Virtual Gourmet

  October  21,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Roadside Restaurant Chitinango, NY


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



By John Mariani



    When speaking of Brittany it is wise to remember that the Breton language is Celtic, not French. Even though Brittany has been battled over and changed sides dozens of times since the Middle Ages, Bretons retain an indelible link to their ethnic heritage. Bagpipes are still played to their folk songs, and their most beloved hero is the cartoon character Asterix (right), a kin to Hagar the Horrible.
    Brittany has never had much political clout, even within France. Its destiny is tied to the sea, its coastline rippled and dimpled with inlets and harbors that have made its ports ever the envy of competing powers.
    Of course, its cuisine is based on what is drawn from the sea. The favorite drink is not wine but cider. Buckwheat crêpes are preferred to loaves of bread. Their desserts are butter cakes and galettes.  And if you find a pizzeria in a Breton town, the pizza will be inedible.
    The two cities of distinction to visit along Brittany’s shoreline are Saint-Malo and, less than an hour away, Dinan. The former dates back to the 1st century B.C. under Roman control, taking its name from a 6th century abbey, and the inhabitants even considered themselves “Malouines,” rather than Bretons.  Jacques Cartier, who explored Canada under the French flag, is probably the only Malouine to have name recognition.
    The city’s privateers—pirates to the British—wreaked havoc on shipping in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in 1944 the Allies all but bombed the walled city into rubble. The result was that Saint-Malo has been re-built in bits and pieces, with some reconstructed timbered structures alongside faux-Neoclassic and modern architecture. Still, a walk around the walls of the compact city and a visit to the 12th century Cathedral of St. Vincent (whose 15th century steeple was destroyed in the bombing and took three decades to restore) will give you a very true idea of its heritage.  
    My wife and I stayed at the very modest, and very reasonable, hotel Armoricaine (€90 per night), on the Rue de Boyer, but spent all our time  walking through the city’s old center, which is lined with cafés, restaurants and crêperies. The center is especially lovely at night, when colored lights are artfully arrayed against the buildings. The Musée de la Ville will give you a good overview of the city’s history.
    On our first evening we dined at a beautiful restaurant set right on the seashore, La Brasserie du Sillon (3 Chaussée du Sillon), whose marine décor put me in mind of fine seafood houses in New England, with its polished wood and brick columns, roomy tables and soft overhead lighting. Quiet jazz music plays in the background.
    There’s a first-rate wine list with fair-minded pricing, as is the food. I enjoyed an excellent first course of foie gras terrine with preserves (€19.50) and a glistening carpaccio of raw scallops (right) with lemon and oil (€18). Hearty oxtail parmentier was a French form of shepherd’s pie with a gratinéed topping of both white and sweet potatoes (€17.50). Sweetbreads with just-picked morels (€28) was a wonderful autumn dish, and best of all was roasted leg of lamb braised for seven hours till it melted from the bone, accompanied by fried potatoes and chestnuts  (€21.50).  For dessert we enjoyed some of the best profiteroles (€7) of our trip (left).
    Stéphane Brébel is one of the most creative chefs in the city at his restaurant L’Absinthe (1 Rue de L’Orme), cooking in a modern style by using spices rarely tasted in Breton cuisine.  The three-story restaurant is located in a rehabbed 17th-century building. Downstairs is prim, with rustic stone walls, while the mezzanine and the slightly more intimate upstairs feature walls and rafters of bright vermillion, hung with modern portraits and gold-framed, tilted mirrors (below).
    The fixed-price menu is a remarkable bargain at €38, with wine €22 more. There’s another at €29 and a locavore menu at €47, as well as one à la carte.  We began our meal with a tapanade amuse on buttery wafers, then a fine vegetable broth with small ravioli. Tuna and smoked  swordfish carpaccio were next, served with a tangy orange sherbet (below).  There was also a sashimi of spiced dorade with seaweed, yogurt and crystallized ginger and cider vinegar.          
       Stuffed quail and a confit of its legs came in a wine-laced butter sauce, and scallops were poached in cider. We opted for both a selection of local cheeses and two desserts—a poached pear and a sponge cake with pistachio—neither wonderful.
    Dinan is a much better preserved medieval town than Saint-Malo, set on the meandering River Rance and largely undamaged by the Allies, so many extant buildings actually date back 700 years. It is ideal for long strolls along the ramparts and through narrow streets of somewhat tilted timbered buildings, around the Place des Merciers, with its corbel extensions of the buildings second floors held up with wooden pillars. This and several good-sized plazas enjoy outdoor cafés into November. If you have the time, The Old Quarter clock tower can be reached up a 158-step trudge. And if you’re a railroad aficionado, the Rail Museum has an extensive collection of model trains.
    For hundreds of years Thursday has been when the outdoor market opens at the busy Place Du-Guesclin, named after military hero Bertrand Du Guesclin, who still sits atop his steed as a bronze commemorative; the buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries. One can only marvel at the panoply of local products (left), from seafood to mushrooms, from cheeses to fruit., with stalls for children’s clothes and toys. The tourist office for the town is just down the street.
    Because of Dinan’s quaint beauty, it has become a popular tourist destination for the French, British and Spanish, who can easily reach it in a day, and it matters little if the fog rolls into the town, topping the battlements, or the snow falls, but in spring and fall Dinan shows its darling best.
     For finely wrought and presented but unfussy cuisine, try Le Cantorbery (6 Rue Sainte-Claire) in a 17th century building, where you can eat well for a modest €30. For lunch any of the myriad crêperies in Dinan will do.



By John Mariani

28 Liberty Street (near Maiden Lane)

                                                                                            Photo by Emily Andrews

    For a while there I hesitated going to Manhatta because little I’d heard or read about made it sound particularly appealing, save the fact that it’s on the 60th floor of a Financial District tower with a 360° panorama of daunting beauty.
    In particular, Pete Wells, in a NY Times review entitled “At Danny Meyer’s Manhatta, Only the View Tries to Dazzle,” wrote, “You can’t blame Mr. Meyer for not wanting to open a mediocre splashy restaurant, but Manhatta flirts dangerously with being a mediocre unsplashy restaurant.” Ouch!

        If anyone is considered restaurant royalty in New York, it is Danny Meyer (left), whose Union Square Hospitality Group more than two decades ago set a standard for casual but cordial hospitality at Union Square Cafe that has had enormous influence on American restaurants everywhere. He followed up with a series of first-rate concepts that included The Modern, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino and Eleven Madison Park (now owned by others). He also changed the image of American hamburger stands with Shake Shack, whose branches are now spread from here to California and on to China, Russia and throughout the Arab Middle East.
    For all that time, I’ve known Meyer as a professional friend and, I believe, we enjoy mutual respect. (One of my sons was long ago a cook at The Modern.)  So I’ve always been candid with him about his restaurants, many of which made it onto my annual lists of best new restaurants in America.  I wasn’t crazy about North End Grill (soon to close due to “a combination of declining profitability and rising costs”), was never a big fan of Blue Smoke barbecue, and found it difficult to overcome the noise factor at Marta to ever want to go back.
    So I approached Manhatta  anticipating another grand Danny Meyer concept, an evocative aerie like The Rainbow Room and the sadly missed Windows on the World. (By the way,
the restaurant's odd spelling that sort of refers to the island’s Native American name, Manahatta, as well as to its standard borough name, but without the final n, actually references a 1921 documentary film by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler.) But aside from the Times review, I was put off by the posted website menu (still up as of this writing), which included several dishes Wells dissed along with less-than-enticing items like chilled cucumber soup; heirloom tomato and burrata; baby lettuces with tahini and mimolette cheese; chicken paillard with cassoulet; and scallop amandine. Oddly, no beef, no lamb, no pork, no veal. The menu reads like something from an abstemious corporate dining room somewhere else in the building.
    Yet, keeping an open mind and a faith in Meyer’s and Chef Jason Pfeifer’s experience at Per Se, Gramercy Tavern and Maialino, I made my way through the maze of streets in the Financial District into a mundane ground-floor lobby to be shown to an elevator that soars to the 60th floor, where we were flanked by a lounge on one side and a very busy bar on the other.  Beyond that was a main dining room centered by a brightly lit open kitchen and counter (right), all of it surrounded by a view no other city in the world can match for its variety, its sweep, its carousel-like bridges and its grandeur.  You can’t help but gasp at what looks like a moving, teeming, beautiful garden of light.
    So the large dining room itself need not—cannot—try to compete, and it doesn’t. There’s not much color or décor to discern in the low-lighted room—some navy blue leather and dark wood—and the decibel level is high, particularly because Manhatta draws  a booming, boastful downtown crowd. One woman at a nearby table spoke with such stridency that, upon leaving, I was tempted to tell her, “I enjoyed your conversation all night.”
    Without tablecloths to help, attempts have been made to tamp down the din: Slide your hand under the wooden tables and you’ll feel sound-absorbing plastic sponge. Believe me, no one who's had success snaring a table at Manhatta in the coming weeks would balk upon arriving to find a nice, soft tablecloth.
    With slight trepidation I opened the remarkably moderate $78 fixed prixe menu (which, as in all Meyer's restaurants, includes the service charge, so there is no need to tip) to find that next to nothing of the posted website menu remains.  I asked a waiter about this and he said it changes all the time, depending on what Pfeifer finds in the market, so the menu might be printed daily. Nevertheless, chefs never change menus on a whim—cooks have to be taught how to make a dish—so I suspect the lackluster Times review pushed Pfeifer to make a radical change. Gone are the chilled cucumber soup, the tomato and burrata, and the baby lettuces. Added now are wagyu beef and duck, foie gras and lobster quenelles. I became very hopeful.
    Beverage Director Matt Whitney stocks what is already one of the finest wine lists in New York, especially commendable for the scores of excellent, often singular, labels priced under $100.  Thank heavens our sommelier did not go in for dithyrambic descriptions of the wines, and he was cordial enough to ask if we wished the chilled white wine to be left on the table or in an iced bucket. Cocktails were well rendered.
    You receive a paper bag of terrific little baguettes, though for our table of four, a ramekin of butter about the size of a silver dollar was hardly enough. You may receive an amuse or two: We got a delicious sunny side up quail's egg with ham on toast (left) to pop in the mouth, along with various vegetable crudités.
    From the first taste of the first appetizer I was won over. Instead of using bland, sometimes fishy pike as the base of a quenelle, Pfeifer uses chunks of lobster bound with egg whites and poached, then napped with a rich Nantua-like sauce dotted with scallions, onions and mushrooms that set me back against my chair.  It’s a magnificent dish.
    Meyer has always put emphasis on eggs as a dinner dish, and Manhatta’s fluffy scrambled eggs with crispy sweetbreads and chives (right) proves why it’s such a great idea.  Very fine foie gras as a starter comes as a slender block glazed with Concord grapes, gelée, a dash of sesame and a small brioche (below).
    Sea scallops were sweet and just cooked through, complemented by the acid sweetness of apple and buoyed by crème fraiche and radish.
    Turbot is a fish that rarely makes it across the Atlantic in good shape, but obviously Pfeifer has obtained a pristine example of velvety texture, dressed with a very creamy brown butter, grapes and the crunch of almonds. Chicken is done in a welcome Cordon Blue style with oozing cheese and ham and pickled peppers for pop.
    That continental canard, duck à l’orange, can be a wonderful dish in the classic tradition, but Pfeifer’s version tastes little of the citrus fruit except for a few orange segments on the plate. It needed heft and a balance of sweetness and tartness to make a claim for a comeback. Still, the duck itself and its confit were finely cooked.
    The bavette is a bistro-favored cut of steak with a commendable chewiness, so making a dish with wagyu bavette does little to improve the idea. At least you’re not paying extra for that wagyu. It comes with a butter-rich potato puree, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms.
    Jennifer Bretania and Vanesa Beltran are co-patîssiers. And I heartily advise you to order the vanilla soufflé with butterscotch sauce (right) in advance (it only takes twelve minutes). It’s exactly the texture and lightness a soufflé should be.  Also recommended is a chocolate crèmeux crumble on a brittle pâte au choux with caramel-miso ice cream.  Warm date cake is lavished with crème fraȋche ice cream and an almost Christmas-y whiskey sauce.  Strawberry sorbet doesn’t really gain anything from an olive oil sable, basil and a creamy sabayon.
    I need hardly mention how genuinely friendly and knowledgeable the entire staff is at Manhatta, even pretending to chuckle when I asked if they could open a window.  They are young and they all seem very committed to the Meyer Doctrine that if the customer is not always right, everything will be done to make him happy.
    Manhatta is at the moment booming and reservations are made a month in advance. Its sky high location easily explains its allure as a bar and lounge, but now, as the kitchen hits its stride and its menu reflects a needed corrective, this may yet become the Windows on the World for our time.


Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner nightly.




By John Mariani

    A lot of new releases come into the market after Labor Day, and I've been doing my best to keep up with them. As I've noted before, I never sample wines without food, so here are several I've been enjoying at lunch and dinner both at home and out and about.


CASTELLO DI ALBOLA ACCIAIOLO 2013 ($62)—Here is abundant evidence that the simplistic I.G.T. appellation for Italian wines is fast becoming a badge of honor.  This Tuscan of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese is not an innovation but it shows how well Sangiovese can add luster and tame down a big Cab and still stay at 13.5% alcohol. It’s a truly luscious wine and worth every penny.

VIETTI LANGHE NEBBIOLO PERBACCO 2015 ($26)—I was disappointed in the most recent vintage of Vietti’s Barolo—rather thin and one-dimensional—made from the Nebbiolo grape, so I was doubly delighted with this 100% Nebbiolo from the Langhe region, within the Barolo area.  It’s a pretty powerful reason to consider Nebbiolo, which at least in this case, delivers a great deal in terms of complexity for a very reasonable price.

BADIA A COLTIBUONO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2013 ($35)—A classic Chianti Classico that shows the appellation takes age well, smoothing out the components of organically grown grapes, principally Sangiovese, with excellent aromatics, color and concentration. It’s quite ready to be enjoyed right now with everything from pasta with mushrooms and truffles to stews of rabbit and beef.

BERONIA RIOJA CRIANZA 2015 ($16)—A Crianza, within the Rioja appellations, indicates the wine has been aged for at least two years, at least one in oak.  This one was bottled in September 2017 and aged for three months more.  Alcohol is 13.5%, a blend of 91% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha and 1% Mazuelo (elsewhere called Carignan). This is a very versatile wine, especially with simply prepared grilled or roasted meats and poultry.

DRY CREEK VINEYARD OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2015 ($35)—Zinfandels, by and large, tend to be big, even inky wines, and those made from old vines have a fine balance of spice and tannins. Their alcohol levels can be high, but Dry Creek’s, at 14.5%, isn’t over the line of drinkability, and you get all those good Zin flavors like nutmeg, black pepper and dark berries. At three years old, it’s loosened its tannins, and this is a very good wine with roasted game.

MICHTER’S US*1 TOASTED BARREL FINISH BOURBON ($55)—A very limited release, coinciding with Bourbon Heritage Month, had been out of the market for three years, and I’m glad it’s back. It is double aged, that is, in two successive barrels, the second made from 18-month air-dried wood toasted but not charred, so, while it’s not a mild flavor, neither is it harsh or too oaky.  I can certainly imagine it in a bourbon Manhattan, but it’s ideal for sipping either before or after dinner.


SUNTORY HIBIKI JAPANESE HARMONY WHISKY ($100)—No one any longer seriously debates whether Japan can produce superior whisky in the style of Scotch, and this new holiday release in a gorgeous bottle (as is favored by the Japanese) embellished with the tabane-noshi symbol of celebration used on special gifts shows just how amazingly the distinctions have lessened.  It’s a blend of grain and malt whiskies that results in what its name implies—harmony, with a touch of sweetness and a little Japanese oak called Mizunara.


BEHAVIOR, NO. 2,466   

The German website the Local reports that bodybuilder and Ironman triathlete Jaroslav Bobrowski paid just 15.90 euros ($18.49) for the "Bottomless Meal" at Running Sushi in the city of Landshut. The owner  said Bobrowski ate five people’s worth of food — “not normal.” Bobrowski apparently follows a strict diet where he fasts for 20 hours per day, then eats his entire allotment of calories within the remaining four hours.


Meadowood restaurant of Napa Valley "Mission Statement":  
"We strive for seriousness, for meaning, and for permanence in our cooking. We attempt to cook in service to the place in which we find ourselves--hoping that, if we succeed in doing so well, that we may cement our legacy within this greater thing. We hold the thread of the multitudes of collaborators and of a history shared by chefs and cooks that ha
ve preceded us. We try to do things right in how we shop and cook; how we approach the sanctity of the products that we grow and procure; how we teach and mentor and support our team. We are relentless in trying to make the food better, more delicious, more relevant, more singular, more personal. We are smart enough to know that this is a forever task, yet impetuous enough to try to still do it all today. Our food is what we give of ourselves. It is at once our daily efforts and their culmination."



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