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  April 16, 2023                                                                                             NEWSLETTER



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THIS WEEK

PALAZZO DUCALE VENTURI
By John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER
LUTHUN

By John Mariani

GOING AFTER HARRY LIME
CHAPTER SIXTEEN
By John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
ARE WINE TASTINGS COUNTER TO COMMON SENSE?

By John Mariani



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On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. April 19 at 11AM EDT,I will be interviewing Tony Morante, Baseball Historian about YANKEE STADIUM. Go to: WVOX.com. The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.





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PALAZZO DUCALE VENTURI

                                                                                                Minervino di Lecce

                                                                                                    +39-0836-818717

 

By John Mariani





 

            Counting the angels on the head of a pin would be child’s play compared to estimating all of the antique palazzos throughout Italy. Even the poorest district seems once to have a rich man on the hillside who was able to cobble together the resources (and taxes) to create a fairly safe and secure stone mansion, while the richest brandished their wealth and power in astonishments like the Villa d’Este in Tivoli and the Palazzo Reale in Naples.

            Far from the big cities,  many palazzos were often summer residences that became the focal point for the town’s identity. Centuries of being taken over by invaders, disastrous economic downturns and social upheavals—not least two World Wars in the last century—forced the abandonment of many that thereupon went to wrack and ruin. One of these is the Palazzo Ducale Venturi in the small Puglian town of Minervino di Lecce. Though isolated, the town is only 25 miles from Lecce and 15 minutes from Otranto.

            There’s little to see in the town beyond the various churches (some shuttered), and the façade of the Palazzo, built in 1500 as a Templar stronghold,  is not promising, looking somewhat like the Alamo after the Mexican Army stormed it. But once through a creaking, old green wooden door, an entirely different world of Italian luxury expands from a foyer to a grand living room to a garden and pool and a modern spa called the Wellness Area.

       I doubt the Duke Venturi lived in anything close to the comfort guests can now enjoy, with 20 rooms and suites, some of which have ancient murals on vaulted ceilings. The local limestone was restored to a pale golden glow, and the fireplaces re-lighted, including a wood-fired pizza oven and a cozy whiskey bar where you may take a course in spirits, followed by dinner.  

            There is a bittersweet legend that involves the Palazzo, which once had a secret underground passageway to the nearby Monastery where the Duke would liaison with the Abbess. But, alas,  after a few years, he tired of her and took up with a young novice nun whom the Abbess, in a fit of jealous rage, had murdered and buried in an underground vault, putting a curse on the duke’s bedroom—Hic amor mori: “Here love died”—which was fortunately lifted by Saint Eligio later in the 16th century. The once walled-up room is, romantically,  again available to stay in.

            When my wife and I stayed at the Palazzo last autumn, we were struck by the cool quiet of the hotel, which extends to the Wellness Area with its serene spa, the beautiful garden with its entwined arbors and the remarkably large, underlighted pool area. It is all as enchanting at night as it is during the day, and moonlight works its wonderful ministry on the walls and water.

            Rooms are capacious, with arched limestone ceilings and painted walls, the furniture is tones of gray and taupe. Bathrooms are large and very modern, the WiFi connection is exemplary (though I found that T-Mobile has no coverage in the region, a lack easily fixed by buying a SIM card for a few bucks).  The furnishings of the public rooms, which are painted off-white and reflect a great deal of light from floor-to-ceiling windows, are judiciously set with first-quality antiques rather than crammed with artwork of questionable provenance. A motif of soothing, muted green is used throughout on the woodwork.

           The intimate dining room with ceiling mural, appended with outdoor tables that allow you dine in the garden or by the pool, is where we had our extensive breakfasts (included in the room price), which ranged from breads and pastries to pancakes and cheeses, fruits and juices all served at a long, well-set  table with local china. You can also learn to make pizza here, and Chef Antonio Russo holds cooking classes, including one for pasta that would be  incorporated into our meals.

     At one of our dinners, sitting at a communal table with other guests, we began with little strips of breaded ombrina fish.   The pasta course was pacchero macaroni with a rich seafood ragù atop pureed yellow tomato scented with marjoram and dressed with red lumpfish roe. Then came stuffed tender squid on a sauce of red cabbage, and for dessert local pastries,  served with wines from a modestly priced wine list rich in Puglian bottlings: Piccole Bolle Bianco Negroamaro from Duca Carlo Guarini  and Fiano Salento from Cantina Schola Sarmenti.
    As you’d expect, Americans form a large part of the Palazzo’s clientele, so every employee speaks impeccable English, not least Angela Venturi, owner and CEO of the tour company DMC Path and manager Martina Provenzano, who are never happier than when you ask them to show you their region.

            Owing to its proximity to towns, cities, seashore and historic sites, the Palazzo also has the virtue of being secluded, making it as much a romantic getaway as it is an example of modern Italian hospitality.

 

 

 

 





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NEW YORK CORNER


 

LUTHUN


                                                                                                    432 East 13th Street

                                                                                                            646-454-9484


                                                                                               
                                                                                                By John Mariani
                                                                                             Photos by Michael Tulipan and Luthun

Readers of this column know that I’m not a huge fan of long, extravagant tasting menus that go on for hours at the behest of chefs trying to show off as well as pump up the bill. Long ago I lost interest in going to places like Momofuku Ko ($280), Eleven Madison Park ($365), Per Se ($390),  Brooklyn Fare  ($430), Masa ($950)—not including beverages—whose evenings can be a  three-and-a-half hour endurance.
       By the same token, I have very much enjoyed somewhat more abbreviated (in both number of courses and time spent) at admirable multi-course restaurants like Jung Sik ($155), Wicked Jane ($95), Frevo ($198) and, most recently, Luthun ($150) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In each of these, the dedication of the chef within a small kitchen is more clearly to delight rather than dazzle the guests, who are fewer in number than at those others.
        The combined experience of Luthun’s owners, Nahid Ahmed and Arjuna Bull, provides enormous ballast to their cuisine, which is eclectic but never gimmicky. Ahmed, whose bloodlines run through South Africa, India and Bangladesh, was born in London, and after training at Lausanne Culinary Institute in Switzerland he headed West, working at New York’s Lespinasse, The French Laundry in Napa Valley,  El Bulli in Spain, The Fat Duck outside London and  Restaurant Philippe Rochat in Lausanne. In New York he was executive chef at Respite.
        Bull, from Cornwall, England, grew up in Miami, where he worked at The Fontainebleau Hilton before moving to New York to work at Café Gray, Pearl and Ash, Brasserie 8½, Capitale and Tribeca Grand Hotel, as well as serving as executive chef at gastropubs Jones Wood Foundry and The Shakespeare.
        Sommelier Jahdea Gildin has compiled a very varied wine list, and with this kind of food, where matching flavors and wine is impossible before you taste a dish, it’s best to allow him to choose the beverages, which may range from a vermouth to sake to beer to wine.
         The premises are fairly stark, but good lighting, a counter directly in front of the kitchen, unobtrusive music and exceptionally cordial servers make Luthun a very comfortable place to dine and interact with the full staff and perhaps with the people seated next to you. Each dish is described at a reasonable length—although the word “awesome” is used way too much—and Ahmed and Bull are right there ready to chat, having gotten the tempo of the meal down pat. No one in the kitchen seems rushed. No one gets yelled at.
           The tasting menu changes frequently, so that what I describe here may not be in evidence when you go. The menu is global, and though Ahmed says he hasn’t been to India in ages, the inflections of that country’s spices show up subtly in several dishes. Indeed, subtlety is the rule at Luthun, where seasonings are added to complement the natural flavors of the principal ingredients, whichvare all carefully sourced.
         Our ten-course meal began with a fushka (above)Bangladesh street food—little pastry cups of sugar snap peas with pine nuts and calamansi lemon. “Halal Guys” samosas take their name from a New York chain of halal food carts from Ahmed’s childhood, served with tangy-sweet pineapple chutney. A plump caramelized mussel was dressed with passion fruit and a pinch of wasabi, while a pretty scallop was perched on salted onion blossom and mandarin kosho, a chile and Mandarin mixture.
         Lovely, translucent, raw, lightly brined fluke took on flavors from fermented cashew,  amloki, Indian gooseberry, and shiso. Mild uni was made into a custard with trout roe and farro to add texture (right). All these dishes were decorated via tweezers used to apply tiny edible greens or flowers.
        The simplest dish was beef tartare dashed with whiskey vinegar placed on an egg yolk cooked with seaweed and bonito, topped with Chinese caviar and grated cured egg. This was followed by lightly smoked squid in an oxtail consommé tinged with XO black truffle vinegar. The Indian bread called roti had a sweetness to it with a yuzu and pistachio salsa. In fact, there is a touch of sweetness in many of the dishes, something that should be done sparingly lest it become cloying.
         A foie gras emulsion with Thai nuoc cham fish sauce with cured egg yolk and rice cake accompanied prawns, and the last savory course was a rare, very juicy Colorado lamb chop served two ways: a rare chop and braised shoulder with the Turkish chile pepper urfa biber and elderberry glaze and a mix of greens, vegetables and flower (right).
         Dessert was a pleasantly traditional chocolate mousse with a Champagne gelée Rose.
        Our meal had a fine cadence to it so, with each dish small in size—bite-sized—there’s no long wait for the next one. We spent something close to two-and-a-half hours at the counter, and, because of comfortable tall chairs and the small number of guests to be served, we never felt things dragged. Also, the amounts of beverages served were judicious, given that so many courses needed to be matched.
         Luthun is a special place and an antidote to those brash, bombastic, uncomfortable places where you may exit exhausted. Perhaps Luthun’s real distinction is that everyone manifests a civilized side of downtown dining,  while others go for razzle dazzle rather than refinement. Having too often slogged through long meals delivered with the solemnity of a tithe collector, I enjoyed every minute of my time at Luthun. 

 

Open for dinner Wed.-Sat, with seatings at 5:30 and 8:30.

 




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GOING AFTER HARRY LIME
By  John Mariani

 

   

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


CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 


Holly Martins: “You used to believe in God.”

Harry Lime: “Oh, I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and Mercy and all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don't miss much here, poor devils.” — The Third Man.

 

 


            Katie and David looked at each other in amazement.
            “What do you mean he’s not dead?” asked Katie. “He died eleven years ago in Moscow.”
            Lentov was still smiling. “And who told you that?”
            David, bewildered and a little flushed, stuttered, “Why, why all the, y’ know, newspapers back then. All the obituaries.”
            “Ah, yes,” said Lentov. “But did you ever see a report in the Russian newspapers or media about Philby dying?”
            Katie and David said they didn’t know one way or the other.
            “If you look back at what happened,” said Lentov, finishing the last of his pint, “you’ll find that the western press heard—from supposedly reliable sources—that Philby had passed away. They didn’t know when or how or where, and it was days before the Russians acknowledged the report was true.”
            “So, you’re saying the Russians are hiding the fact he is still alive?” asked David.
            “Well, they certainly never reported any details on his purported death. And my own sources—I still have a few—tell me that Kim is still alive, not too well, still living in that wretched flat in Moscow. I don’t doubt it for a moment.”
            “But why would the Russians lie about his death?” asked Katie.
            Lentov rose from the banquette, buttoned his jacket and said, “I have to assume it was easier to finally put the old man to rest, so to speak, and not to have to explain what had happened to him, where he was, etcetera. He had been so long out of the spotlight, the Cold War was over, he’d published his memoirs and MI6 certainly had no interest in bringing him back to England and stirring up all the old embarrassments to the service. Better forgotten for everyone concerned. Philby probably agreed to the dodge. He was probably deliriously happy about fooling everyone one last time.”
            The old Russian walked slowly to the door of the pub, with Katie and David speechless behind him. The sky had gone gray, threatening the kind of cold drizzle that Lentov hated more than a good soaking. The cold was nothing to a Russian but the drizzle got into his bones.
            Katie looked at David as if to say, what do we do now? David spoke first. “Mr. Lentov, do you think there is any possible way we could get to see Philby for an interview?”
            Lentov had expected the question, saying, “It might have been easier right after the Soviet Union collapsed. There was a sense of euphoria, even if it was based on the false hopes of those who didn’t know Russian history. Without a strong man at the top, Russians have no history of nation building. Yeltsin is a pig and a fool and a drunk.  But in those first days, there might have been an opportunity for a journalist to enter Russia quite freely and poke his nose around.  Now, it might not be so easy.”
            “Why not?” asked Katie.
            “The whole country is collapsing, so the government needs to hide the deep corruption that has allowed former bureaucrats and K.G.B. operatives to become stinking rich. Philby may be forgotten, but he will not be allowed an endgame.  Getting to him would be difficult.”
            Lentov ran through recent Russian history, saying there had been a great deal of power shifting at the top. With his support foundering and the economy in disarray, President Yeltsin needed to consolidate his position, and after a disastrous crop failure in 1998, he fired Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov (once head of Russian intelligence) and installed Sergei Stepashin (also a former head of the K.G.B.’s replacement, the F.S.B.) as prime minister, then fired him two months later.  In Stepashin’s place Yeltsin nominated an up-and-coming politician named Vladimir Putin (another former head of the F.S.B.), declaring that one day Putin would succeed him as President of Russia. 
The name Putin rang a loud bell in Katie and David’s heads, for during their Vermeer investigations Putin had been suspected of having been involved in the attempted assassination of a Russian oligarch.
            “I never knew Putin,” said Lentov. “After my time. But my friends tell me he is extremely devious and very dangerous. Let us take a walk to the park before it rains.”
            Southall Park was nearby. The three of them walked slowly, Lentov continuing to talk. He explained that when Russia opened up to the world in 1991, the new regime had encouraged foreign journalists to cover their achievements and to see how free their country had become. Even the Communist propaganda paper Pravda had broken into two entities, one free of party control. Not for the first time in its history, Russia turned West, believing its culture shared more with Europe than Asia.
            But before long the goals of the new regime led by Yeltsin disintegrated along with the economy and Russia’s military, which was bankrupt and unable to keep up with the advances in the West. Parity with the United States was neither achievable nor even advisable.      
    “The old oligarchs and the new oligarchs are the same people,” said Lentov, “all the old K.G.B. clan who knew where all the bodies were buried and what was still in all the old files. They used it all to become wealthy, more and more from gas, oil and minerals, especially Putin. He is that strong man Russians always embrace to salvage a shred of dignity.”
            Katie and David saw that Lentov had strayed from the topic of Philby in favor of sounding prophetic, as if his opinions still mattered to anyone outside of Southall. David tried to get him back on track, saying, “So, you don’t think there is any way for us to get to Philby, now that the regime has changed?”
            Lentov tilted his head this way and that.
            “Well, getting into Russia is not the problem these days,” he said. “And, unless Philby is living somewhere else, I do have his old address.”
            The openness of Lentov to tell Katie and David such astonishing information—barely an hour after they’d met—was more than puzzling. How could this former Soviet agent, now living in disgrace, simply blurt out a statement that contradicted everything that had ever been written about the Philby case? And now he was giving them the man’s address?
            David nodded to Katie, to say “You ask him.”
            Katie, not hiding her skepticism, asked, “Mr. Lentov, why are you willing to tell us all this? Are you saying you never shared this information with MI6 or anyone in the British government and that you, and you alone, knew that Philby was still alive.”
            Lentov put his arm around Katie’s shoulder, but she drew away.
          “I hear from my friend Southey that you are both very good investigators,” said the Russian. “And I’m well aware, David, you would never accept anything I say at face value.”
            David stood there stone-faced.
            “Why should you?” Lentov continued. “Once a liar always a liar, eh? It was my profession. Obfuscation. Disinformation. Betraying confidences. Surely you ran across men like me in the Mafia. I won’t go into the moral differences between the Mafia and intelligence agents, but there is a point—you know this, David—when some men become sick of the game and need to escape the pit of lies they live in. It was not at all difficult for me to go over to the British. My career was ending, my life would be uneventful but somewhat secure, even in Southall. As Moscow is to Philby.”
            Katie and David were becoming impatient, hearing Lentov’s explanation as little more than a defense of his treason.
            “You haven’t answered my question,” said Katie. “If you felt you needed some kind of . . . redemption, why didn’t you report what you knew about Philby to the authorities?”
            “Ah, redemption!,” said the old Russian, raising his hands to the skies in mock ecstasy. “I assume from your Italian name, Katie, you are a Catholic, and you, too, David. Or raised as ones. So, all your lives you have feared your sins will plunge you into a hell of fire and eternal torment. No matter how far you have fallen from religion, you can’t escape that fear, can you? I was born Russian Orthodox—though I could never practice it under communism. Still, we Russians share the same sense of sin and guilt. But, when we die, the good and the bad both enter into the presence of God for eternity. The good enjoy everlasting awe and are consumed by God’s love. But the bad will suffer eternally from the absence of God’s love. No fire, no devils, no pitchforks.”
            Katie’s mind was now racing with all she knew about Graham Greene’s conflicted views of guilt, sin and Catholicism, so much of them imbedded in his fictional characters.
            David knew the Russian was drifting again, and said, “Lentov, just tell us why you are giving us this information. It can’t be as simple as saying nobody ever asked you.”
            Lentov laughed. “That’s part of it. I was not the only one who knew about Philby, and many others suspected it. I am not telling you anything MI6 hasn’t known for years. Like so much that is kept classified years after it ceases to matter, Philby’s life-after-death was swept into a file and stored somewhere. The current generation at MI6 couldn’t care less. Journalists might, but MI6 sees Philby as only a scab on their honor that they don’t want to see ripped off to bleed again. Can you understand that?”
            David consented that he did, having himself seen many cases in New York that were closed not for lack of evidence but for fear of exposing certain powerful people to scrutiny. The more years that passed the safer such people felt, and detectives up to their asses in current caseloads couldn’t have cared less.
            The three came to a park bench and Lentov sat down, looking at the increasingly dark sky.
            “My joints will ache tonight.”
            Katie and David had no time or place to confer with one another, so, knowing that a person being interrogated yet desperate to tell a tale cannot bear silence, they both simply waited for Lentov to speak.
            “So,” he said, “If you want Philby’s address, you can do with it whatever you wish. I have no way to contact him. Maybe he is dead by now. He would be in his eighties. MI6 has no interest in my corroborating what they already know. But as someone not treated as I expected to be by my handlers on either side, I would be very happy if Philby’s story had an endgame in which he achieves at least a draw.”
            Katie said, “All right, Mr. Lentov. I’m not saying I believe everything you’ve told us, or the reasons you did, but if you want to give us that address, we will follow up as best we can.”
            Lentov, feeling the first drops of rain on his eyelashes, said, “Good, let’s go back to my flat and I shall give you the address and phone number. I myself would like to know once and for all if Kim Philby is alive or dead.”
            The three of them walked back to Lentov’s flat, three rooms, barely furnished, smelling faintly like the pub—beer and curry—one wall full of books in English, French and Russian. Some poor, murky prints of Degas’s ballerinas were propped on the shelves.
            Lentov went to his bedroom and came back with a slip of paper on which he’d just written an address and phone number.
            “Memorize this, then destroy it,” he said, amused that he sounded like the spy he once was. “Oh, you don’t have to eat and swallow it.”
            Katie and David thanked the man for his time and promised to report back to him whatever they found, one way or the other.
            “As I mentioned,” Lentov said at the doorway, “You can still get into Moscow fairly easily, but watch your step after that.”
            Katie asked, “You think we’d be in some danger then?”
            Lentov answered, “I don’t know the new Russia, or how the F.S.B. looks upon journalists searching for dead English spies. You tell me when you return.”
            Katie and David’s train ride back to London was spent largely in silence, both of them running everything they’d heard through their heads, waiting to get somewhere away from people where they could talk.
            “So what’s our next step?” asked David.
            “I'll call Alan. If Kim Philby’s alive, he will send us anywhere we need to go, even if he doesn’t care anything about Harry Lime.”

 



©
John Mariani, 2016







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NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR


ARE WINE TASTINGS COUNTER TO COMMON SENSE?
By John Mariani






 


 

         There are two different forms of wine tastings: One is drinking individual glasses of wines with a long tasting menu in a restaurant; the other is enduring a tasting—blind or not—of six or a dozen or a score or fifty wines in an antiseptic setting without any food whatsoever. Count me out of both.
      The very idea of wine flights and long tastings makes my eyes glaze over and my appetite flag for so many reasons. In the first instance, let’s say you’ve chosen a chef’s prix fixe menu of, say, a foie gras terrine with pomegranates and piquillo peppers; followed by halibut with cockles in a barigoule flecked with chorizo; then a breast of duck with dried cherries in a reduction of Port and ginger, and finishing off with a dark chocolate cake with an oozing chocolate center, topped with raspberries and a gloss of balsamic vinegar—a mere four courses.
       The inevitable choice of wines by a sommelier to go with these foods is almost always driven not by a reasonable match-up but by what the sommelier says, “I’ve chosen something quite unusual for this course,” which might turn out to be a Kimoto-style sake, followed by an Austrian grüner-veltliner, a California charbono and a Canadian ice wine.
        Imagine if this were a twelve-course meal, which for most people is gluttonous excess and good reason to have a designated driver take you home. After two or three courses, can the palate be that discerning as to how well such beverages go with involved recipes? I also find that in these kinds of wine flight meals the sommeliers inevitably pile on the whites and only get around to any interesting reds as of the meat course.  
     
Thus, I have had to sit through a seemingly endless parade of dreary Austrian grüner-veltliners, Sicilian chardonnays, Sonoma sémillons, Hungarian tokays, and South African sauvignon blancs that the sommelier finds quirky before getting to a single flight of reds that might include a Brazilian merlot, an Emilian lambrusco, and a Barossa Valley cabernet sauvignon with 16% alcohol.
         And that’s the thing of it. Tasting so many different wines with so many foods cannot only be exhausting but counterproductive.  And really not much fun. Two wines for a meal seems to me perfectly rational; much more is a path to tipsiness.
         Still worse is the wine lover –and I include some of my big name  professional colleagues—who insists he or she can taste 50 wines or more in succession without food and make sensible judgments on them, which ignores basic facts of human physiognomy, by which “palate fatigue” is a real problem. Instead, such tasters (and I’ve seen some of them conduct these tastings while wearing white lab coats!) simply resort to a slew of Winespeak adjectives that become more and more abstruse after the first ten wines. The fact is, if, say, a Chenin Blanc tastes like a Chenin Blanc—one better than the other—it is sheer folly to try to break down components into a logorrhea of piffling descriptors.
         I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than listen to the wine guy drone on about the “petroleum nose” in a grüner-veltliner, the “blow your doors” off Left Bank Bordeaux, the “cigar box and chocolate” flavors of a Santa Rosa barbera, and the “Chinese gooseberry notes” in a chenin blanc. When asked how he came up with all his descriptions, the late New York Times wine columnist Frank J. Prial shrugged and said, “Like everyone else, I fake it.”
      When I do taste wines for professional assessment, I never taste more than a half dozen of the same varietal, and then I try to re-taste them with simple foods, usually at dinner time. Thus, if I’m tasting, say, chablis, I will go through the various bottles, then have them with a dinner of sautéed or broiled fish. If it’s an array of pinot noirs, I might have roast lamb and potatoes. And. if I want to get frisky, I may taste them with food that does have various spices in it, like North African couscous or a garlicky soupe des poissons. Then I might discover that such-and-such a varietal, rather than an individual wine, goes well with such foods and feel good about advising my readers along those general lines.
       I also like to drink wine and eat food the way most people do most of the time, that is, one or two wines with a meal. I find the ritual of smelling, sipping, commenting, smelling, sipping, commenting, smelling, sipping, commenting onerous while I’m trying to enjoy my dinner. 
         
And here’s the real truth: No matter how professional wine tasters insist that their pronouncements and ratings of wine are based on their exceptional and experienced palates, the fact is that it is the easiest thing in the world to switch the wines around and see if any of the ratings jibe with their first impressions. I can’t tell you how many winemakers and importers confide (angrily) that the same exact wine under different labels in a line-up might get an 87 or a 93 from the same exact tasters.
         The honest wine writers readily admit to fallibility. British Master of Wine Harry Waugh was once asked when was the last time he’d mistaken a Bordeaux for a Burgundy. He replied, “What time was lunch today?”


 



 

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FINNEGAN'S WAKE IS NOT A GOOD MODEL FOR A COLOMBIAN RESTAURANT REVIEW

"Okay, hold on to your hats, this is a posh one. I’m going to be sitting in semi-darkness at a bum-smooth wooden bar in Mayfair with a glossy-haired chick, necking glasses of saké in front of a 10ft fire of juniper wood, white ubame and birch (or possibly oak, cherry, beech, apple or walnut, depending what’s in stock) harvested from protected UK wood farms (yup, wood farms), on which will be grilled or roasted or smoked, for my delectation, little slices of hand-dived this and line-caught that, huge tranches of wild the other and endless heaps of heritage how’s-yer-father, by a young Colombian chef dressed all in black, whose life story will be rolled out along the way, as it informs the evolution of each dish, and settling a bill for just the right side of two hundred quid, if you leave off the saké."—Giles Coren, "Humo," London Times (2/23/23).




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 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from amazon.com.



   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. 

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“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.




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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, thedailybeast.com

"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 Meal.com.

"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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