Virtual Gourmet

  March 12, 2023                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


"SHIPS COFFEE SHOP" (1965) in Westwood, California By STAN CLINE




Greenwich, Connecticut
 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. March 15  at 11AM EDT,I will be interviewing Prof.  Thomas Moretti about Who Was the Real William Shakespeare? Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.



 55 Lewis Street

 Greenwich, CT


By John Mariani



         Circuitous are the ways restaurants are conceived, none more so than Orienta, which originally debuted in Manhattan in 1995 and is now set on Long Island Sound in a small space whose interior would look just as seductive on the Saigon River. Shadowy, but richly colorful with pink and green palm wallpaper, lipstick red banquettes, white tablecloths, Venetian blinds and a cartoon of a dog wearing a nón lá “leaf hat,” it’s a place where  you half expect Michael Caine to show up wearing a khaki shirt with a gorgeous Vietnamese woman in a silk ao dai tunic. Slowly turning ceiling fans would be a nice touch.
         Instead, you are greeted by a beautiful blonde Russian, Kate, wife of chef Adrien Blech and daughter-in-law (left) of the owners, Antoine and Suzanne Blech, who are French. The loud American music doesn’t quite fit the scenario, nor does the blasting of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” for a celebrant. But Orienta is otherwise a very warm and inviting room, with a good bar and exotic cocktails.
      I don’t usually cite individual waiters for praise, but ours, named Michael, was as fine a server as I can recall, as fully in command of the menu and wine list as he was helpful and friendly without crossing into being your pal.
         The elder Blech, a musician, had previously worked at New York’s French bistro Le Bilboquet and the swanky French-Vietnamese Le Colonial before opening the first Orienta in Manhattan (now closed). Now, with Suzanne, he also runs the French bistro Le Penguin next door and Le Fat Poodle in town. When in the dining room he adds a good dose of Gallic savoir-faire to the evening.
         The younger Blech has done stints at
Le Bernardin, Soho House LA, Le Royal Monceau, Guy Savoy and his parents’ other two restaurants.  Yet, he has never set foot in Asia, instead learning from all his father had while working in New York. To Asian dishes, then, he adds French precision, both in flavors and presentations.
         The menu is admirably just the right size for a table of four to sample a wide array of dishes, from dumplings to pho, and not everything on it is Vietnamese. It should be noted that Vietnamese cuisine was highly influenced by French cooks when the country was dubbed Indochina as a French colony, and there is little of the chile-based heat you find in the food in China and Thailand.
          An irresistible starter is a good portion of the “Rockstar shrimp” ($26), with a crisp iceberg lettuce and a sweet chili sauce, fit for four people to pop in their mouths. Hamachi crudo ($22) has a fine luster, sparked with moderately spicy Fresno chili avocado and cucumber with a yuzu dressing. It’s difficult for me ever to say no to baby back ribs, and Orienta’s are delicious ($23), very tender and meaty, with Japanese barbecue sauce and cabbage slaw.
      We ordered an array of pan-fried dumplings, one with Napa cabbage, carrots and a special house dipping sauce with fried shallots and coriander ($14) as were pork dumplings ($16). Unexpected and highly recommended was a serving of silky eggplant roasted in Japanese style ($10).
         As noted, portions are generous, which goes for the main courses, like the sea bass ($36) and the lovely presentation of the white salt and pepper cod ($37) with toasted sesame fried rice, broccolini, carrots and snow peas (right).  A big bowl of garlic fried rice is not to be missed as a side dish ($10). Saigon chicken—half a bird— is caramelized, then grilled to crispiness, served with sautéed pea shoots ($30). Star anise in a dark reduction buoys a breast of duck with Thai chilies and pea tendrils ($38).
         The only dish that was bland, perhaps by comparison, was the Vietnamese pho ($30) with a choice of chicken, shrimp or beef. A shot of that special sauce might improve it measurably.
         Asian desserts on their own are afterthoughts in most restaurants, but Orienta’s Key lime pie ($15), Mandarin chocolate mousse with a heaping of whipped cream and candied orange ($15) and coconut panna cotta ($15) are all well worth ordering, with two forks or spoons.   
Orienta’s wine list is of sufficient size and range for food with this kind of seasoning and spice, not least a fine red Sancerre ($68; about $30 in a wine shop).
         One easy-to-fix peccadillo: Throughout our meal the table was never crumbed, and with these sauces and finger foods, it can get messy, especially by dessert.

As a family affair, Orienta works in a way that is palpable from the greeting through the end of the meal. But please don’t ask for the birthday song, which is not really either a French or Vietnamese tradition.





            As noted last week, some of the most exciting and stylish new restaurants in New York are Mexican, and Americans’ familiarity with the food and conviviality is always part of the draw. Let’s face it, the mere idea that there will be a margarita and a bowl of chips in front of you soon after you sit down (not something you expect at a sushi bar) is magnetic enough, and the food in even Tex-Mex places is easy to love.
                        When a new place like Casa TuLuM adds to the expectations a striking décor, exceptional service and authentic Mexican food that has been refined but is not intimidating—no grasshoppers or worms on the menu—it is well worth a trip to the increasingly delightful South Street Seaport neighborhood.
                        There is a clear personal touch to everything that Managing Partner Luis Villanueva and Chef/Partner Rodrigo Abrajan (from Puebla, Mexico, starting in New York with an East Harlem taco cart)  bring to TuLuM, whose décor resembles a swank beach house in the Yucatán with effulgent hanging plants, natural wood slats, leather chairs and videos of Gulf of Mexico beach scenes. And, much to my applause, tablecloths. When I visited the noise level was moderate, with just 55 seats and 15 at the bar, especially the anteroom to the rear. At the bar some booming music intrudes.
                        The menu is in three sections, beginning with very good traditional guacamole with freshly made corn chips ($16);  even better is the King guacamole ($20) that incorporates crabmeat, crisp jicama and habanero chilies (below). These are made for the whole table.
                        What makes TuLuM distinctive is not so much novelty as it is the fine tuning, with the best imported ingredients and an attention to layers of flavors and textures not easily found elsewhere in New York. A fine example is the aguachile ($31) of both raw and cooked shrimp, octopus, cherry stone clams, lime juice and seven dried chilies with red onions cucumbers and avocado that you scoop up and get waves of tastes on your pallet. Ceviche TuLuM ($20) is similar but simpler, with raw Gulf  shrimp with avocado, habanero and cilantro.
            Lobster ceviche ($31) is worth every penny—every dish is meant to be shared—marrying good morsels of lobster with passion fruit and litchi, Mango, chile arbol, crunchy, sweet pomegranate seeds and baked multi-grain tostados, which makes my claim about the textures quite clear. In the pincho tacos section you definitely should order the “Governador” ($24), two tortillas bulked up with both shrimp and steak, Chihuahua cheese gratin, and chiltepin tomato salsa. The choice of different chilies for their sweetness, toastiness, smokiness and heat, is critical to Abrajan’s cooking and makes all the difference.
                        Dishes get still heartier in the Los Platos Fuertes section, starting with traditional enchiladas suizas (right) made with juicy chicken (so often it comes dry) with tomatillo, Serrano creamy salsa, and a blend of melted cheeses ($26).  Pescado Zarandeado ($36) is a simply grilled branzino that takes on savory sparks from a marinade of annatto and guajillo chilies, while a duck mole ($41) begins with the bird marinated with coffee-flavored  sauce and then made more delicious with plantains and Mexican rice. One of the most identifiable Yucatán dishes is cochinita pibil ($32), pork shoulder roasted for a long time in banana leaves with achiote paste, cured lime, onion, and habanero chili tetemado (above).
                        Even with a big appetite, you may find yourself sated by then, but do share a sumptuous dessert, especially any made with Mexican chocolate.
                        I haven’t been to America’s southwestern cities recently to see if they are getting more Mexican restaurants at Casa TuLuM’s level of innovation, but it’s indicative of the unending variety of New York’s gastronomy that food and décor of this caliber is down at the once sleepy South Street Seaport.  


Open nightly for dinner.


By  John Mariani




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


 Clerkenwell, London

            As David was on his way to the National Archives that morning,  Katie was on hers to interview the novelist with the woman’s first name, Evelyn Dawes, after having checked his work. It appeared, like many English littérateurs, Dawes had written everything from novels to biographies, histories and literary criticism. Most writers lived on dribs and drabs of money, but, while American writers tended to be pigeonholed by publishers as fiction or non-fiction, the Brits were able to take on work in a wide range of genres. In the end, the money came to much the same, which was rarely very much at all.
            Dawes had had a reputation for a few mystery novels he’d written in the 1960s—The Incident in Alghero and  Something at the Beach were his two most popular—but nothing of his work, except book reviews and essays in the London papers, had been published for more than a decade.  
The book editor at McClure’s said Dawes had drunk away a lot of the good will he once enjoyed among the literary establishment, and now, on the wagon for five years, he had little to look forward to at six each evening, except watching the BBC. Still, the editor had told Katie, his mind was sharp and his memory for detail prodigious. Most important, Dawes had been a close friend of Graham Greene up until his death.
            Dawes had lived since the 1960s on Margery Street in Clerkenwell,  Central London, once an industrial area that had begun to gentrify in the 1980s, and his flat had been part of a well proportioned segmented loft.  Katie was there on time, ten o’clock, and rang the bell of the second-story flat several times before an elderly voice answered through an intercom and without asking who was ringing or identifying himself said, “I’ll need about ten minutes to put myself together. Please be so kind as to call back then.”
            “Late riser,” Katie said to herself, or Dawes had forgotten about their appointment. She took the time to walk a block or two, found a Caffé Nero and nursed a cappuccino while going over notes. She gave Dawes five minutes’ grace and rang his doorbell again.
            “Mr. Dawes, it’s Katie Cavuto, from the States.”
            There was a pause, then, “Ah, yes, yes, of course. So sorry, Miss Cavuto. Yes, I knew you were coming but I got up a bit late and needed to shake the cobwebs out first.”
            “Not a problem,” said Katie. “Do you need some more time?” 

“No, no, come on up,” and the buzzer rang.
          The hallway and stairs in the building had certainly not gone through gentrification, and Dawes’s gray metal door looked left over from its industrial past. There was no doorbell, so Katie knocked, and, after ten seconds, the door clicked open to reveal Mr. Evelyn Dawes, all six feet of him.
            “Come in, come in, come in,” he said, pushing aside some papers on the floor. “Place is a mess. Always is, I’m afraid.  All these damn books gather so much dust and they’re so damn difficult to clean. Hope you’re not allergic.”
            “Not to book dust,” said Katie, who reveled in the smell of old books, though she’d never seen a room with so little else in it except books, not just on the shelves lining ever square inch of the walls outside a kitchenette but also piled high on the floor. She was hardly surprised to find an old cat of indeterminate color curled on a sofa between the piles.
            “I just made some extra tea for you, in case you’d like some,” said Dawes, who looked every bit his seventy-eight years, as did his clothes, which consisted of a tattersall shirt, grayish cardigan and brown corduroy slacks. He was still in his bedroom slippers, which Katie figured he rarely got out of.  His eyes registered olive green in the dim light of the place, his hair in disarray, his eyebrows more so.
            “Sit down, sit down. May I call you Katie?”
            “Please do.”
            “Excellent. Call me Evelyn—with a long E.”
            For a split second that sounded very amusing to Katie.
            “So, I understand from your friend at McClure’s magazine you wanted to chat about my friend Graham Greene?” said the author.
            “If we could.”
            Dawes waved his hand and said, “Happy to oblige. One of the best friends I ever had and one of the few who never betrayed me.”
            “Why would he or anyone want to betray you?” asked Katie.
            “Oh, nothing sinister. Literary debates, my making one too many enemies in the establishment press, that sort of thing. But, yes, Greene always defended me and was willing to write some very nice things on my behalf when I was attacked. Capital fellow.”
            “From all I’ve read, loyalty to his friends was paramount to Greene.”
            Dawes gave his head a vigorous shake and pounded his fist on a book.
            “Absolutely! Paramount is the word. Graham could attack, bite back, joust with the best of them, even to the point of some pretty smarmy gossip. But, when it came to his friends, there was no wavering, even when he knew the man was a blackguard. And he knew plenty of them.”
            “Well, that’s what I’m looking into,” said Katie. “I’m trying to find out if Greene had any personal inspiration among his friends for the character of Harry Lime in the movie The Third Man.”
            Dawes smiled broadly and arched his head backwards. “Ah, Harry Lime! My God, what a good character, so minimally drawn but so magnificently made flesh by Orson Welles!  Did you know he wrote the most famous lines in the movie?”
            “The ones about Switzerland and the cuckoo clock?”
            “Exactly. Brilliant addition. Something only an American like Harry would say. Graham was never very good writing American speech. I met Welles once and congratulated him on his performance, and of course he reminded me that he’d written that little speech for Harry. Did you know Welles went on to do dozens of episodes on radio as Harry Lime, though not as a criminal?”
            “I never knew that. They made a whole radio show about Lime? Was Greene involved?” 
“I doubt it. Graham had gotten too famous by then to trifle with radio.” (Katie made a note to look into the show.)  “Anyhow, as to whether Graham based Harry on a real-life friend of his, well, I’m sure he did, at least parts of Lime. A lot of people believe it was Graham’s very, very good friend Kim Philby, whom he adored. He once told me, ‘
I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused’—a line he later used in one of his novels.”
            “I’ve read that,” said Katie, “and I have to say it confuses me. It seems to me it’s one thing to love a person, even if that person has many flaws, but for Greene to continue to go to bat for a convicted traitor?"
            “Well, remember, if I’ve got the dates right, Philby wasn’t exposed as a traitor for many years after The Third Man. So, if Graham had suspicions about Philby early on, he killed Lime off. Awfully convenient way for Graham to get Philby—if that’s who it was—out of mind.”
            “True,” said Katie, “Lime’s old friend Holly Martins is the one who shoots him in the sewer, because he’s realized what an awful human being Lime really is.”
            “Well, that, to me, is debatable,” said Dawes, “for two reasons: First, Holly begs Lime to give himself up, but Lime refuses. Then, just a brief second before the gunshot echoes in the tunnel—marvelous sound!—Lime looks at Holly and slightly, ever so slightly, seems to nod as if to say, ‘You do it, Holly. I want it to be you.’  Which is in its own warped way a final act of friendship. And to tell you the truth, I think it was probably Welles’s idea. That nod is almost imperceptible—it could have been a slight gulp of fear—a bare opening of his lips. Brilliant.”
            Katie had not thought of that—the business of it being Welles’s idea—though it was clear Lime preferred being killed by his old friend than captured by the military police.
            “Now,” said Dawes, pushing himself up on the arms of the chair, “whether Philby figures into all that, I really haven’t a clue.”
            Katie tried to shift the subject slightly. “Did you know Philby?”
            “No, never met him. He ran off to Russia before I’d even met Graham. But Graham spoke about him a good deal. It made no sense to me—everybody in our crowd loathed Philby for what he’d done—but Graham actually prided himself on being the only one who really knew what was going on in Philby’s mind—what was behind the mask, he used to say. After all, Philby was Graham’s mentor at MI6, and both dealt in subterfuge on a daily basis. What Graham seemed blind to, however, was that Philby—everybody, really—wears a lot of different masks, and double agents have as many as they have passports.”
            “Did Greene actually write a preface to Philby’s memoirs, My Private War?”
            “Oh, he did indeed. To Graham, Philby was an idealist, not a traitor. It was rather pathetic. Graham was a Catholic convert and could appear to be a staunch one at times, when it was convenient, though not when he was sleeping with other men’s wives. But, when he compared Philby’s embrace of Communism as a religion and his activities to British Catholics spying for Spain against England because they were being persecuted at home, well, that is deeply disturbing to me. I’m a Catholic—born one, but happily lapsed—and I find such an analogy an ugly blasphemy.” 
“One could hardly make that case for Harry Lime,” said Katie.
            “Decidedly no. Lime was only in it for himself. He tried to portray himself as an idealist and at the same time would say, ‘May we all live to see the red flag flying on Buckingham Palace and the White House.’ I’m sure such a statement would irk Greene no end. And that’s why I think the link between Lime and Philby is tenuous at best, like both their full names having three syllables. I don’t doubt that Graham knew secrets about Philby’s life and work no one else did and might well have kept his mouth shut out of loyalty.  So, in that sense, Philby is a candidate. Novelists always take the smallest of things and blow them up into important ones. Graham did it, I do it, or did it. Had a character in one of my books based on a fellow I met in college one afternoon and never saw again. I based a major figure on him, simply because he was such an unusual, very witty, very ugly fellow who somehow charmed all the girls.”
            “So,” asked Katie, “you think there were other candidates who made up a composite of Lime?”
            “I suspect so. That’s usually how it works in novels. I always wondered where Edgar Allen Poe found all his grotesques. Not to mention where Shakespeare found his Iago and Caliban.”
            It began to dawn on Katie that what Dawes had told her was probably the truth of the matter. Lime was not based on any one person but more probably on many, along with aspects sprung entirely from Greene’s own imagination, which she’d learned was teeming with flawed men driven to desperation on both sides of the law.
            If that was the whole story, it was, as Alan Dobell had said, a rip-roaring yarn for a little-read literary magazine with a name like The Sewanee Review. It might make a good dissertation for a doctoral student, but not for a general interest magazine like McClure’s.                    

John Mariani, 2016




By John Mariani

Last week in this space I wrote about a study that indicated the Gen X, Gen Z, Millennials  and young people in general, worldwide, have not developed the interest in wine their parents did, and that wine sales among that age group have decreased. To see how the industry is coping with that situation I spoke with  Catherine Fallis, Master Sommelier at Bright Cellars, a wine delivery service based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 


With Wine Sales Dropping Among the Younger Generation, How Is the Industry Trying to Change Its Image?

      All the current stats about wine sales show that older generations in America and Europe are still drinking wine, but there has been a fall-off in sales to the Gen-Xers and  others for whom the market is crucial to allow growth. I interviewed Catherine Fallis, Master Sommelier at Bright Cellars, as to how the appeal to younger people must change in order to make them wine lovers.


Why does the wine industry have to make efforts to appeal to a younger generation?  Are there statistics to prove that? 

The 2023 Silicon Valley Bank State of the Wine Industry Report sees a difficult era for wine. It found that wine consumption is growing only among people 60 and older, with 70- through 80-year-olds growing the fastest. Younger people are drinking; the report found that 35% of people 21-29 drink alcohol, but not wine. The fact is, wine sales have been declining for years, and it means that the industry needs to get better at appealing to younger consumers. One way to do that is to demystify wine culture and bring wine down to earth and make it easier to get to know and more fun to drink. Bright Cellars and I share that opinion, and it’s one of the reasons we’re working together. It’s about being less intimidating and making delicious wine, at any price, more fun to discover and experience. 

By “younger generations” whom do you mean?

The Silicon Valley report cited Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z as the underperforming cohorts, but that’s a large range spanning ages 21-60. The industry needs to focus on Millennials, who represent the largest population, and Gen Z, many of whom are now 21. 

You say that it is necessary to "Use approachable language with no technical terms.” Such as what?

The industry tends to speak to consumers as if they know the “inside” language of wine, using words such as nose, palate, tannins, robe, legs, etc. Odds are, the average consumer does not know what these terms refer to. If someone from the famous food lab in New Jersey used their industry lingo to describe the makeup, aromas, flavors, structure and taste of Doritos, no one would buy them. The wine industry needs to follow the example of other food and beverage brands by using language and descriptions already familiar to people. Keep it simple by talking about flavor and when it comes to pairings, make suggestions using real, everyday meals they might make at home.

When you say to utilize simple, appealing descriptions, what do you mean specifically?

I like to use simple, easy-to-digest sentences that anyone can understand. For example, when we describe Ochavado Verdejo on the Bright Cellars website, we say it’s “Light and zingy with notes of lemon zest, lime, dried herbs, and sea salt,” with images of these items alongside the bottle. When it comes to what to pair it with, grilled asparagus and crab cakes both make the list—two things someone might be eating at home on a weeknight. This type of language is now appearing on Bright Cellars’ wine content, on wine cards, on product pages and more. We have also added everyday food pairings for real people such as Cheetos, Glazed Doughnuts and Hot Pockets.

Low alcohol, zero alcohol, zero sugar brands should be mainstream and tasty. Easier said than done. How can this be accomplished? It runs against the whole idea of drinking wine as a healthy alcoholic beverage.

It starts with broader beliefs and preferences. Gen Z and Millennials have made it clear that they read labels closely and care about what’s in their food and drinks. A report last year by Food Insight found that nearly half of Gen Z tends to purchase beverages because they are labeled as “natural,” one-third does so on the basis of “clean ingredients,” and nearly one third because the product is organic. According to online alcohol marketplace Drizly, wellness, moderation and health are top of mind for Gen Z, even factoring into their alcohol purchasing behavior. For example, two of our newest releases are in the lower alcohol category, at 9% alcohol. They are both delicious as is and are not singled-out as lower-alcohol on the label. Zero alcohol is harder to get right, but with the massive global growth in that beverage category, and the appealing results in gins, beers, and more, wineries are already working hard to create a tasty zero alcohol product. 

What about the “Ready to Drink“ category that includes Wine Margaritas, Wine-based Cosmos, Lemon Drops.

RTD’s don’t have to exclusively come in cans. At Bright Cellars, when we talk about RTDs, we mean any wine-based cocktail that is ready to be opened and poured, whether that’s a can, box or bottle. Recent data from Drizly shows that this category is a favorite of younger generations. The wine business writ large needs to see this not as a threat, but an opportunity, by expanding the market for wine-based cocktails. Done right, wine stands in spectacularly for a neutral-base spirit. We are working on a line of wine-based RTDs offered in traditional, 750ml wine bottles. The multi-serve opportunity that bottles like these provide is key to accommodating social occasions and from a price-value point of view.  

But if you switch to fun alternative, environmentally friendly packaging such as glass-lined plastic bottles, bag in box and cans, that would seem to attract the lowest common denominator. 

Again, we have to take Gen Z’s values into account. Environmental issues weigh heavily on this generation and directly influence their shopping choices. According to a 2021 First Insight report, 73% of Gen Z consumers say that sustainable product packaging is important in purchasing decisions. It’s time to think outside the box, or in this case, the glass bottle, when packaging wine for Gen Z. Wine’s Old Guard would say that wine only tastes good when it comes in glass bottles, but that’s simply not true. Our industry already packages wine in more sustainable formats, like boxes, cans, tetra packs and more, with no effect on taste, especially as these wines are being consumed quickly, not sitting in wine fridges or cellars. Again, it comes down to making wine more approachable, and less intimidating for younger generations.

What about eliminating cork on inexpensive wine? Corks may be
 outdated but you always get the argument that the consumer wants the cork and hates screw caps etc. How do you  change that perception?

I would agree that those over 60 may still have that perception, but not so with Millennials. In general, cork-finished wine it is one of the most tedious products to open. If folks needed a special tool and complicated technique to open a beer, would that beverage be so popular? And don’t get me started on those heavy “wax” capped bottles.

The wine industry may sell a lot of low-end wine but it promotes premium wines and above. And restaurants don’t carry low-end wines. How can that change?  

Premium wines need promotion, due to their price. The entry level, under $10 retail wines, are purchased on price, and a pleasing label. Restaurants do carry low-end wines, but the consumer just doesn’t realize it in many cases. In fact, low-end wines with a high markup allow restaurants to sell higher-end wines with a lower markup. I always recommend avoiding a restaurant’s cheapest wine. Always go up a few dollars. It’s a very good investment in quality.

Do you think that lower mark-ups on wines in restaurants will help? It seems that all restaurateurs are committed to 200-300% mark-ups.

Restaurants mark up food and beverages based on their business model. Not every restaurant uses industry standard wine markups. Look at wines on a list in Manhattan vs. Cleveland, Las Vegas vs. Milwaukee, Paris vs. Montpellier. Large metro areas have higher operating costs and tend towards higher markups, just as highly touristed areas do as well. Also, to put things in perspective, bar programs have much higher markups. A martini may have 2-3 ounces of premium gin or vodka, costing the establishment less than $1, while the cost to the consumer is $9 to $22, or more! I do not think lower markups on wine will help. I think better buying strategies will. The restaurant wine buyer should be open to exploring new grapes and regions, finding great value where others wouldn’t have. It just takes a little more legwork, an open mind, and support from management/owners.





"Alto Adige is a great place for wine. You can taste it. You can buy it."—"Italy's Wine Wonderland," 2FoodTrippers (2/19/23).


 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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© copyright John Mariani 2023