Virtual Gourmet

  January 22, 2023                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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By John Mariani

By John Mariani

By John Mariani

By John Mariani

On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. January 25 at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing Che/TV Host Walter Staib, on his career championing Historic American fare.  Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.



By John Mariani

George Lazenby as 007

        With the tenth novel in the James Bond series, Ian Fleming sought to get back to a more realistic story and to show Bond’s sensitive side by having him get married, then lose his bride. Published in 1963, it is the second in the “Blofeld Trilogy” that began with Thunderball and concluded with You Only Live Twice, with 007 tracking SPECTRE’s Stavro Blofeld after the ending of Thunderball.
            In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Bond travels to Royale-les-Eaux (also a locale in Casino Royale), checking into the Hotel Splendide, where he meets the beautiful, but suicidal Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo. 
Fleming (left) wrote: “James Bond was not a gourmet. In England he lived on grill soles, oeufs en cocotte
(right) and cold roast beef with potato salad. But when traveling abroad, generally by himself, meals were a welcome break in the day, something to look forward to, something to break the tension of fast driving, with its risks taken or avoided, the narrow squeaks, the permanent background of concern for the fitness of his machine.”  (While Bond’s salary as an agent was not high, his expense account while on duty was pretty much unlimited. ) 
Disappointed with the food at the hotel, he dines alone at a favorite unnamed spot where he enjoys poached turbot with sauce mousseline and a roast partridge with a Mouton Rothschild ’53 and ten-year-old Calvados.
            Bond meets Tracy’s father, Marc-Ange Draco, head of the Union Corse crime syndicate, who drinks I.W. Harper bourbon
while 007 sips Pinch bottle Haig. Sensing Bond is a dominating male, Draco offers Bond £1 million to marry his daughter in an effort to change her destructive lifestyle. Bond refuses.
            Bond returns  to London, where his maid May cooks him scrambled eggs while he puts away four double vodka tonics. He flies to Switzerland and goes to the Alpenberghaus und Restaurant Piz Gloria (left), which is also Blofeld’s research station. Blofeld has assumed the title and name of Comte Balthazar de Bleuville, and Bond, masquerading as a representative named Sir Hilary Bray of  London’s College of Arms, is asked to confirm the title. There he meets an array of beautiful women who, he learns, will be hypnotically turned into destructive robots carrying biological warfare agents.  Bond dines with one of them named Violet at the revolving Restaurant Piz on
chicken Gloria (below), a spatchcocked chicken grilled and served with a mustard sauce.
He also meets Irma Bunt, a SPECTRE agent working with Blofeld.
            He again returns to London where he has a Christmas dinner with M of turkey and flaming plum pudding with an Algerian wine. He then flies to Marseilles to meet Draco. Bond asks his taxi driver Marius  if the bouillabaisse at Chez Guido is still good. Marius says the true bouillabaisse “is gone  . . . For the bouillabaisse, you must have the rascasse, the tender flesh of the scorpionfish. Today they just use hunks of morue. The saffron and the garlic, they are always the same but you could eat pieces of a woman soaked in those and it would be good.”
            Tracy calls Bond from Munich, where she tantalizes him with a description of her dinner of Krebsschwänze mit Dilltunke (crayfish with dill sauce) and Rebrücken mit Sahne (roebuck with smitane sauce). Bond replies that he had two ham sandwiches and a half pint of Harper’s bourbon.
            Bond heads for  Strasbourg, staying at the Hôtel Maison Rouge and enjoying a meal of  foie gras and Champagne while Draco eats a foot-long sausage. The next day they eat weisswurst and pretzels at Zum Franziskaner Keller (right) in Munich. Bond meets up with Tracy, to whom he proposes marriage, then returns once again to London. Helped by Draco's Union Corse, Bond mounts an air assault on Blofeld, destroying his clinic, but Blofeld escapes  down a bobsled run.
In Germany Bond marries Tracy, but as they leave, Blofeld and Bunt overtake them and kill Tracy.
    The film On Her Majesty's Secret Service
 came out in 1969, the sixth in the James Bond series, following Sean Connery's decision to retire from the role after You Only Live Twice. The producers hired George Lazenby, a model with no prior acting credits, to play Bond, and though he did a creditable job, he never played the spy again. (The film made money but not as much as previous 007 adventures.)
    The script closely follows the Fleming novel, with Blofeld (Telly Savalas) planning to hold the world to ransom by a threat to render all food plants and livestock infertile through the actions of a group of brainwashed "angels of death.”  Tracy is played by Diana Rigg.
        In the film’s opening Bond is in Portugal at the Palaçio Estoril, meeting Tracy at
Guincho Beach in Cascais. Later, at the casino there, Bond orders Champagne Dom Pérignon and caviar, which 007 boasts he can tell is from the Caspian Sea (where, in fact, all true caviar comes from).  
        The next morning, Bond is kidnapped by several men who take him to meet Draco, who makes Bond the offer of money to marry Tracy. Bond refuses, but agrees to continue romancing Tracy, if Draco helps him track down Blofeld. He later meets Draco and Tracy at the bullring in Zambujal, Portugal, and drinks Champagne. 007 flies to Bern, Switzerland, to the Schweizerhof Hotel (right) and begins to learn about Blofeld’s plot. At Piz Gloria he enters the Alpine Room, where a bevy of twelve beautiful women await him. He orders malt whiskey and branch water, while an array of foods with special additives made for the women is served.
        Tracy escapes from Blofeld and meets Bond in the mountain village of
Lauterbrunnen, from which they also escape.  Bond asks Tracy to marry him, and the next day he escapes an avalanche started by Blofeld. With Draco and his men, 007 attacks Blofeld's headquarters.
        Bond and Tracy marry in Lisbon,  then drive away, but Blofeld and Bunt murder Tracy in a drive-by shooting on a mountain road in the Arrabida National Park near Setúbal.




Park South Hotel

127 East 27th Street


By John Mariani


            Beyond the formal entrance of the Park South Hotel you will find one of the most handsome bars and restaurants in New York. Designed by Lea Cojot, Sweetbriar is long and wide, with an open kitchen to one side and comfortable chairs and banquettes throughout, all under perfect lighting so as to see your friends and the hearty food that comes from chef Bryce Shuman’s flaming kitchen. The bar dazzles without being glitzy, and the bartender takes his job as seriously as he does with wit.
            North Carolina born and bred Shuman (right) has a fine résumé, with stints at Eleven Madison Park and Betony, which was my pick in Esquire for the best restaurant of the year in 2015. He once did a Rubs ‘n Riesling pop-up and that brought him to take over at Sweetbriar, where his southern background comes into play with several barbecue dishes.
            Be prepared for a gargantuan meal, for the kitchen doesn’t stint on the helpings. Everything is easy to share and meant to be, like the pretzel crisps with ricotta mustard ($12) and the “nuts and Caesar” salad of kale, Caesar dressing (which had an overdose of anchovy flavor), toasted nuts, seeds and creamy avocado ($14). The soup at the moment is butternut squash velouté laced with crème fraîche and the pop of Aleppo pepper ($15).       
The grilled, not fried, chicken wings (right) are meaty and treated to a powerful sweet chili marinade ($17). Of course, there has to be a pasta, and the rigatoni with broccoli di rabe and peppery rosemary-inflected sausage is bound with a runny egg ($15).  The best of the appetizers was a platter of plump, rare sliders ($25), and two of them would make a main course. Made of beef brisket, they are very juicy and have a rich flavor all their own.
           There is also a pizza section with four items. I found the crust excellent and the topping of red hot mangalitsa pig sausage and pickled chili with a drizzle of honey an exciting idea ($29). Milder but delicious was a pizza with wild mushrooms, sweetened onions, a creamy béchamel and a dash of Sherry ($26). These are good-sized pies, so a table of four will all get a slice or more.
            If you’ve had a starter, you’ll definitely be taking some of the main courses home with you. The smoked chicken with sweet potatoes and figs ($36) carries through the sweet-tangy flavor components, while the very generous portion of smoked black pepper-encrusted, maple slathered Duroc ribs ($34) ranks with the best in town and probably among the least expensive (left). Grilled branzino ($76) took on good flavor from the Savoy cabbage being charred, served with a tomatillo salad in lemon vinaigrette. The burger ($28) with a lemon-caper vinaigrette and fat, crispy potato wedges is okay, but if I had a choice between it and those sliders, I’d definitely go with the latter (which are $3 cheaper).
            You would be wise to order the warm, textured cornbread ($10), which I would love having for breakfast with eggs and country ham. It comes in a black skillet and with honey butter as big as an ice cream cone.
            Karen Fodere-Fallier’s pastries are refinements on tradition, as with her chocolate mousse with peanut butter and white chocolate season with sea salt ($15) and a passionfruit sundae with yogurt ice cream, rum syrup and cotton candy and a house-made dulce de leche ($15).
            The wine list has been solidly built up by Dylan York at prices that are more moderate than too high.
            Sweetbriar sounds more like a Kentucky bourbon label but the name tells you a lot, when the food has both sweet and briary elements and a whole lot of Southern hospitality .


Open for dinner nightly.



By  John Mariani



        Until Katie could show Alan Dobell real progress on the Harry Lime story, she needed to spend the bulk of her time on the story she’d been working on for two months about a city hospital financial scam, and she wished she were out from under it. The investigation had gone well, but it was drudging research, combing through masses of financial documents, patients’ histories, billing statements, and how the hospitals’ assets were being allocated.
She felt she had the main culprits squarely in her sights—several doctors and administrators at the hospital in league with two bureaucrats in the NYC comptroller’s office. It was the usual scam—overbilling and transfers of assets that benefited the scammers, who preyed on the woefully run city hospitals.
            So, for the following week, aside from her reading about Graham Greene, she worked overtime to get the hospital story to Dobell, who asked her at least twice when it was coming in, adding, “I hope you’re not spending too much time on that Harry Lime thing.”
            Finally, the hospital story was finished and handed to Dobell, who said, “I assume you’ve got all the research for the copy editors?”
            “Don’t I always?”
            “Yeah, you do. It feels a little thin,” said Dobell, bouncing the paper copy in his hands.
            “It’s tight,” said Katie, “but it’s all there.”
            “I have a feeling you rushed this, Katie, but let me read it over the weekend. And, hey, look at it this way: No one tried to kill you on this project. That’s gotta be worth something.”
            “It was a pleasant break from the previous mayhem,” said Katie. “And now, Alan, I am going to take a long weekend and wait till I hear you heap praise on my work.”
            Dobell shrugged and said, “Take Monday off. I am.”        


                                                                                *                            *                                  *     


            While David was enjoying himself researching The Third Man movie, Katie was making a timeline of Graham Greene’s bio, with a focus on the time he joined MI6.
            Greene was born October 2, 1904, the son of a local schoolmaster. As a troubled youth, he ran away from school, tried to poison himself several times—he once took fourteen aspirins and jumped in the school pool—and underwent psychotherapy.
            While at Oxford University, he converted to Catholicism, and in 1927 married Vivien Dayrell-Browning  (left). While he was working as a copy editor for The Times his first published work was a book of poems, followed by an unsuccessful novel, The Man Within (1929). He became film and literary critic for The Spectator, while beginning to write what he called “entertainments,” thriller novels like Stamboul Train (1932), A Gun for Sale (1936) and The Confidential Agent (1939), which sold well enough.
            Reading those novels and many to follow, Katie began to discern common themes in Greene’s work. There was always a pursuit, always a confused sense of morality and hounding guilt, especially in what was considered his best novel, The Power and the Glory (1940) about an alcoholic priest in Mexico hunted by the revolutionary government.  Katie remembered being assigned to read that in college, at a time when questioning one’s own Catholic faith seemed a rite of passage.
            Greene’s entry into the British Secret Service came in 1939 via the Ministry of Information, which enlisted him and other writers to churn out wartime propaganda.  He was based in London, where, like everyone else, he endured the Nazi blitz of day and night bombings by hiding in the depths of the London Underground, of which he said, “I’m hiding underground, and above the Germans are methodically smashing London to bits all around me. It sounds like a thriller, doesn’t it?”
            Katie highlighted the passage, thinking of how Harry Lime had died while trapped in the sewers of Vienna. She also marked a letter from the same period in which Greene told his wife that he had a Mr. Hyde side to his character whom he called “Hilary Trench,” but insisted, “you need never be afraid of meeting H. T. I’ve got to convince you that he’s dead.” Katie highlighted the name.
            Bored at the Ministry of Information, Greene sought to join MI6 (the equivalent of the CIA in the U.S.; MI5 was like the FBI), which took its time checking him out, inviting Greene to lavish parties hosted by a wealthy, mysterious man known as “Mr. Smith of China.” At those parties MI6 members drank and encouraged their potential recruits to drink more, chatting up candidates like Greene to see if he might reveal anything in his past that might compromise him in the work. Finally he was accepted in the summer of 1941.
            After training, which included a form of lax boot camp regimen at which he was a dismal failure, Greene was dispatched to the backwater post of Lagos, West Africa, to gather information from agents on both sides of the conflict as well as from paid informers. Secrecy, deception and manipulation were key to the job, but not derring-do.     
Indeed, Greene was far from the war and spent a good deal of time having lunch, tea, and dinner and watching movies at an open-air cinema. The only part of his job he enjoyed was sealing confidential papers with his gold signet ring.
              Re-located to Freetown, Greene tried to be more aggressive, taking trips “upcountry” to find agents to monitor Vichy French movements. He also concocted a plan to open a brothel where visiting Vichy French might be seduced into giving up information.  MI6 refused. 
While on the job, Greene wrote another entertainment, The Ministry of Fear, about a man convicted of a mercy killing of his wife and sent to a psychiatric prison which he comes to believe is actually run by a Nazi spy ring. The novel sold very well and was made into a film directed by Fritz Lang the following year, 1944. Released from his MI6 duties in 1942 and with money made from the sale of The Ministry of Fear, Greene finally found himself on a firm financial footing.
            It was then that director Carol Reed contacted Greene. A fastidious professional, Reed had a high reputation in British cinema, especially for his 1947 film Odd Man Out, the story of a IRA gunman hunted through the rain-slick nighttime streets of Belfast. Having enjoyed The Ministry of Fear, Reed approached Greene about making a movie from one of his short stories, “The Basement Room,” which Reed convinced producer Alexander Korda (right) to buy, with Greene writing the screen play. The title was changed to The Fallen Idol and so was the plot. A seven-year-old boy tries to protect his father’s butler, named Baines, from a murder charge, but lies unconvincingly to the police, who then go after Baines.
            Always another pursuit, thought Katie. Always a moral dilemma, always more guilt. Never a clear path. It had been the leitmotif of so much of Greene’s work, and the story of The Third Man was more of the same. 


To read previous chapters of GOING AFTER HARRY LIME, go to the archive

John Mariani, 2016



By John Mariani


        As I write this, cold seems to have settled its icy breath throughout much  of North America, when in Walt Whitman’s words, the sea becomes “Howler and scooper of storms.”  So, like those who sail the seas, my thoughts turn to hot toddies, which have been part of seagoing at least since the 17th century.  It’s a very simple drink that can take myriad forms, and the word itself dates back to the days when the trade winds ran back and forth to India, where the Hindi word tari was used for the fermented sap of a palm tree.
        Originally, the drink was made cold, but as time wore on and the toddy became a favorite drink of British seamen, it became a cold weather staple.  In contrast to grog—which was simply heated, sometimes diluted, rum meant to keep body and soul together on British ships—toddies have sugar in them, and various spices. (The grog ration, named after Admiral Edward "Old Grog" Vernon,  was a half-pint  given out to all seamen until 1970.)At its simplest, a toddy is a mixture of rum with boiling water, a couple of cloves, a stick of cinnamon, sugar and a lemon rind.
        By the 19th century rum was joined by whiskey and brandy and had as much popularity onshore as off, sometimes with a lowly connotation distinct from the uppity associations that punch enjoyed among the upper class. An 1830s account remarked on the “universal practice of toddy drinking among the middle-classes of the countryside.”  Brits and Americans even made it into a verb—to “get toddied.”
        The pejorative wore off by the end of the century, so that a hot toddy took on a conviviality that allowed it to vie with punch and nogs as a festive drink.  Nevertheless, you don’t hear that much about toddies these days, unless it’s to help mellow the effects of a head cold, which, I assure you, it does with amazing charm. The steam can clear the sinuses, the rum relaxes you, and the vitamin C in the citrus fruits can’t hurt either.    

        One of my favorite toddies, from a time when eggs were used to give drinks body, is the Tom and Jerry, created in the 19th century by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, who also claimed responsibility for the Martini (very much open to question).  Today you can buy a bottle of froth-inducing liquid that gives you the egg white effect below.


1 egg

1 oz. rum

1 oz. brandy

1 Tbs. powdered sugar

1/8 tsp. powdered nutmeg

1/8 tsp. powdered cinnamon


In two bowls, beat the egg yolk and the egg white separately. The whites should form soft peaks.  Then mix together. In a mug add the rum and brandy with the powdered sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and mix to dissolve.  Add the egg mixture and fill with boiling water. Grate some nutmeg on top.


I am a little hesitant to recommend a dramatic drink called a Blue Blazer, because it takes a dexterous display of pyrotechnics.  But, frankly, it’s not a big deal to accomplish.  Bartenders used to do this sort of thing all the time; now they can barely mix a gin and tonic.


1 tsp. sugar

2 ½ oz. boiling water

2 ½ oz. Scotch



Heat two large mugs.  In one, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, and in the other, place the heated Scotch and—carefully—ignite with a match.  Then mix the two mugs back and forth to create a stream of blue flame between them. (It’s even better in a darkened room.) When the flames die out, pour into one mug, add a twist of lemon, and a grating of cinnamon.



According to the Daily Mirror, two Australian teens went to a McDonald’s where they bought three Quarter Pounders, eating two and saving the third for a friend, who never showed up. They nevertheless kept it for him. Twenty years later one of them found the burger and said, “It looks the same as the day we bought it.”



 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.



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


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