizzle of raw honey.

    Snooty New Yorkers should be impressed by the Reuben sandwich at lunch ($15)—big enough for two people—made with very good, moist corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing on rye, served with excellent fries. But not to be missed is a signature item—a confit turkey wing with a sweet-sour ginger plum sauce ($10); daunting in its size and meatiness, this is the best turn on a county fair-like turkey dish imaginable. That goes for the burger, too, layered with Bibb lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese on a brioche bun with fries ($13). You can also get it with bacon and a fried egg, maybe for breakfast?

    That night at dinner it was all I could do to resist that turkey wing again, but I was very happy with a roasted half chicken ($23) generously sided with bbq baked beans, crispy polenta and baby kale. Oregon albacore tuna ($26) was a treat, with fingerling potatoes, English peas, fava beans and a smart shot of lemon aïoli and olive tapenade.  Even better was stuffed Oregon loin of rabbit ($26) with herbed spaetzle, asparagus, shimeji mushrooms and the reduction of rabbit juices (left). A ribeye from Double R Ranch ($47) was fine, with a potato gratin, broccolini and four-cheese butter peppercorn sauce.  One item that definitely needs a lot more work, or removal from the menu, was a soupy pea risotto with smoked pork belly (23) that was more like a side dish of pea puree.

    The very rich, creamy cheesecake is actually a cheese course and a very fine idea it is (right).


Open for breakfast Mon.-Fri.; brunch Sat. & Sun.; dinner nightly.





163 NW Minnesota Avenue

 (541) 241-2735


     In Latin, bos is a cow and taurus is a bull, which produces a juveneus—cattle fit for the kind of beef served at this brand new, two-tiered steakhouse in downtown Bend.  But the ancient Romans never had access to the Japanese or Australian wagyu-style meat served here, the former coming from the renowned Miyazaki A5 Prefecture, the latter from Broadleaf Farms in Queensland.

     Regular readers of Virtual Gourmet will be well aware of my suspicions about the enormous amount of Japanese wagyu that  now appears in restaurants throughout the U.S., much of it of questionable quality. But upon seeing a slab of Bos Taurus’s wagyu, I was impressed with the tremendous amount of marbling it had.  At $29 per ounce with a two-ounce minimum, one has to decide if anything on a plate is worth that much money, but if you order an ounce or two out of curiosity, you will taste something out of the ordinary.

     My preference is for USDA Prime grain-fed beef, which Bos  Taurus also offers, from farms in Tolleson, Arizona, and Hotchkiss, Colorado. But much of Bos Taurus’s steaks are grass-fed, which means a tender but less fat-rich animal.  I chose a 14-ounce, 50-day, dry-aged rib-eye that had plenty of flavor and succulence ($55). And Chef George Morris, last in Telluride, certainly knows how to impart a good char, on request, while keeping the interior rare or medium-rare. And his Bos Burger ($20) actually comes as two superlative four-ounce patties, lightly packed, with house-made American cheese, bread-and-butter pickles, lettuce and tomato.

      As a side dish have the crusty patatas bravas potatoes. The pan-fried house-made ricotta gnocchi needed work, emerging as hard

little nubbins in a bland arrabiata sauce ($12).

     It’s a handsome restaurant, owned by a number of investors from 10 Barrel Brewing, and occupies premises where a number of other restaurants failed. With only 41 seats, including a five-table loft, Currents provides both cooking and service that give very personalized attention, although the choice of a bunch of different steak knives with which to cut your meat is more than a little twee. Indeed, I haven’t seen that gimmickry since Alain Ducasse tried it at his namesake defunct NYC restaurant, where it was greeted with more than a few  snickers.

    There are four admirable desserts, including an elaborate buttermilk pie with a crème fraiche semifreddo “and multiple applications of pear, rosemary foam” ($12). I loved the housemade strawberry ice cream made at “the chef’s whim” ($9) and they even serve milk shakes ($10).

    The wine list is well selected, if not very long for a steakhouse, but the Oregon bottlings are particularly well represented.
Open for dinner only.





1100 NW Newport Avenue



    Most American towns have a place something like CHOW, but few American towns have places that are quite as good as CHOW.

     Frankly, I only had a leisurely breakfast there, but what I ate and drank was top quality, from perfectly cooked eggs and pancakes—either buttermilk or pumpkin and ginger—of just the right thickness to the strong coffee, all served with a congeniality that warms your heart as soon as you sit down.

    The owners, David Youvell and Ryan Sturmer, also run Good Karma Bakery, the Cottonwood Café and Local Slice. CHOW is open only for breakfast and lunch, and you know they make everything from scratch, from biscuits and gravy  to cornmeal crusted tomatoes and granola  Their corned beef hash is braised for 14 hours with caramelized onions and served with two eggs and “house taters.”

        Somehow CHOW avoids being too cute for its own good. It almost seems that the old guy in the front yard with the big dog must have been hired for the job, and of course you can buy CHOW merchandise like mugs and t-shirts.

    But it all seems to be the real McCoy, down to its brightly colored dining rooms, the windows without curtains and the seats with printed covers.  Outside it looks like someone’s summer house, and there are bench tables and umbrellas, and pine trees all around. The "N" in the OPEN sign is off kilter.

    It’s a tough place to leave and an easy place to linger.

Open for breakfast and lunch only.



By John Mariani


142 West 65th Street (off Broadway)

Photo: Evan Sung

    Now eight years old, Lincoln Ristorante shares honors with nearby Marea and The Leopard at Des Artistes as being the finest Italian restaurants on the Upper West Side, and, by extension, in all of New York. Indeed, few restaurants anywhere in Manhattan have the posh, the gleam and the commitment to fine dining as do those three.

    It would be ridiculous for Lincoln to be otherwise. Set on the plaza of Lincoln Center, next to the Henry Moore sculpture pool and across from Juilliard, its architecture had to fit in and to exemplify an esthetic radiance, which in this case is a glass-walled wedge designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, with a grassy New York City-owned park on top of it all. (Photo by Jason Varney)

    Inside, there is the same devotion to fineness, evident in the leather swivel chairs, the angled wooden ceiling, a Negroni and Prosecco Bar and a brightly lighted kitchen where Chef Shea Gallante (below) has been in residence for a little over a year.  He follows the original chef, Jonathan Benno, and has not deviated from Lincoln’s alta cucina style, based on regional traditions and given the chef’s personal treatment.

    Gallante has long experience in such a high style, having worked with restaurateur Pino Luongo, then at Felidia, as chef de cuisine at Bouley and CRU, then at his own place, Ciano, and most recently at Chevalier.

    So, there will be crisp seasoned grissini and moist, olive oil-glossed focaccia to nibble on while you page through a first-rate all-Italian, 400-label wine list overseen by Irene Miller. If you’re interested in older vintages, you’ll find plenty therein dating back to the last century.                                       Photo: Ghost Media

    You may receive an amuse of lobster salad with summery heirloom tomatoes, white nectarine and a good dash of horseradish. Among the appetizers is a  big eye tuna tartare with very sweet cherry tomatoes and horseradish aïoli ($27), and some of the finest, most tender scallops I’ve had this summer ($26), served as a salad with quinoa and wheatberries, grilled nectarine and smoky mostarda aïoli ($22). 

    These are the kind of Italian antipasti rare even in Italy, and the pastas compare just as favorably, all housemade, all cooked perfectly to the right textures. (Prices reflect whole portions as main courses.) Conchiglie shell macaroni comes with tender octopus and crisp guanciale bacon, a boost of Calabrian chili and toasted breadcrumbs ($37), and fat spaghettoni are glossed with a verdant pesto sauce and two cheeses, Parmigiano and fiore di sardo ($33). A very decadently rich pasta was a bowl of plump agnolotti stuffed with a blend of corn stock and sheep’s milk ricotta, and some garlic-aged balsamic swirled into a brown truffle butter—a dish that didn’t need the addition of bland Australian black truffles (especially at $42).  Marvelously rendered saffron-scented acquarello risotto incorporated a generous catch of ruby shrimp, delicate peekytoe crab and a light, very tasty tomato-shellfish reduction ($35).

    I was very happy to see culurzones, a Sardinian ravioli (left), on the menu; they were stuffed with whipped burrata cheese, baby spinach, onions and Parmigiano, with a simple sauce of Sungold tomatoes, garlic and basil ($34).   

    Bravo for the wild roasted king salmon ($38) served with a warm tomato salad, asparagus and watercress-pine nut pesto, and kudos for the  generous veal tenderloin with fregola sarda, vegetables and a rich Marsala veal jus ($52). It has become obvious at this point that New York butchers obtain even better veal than do the macellerias of Rome or Florence.

    Special that evening were double Colorado lamb chops with an absolutely delicious lamb sausage blended with sharp pecorino in a ragù of shelled beans, broccoli di rabe, shallot confit and lamb jus. ($44).  These are fairly involved preparations for Italian secondi, but they shows how just a little more can make a good deal of difference when using complementary flavors.

    Richard Capizzi’s beautiful confections rank with the best Italian desserts in the city, never overwrought, so that the fruit and frangipane crostata is always buttery and crisp, with a blueberry marmellata and lemon-fior di latte gelato ($16);  the pistachio semifreddo is a marvel of airy lightness and satiny texture, splashed with Genovese grappa and served with orange blossom mascarpone and Morello cherries ($16).  An exceptional warm chocolate tart (left) uses Eureka Guittard chocolate from California to be made into a creamy ganache and sided with espresso gelato ($16).

 An added virtue of Lincoln is that, despite its elegance and cosmopolitan ambiance, you can drop by for lunch al fresco,  just enjoy a pasta and watch the passersby on the vast plaza. Or sit by the bar at twilight, sip a Negroni, watch the food go out of the kitchen and decide to stay on for dinner. Or come after a performance at the Met or the ballet and feel that the evening is still young and know that his is one of the places where enjoying a bottle of icy Prosecco and a lavish dessert brings New York into glittering focus all over again.

    There are a $78 fixed price, three-course menu and an $84 four-course menu, as well as à la carte. Until August 17 during Restaurant Week in New York, there is a two-course $26 menu, with three courses for $34.

 Photo by Evan Sung

Lincoln Ristorante is open daily for lunch and dinner.




 Part Two

By John Mariani


    One of the principal attractions of valleys is that they tend to be restfully quiet, with only the elements of wind and rain to animate the atmosphere. And, aside from the sounds of traffic, the Willamette Valley of Oregon is as rich in rural sights as the valleys of the Loire, Rhine and Douro.

    From Eugene, I-15 winds north, and after you hit Salem the Willamette’s flatlands are bound by vineyards that rise into McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, the Dundee Hills and the Chehalem Mountains. The whole stretch up to Portland is only 150 miles,  a region with a Mediterranean climate rich in indigenous trees and plants—grand firs, incense cypress, red alder and shore pine.  The shrubs have names like snowbrush, oceanspray and hairy manzanita, with wildflowers called showy milkwood, fireweed and Pacific bleeding heart. The air is sweet with all of them, as well as the grapes growing on the vines in spring and summer.

    One of the loveliest places to stay in the Valley is The Allison Inn (left and below), spread over 35 acres in Newberg, nestled into estate vineyards and in full view of the snow-capped mountains. More than 500 works of art dot the landscape, 100 by local artists, and the Inn is known for the excellence of its state-of-the-art spa.  The resort has 77 guest rooms and eight suites, including a penthouse.  The Jory restaurant on premises is very fine and its wine list exemplifies the breadth and depth of the Valley’s viticulture.

       Over dinner there I had a chance to try the wines of  the 14-year-old Brittan Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA  (below) with Robert and Ellen Brittan, who in 2005 took a bold move to improve their vineyards:  “After dropping all of the crop in 2005 to allow the vines to get better  (photo: Andrea Johnson) established, the first two Pinot Noirs from the mature vines on the property came from the 2006 vintage, a total of 720 cases.” They now produce four high quality Pinot Noirs (and a Chardonnay), each with a substantial heft, acid and complexity, but without the overripe fruitiness of Pinots from hotter climates and lesser clones.

    I also had the occasion to visit Domaine Serene (below)  in Dayton, which is duly proud of its magnificent estate center, which now includes a new Clubhouse, where I had one of the finest meals I’ve ever enjoyed on the West Coast.

    So many wineries in the West begin as dreams, many requiring the investment of fortunes in order to make a reasonable return. But the psychic rewards have been many for Minnesotans Grace and Ken Evenstad, who in 1989 invested in a 42-acre hilltop estate in the beautiful Dundee Hills. What they built was at the time a clear departure from the simple farmhouse style of Oregon wineries, for their dream was to create something along the lines and on the scale of the finest and most lavish Napa Valley estates.

    They named the winery after their daughter, Serene, and their first vineyard after their son, Mark Bradford Evenstad, now with six individual vineyard estates, planted exclusively with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay according to their micro-terroirs. In 2001, their five-level, gravity flow Pinot Noir winery was opened, and just this spring they completed a new white winery dedicated to the production of Chardonnay and sparkling wine. (As if that were not enough to accomplish, they also purchased Château de la Crée, a Burgundy wine estate in the Côte d’Or.) 

    The estate’s Clubhouse accepts memberships that guarantee annual access to their finest wines, although the tasting rooms and dining rooms are in fact open to the public. You can book The 45th Parallel Experience within an extraordinary, beautifully lighted wine cave  (right) for up to twelve guests with a menu by Chef Jason Kupper.  The price is $125 for the public and $75 for Club Members and features an amazing four-course meal matched to some of the best wines in Domaine Serene’s portfolio, including from its Burgundy estates.                    Photo: Andy Katz Photography

    Kupper wears his résumé well, with stints at Napa Valley’s Bouchon, Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, and Charlie Palmer Steakhouse in Las Vegas before opening his own place, Heritage Eats of Napa.  All of that experience goes into menus that reflect great technique, admirable finesse and thorough appreciation of the provender of the region.

    Thus, a first course of grilled Hama Hama oyster with charred ramp butter, pickled kumquat, fava beans and slicked with lardo was accompanied by a 2015 Maison Evenstad Santenay Chardonnay and a 2015 Chardonnay from the Côte Sud vineyard in the Dundee Hills. Next was a roulade of rabbit with golden beet rice balls, fiddlehead ferns, prosciutto cream and stinging nettle oil, with a 2015 Meursault and a 2015 Étoile Vineyard Chardonnay.

  Alaskan halibut was accompanied by shaved radish, peas, white cannellini beans, bacon and Marcona almond crumble, with yuzu gel and Iberian jamon, with a 2015 Beaune  and 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.  There were, to my mind, too many elements added to the fish—though halibut needs help—but it was a not unexpected pleasure to taste how it all came together with the Pinot Noirs.

    Anderson Ranch lamb with rhubarb, shiitake mushrooms, rainbow Swiss chard with carrot miso butter went very nicely with a 2015 Volnay Prémier Cru Clos des Angles and a 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley. 

    It must be noted that, by the bottle, these wines poured cost between $75 and $100, so the all-inclusive price of $125 is nothing short of a steal.

    It is also a unique way to appreciate the wines of the Willamette Valley side by side with their counterparts in Burgundy.





“The seafood-and-okra gumbo, its rich, dark roux infused with the distinct mineral tang of the blue-crab shell that lurks in each bowl, is pure New Orleans, a dome of steamed rice clearing the stew’s surface like a volcano in the ocean, sinking slowly as you eat.”—Hannah Goldfield, "Lowerline,” The New Yorker (7/9/18) 


In an interview with The Daily Meal,
Max Bakker,  a beer educator at Anheuser Busch, declaimed on what beers are best for which zodiac signs, including:

May 21 to June 20

"Geminis are social butterflies. They’re eager to learn and adaptable, and they love to bounce ideas back and forth. These Chatty Cathys are the life of every gathering, which is why Bakker says hard seltzer is the perfect choice for them. It’s light, refreshing, and comes in a plethora of different flavors to satisfy Gemini’s curious palate."


August 23 to September 22

"Virgos are clean and loyal, but can also be analytical perfectionists who believe in doing things right down to the very last detail. A Munich helles has an ideal balance of malty sweetness and hop bitterness. Bakker says this trendy German-style beer is humble in flavor but proud in brewing perfection."




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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© copyright John Mariani 2017