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  June 11, 2023                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

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"Beach Figures" by Wayne Thiebaud (1991)






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. June 14 at 11AM EDT,I will be interviewing Krystyn Silver about the Hudson Valley's LYNDHURST MANSION. Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.


Au Revoir, Farewell to  Colin Field, The World’s Greatest Barman

By John Mariani



         No, no, Colin Field hasn’t gone to heaven’s gate. At 62, he is alive, well and eager to get on with his life after 29 years as barman extraordinaire at The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
        I readily agree with my colleagues at Forbes that Field is the best barman in the world, as has Travel & Leisure, and the London Times dubbed him “legendary.” Why he has accrued such accolades is evident in his own words from his book
The Ritz Paris: Mixing Drinks, A Simple Story (2010), which is as much history and lore as it is a guide to making perfect cocktails.
      “While cocktail bartenders of the past used to only speak when spoken to, today’s bartender must be both a showman and a host. He must create the moment and keep the show running, just like the host at the Oscars,” Field wrote. “He must be generous with himself and his own life and offer a divertissement to his clients through his personal experiences, stimulating conversation and interaction. They can thus voluntarily forget their own problems and jump inside a ‘second life’ for the time that they are with him.”
          All credit is due Warwickshire-born Field for being the prime mover (and shaker) behind the creation of The Hemingway Bar, which didn’t exist until
August 25, 1994—coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Paris, when war correspondent Ernest Hemingway and French Resistance fighters “liberated the Bar at the Ritz” from German soldiers. 
After the war, the space was called Le Petit Bar, whose clientele included Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman, JFK, Noël Coward and Truman Capote. But the bar was closed in the 1970s, and an attempt by the hotel’s new owner, Mohamed Al Fayed (below), to re-launch it as the Hemingway Bar in 1979 foundered because it seemed gimmicky and needed an on-premises personality to give it a real vitality.
         Enter Colin Field, whose interest in bartending dated back to when he was a teenager in awe of the sophistication of Paris upon a schoolboy’s trip to the city.  He even then applied for a barman’s position at The Ritz, which cordially told him he’d need a good deal more experience in life and service. Field set out to gain all that, working at several bars in the city before applying again for a job at The Ritz. He was at the right place at the right time, when Al Fayed re-launched the bar, and it was Field’s experience as well as his knowledge of Hemingway and literary Paris that got him the job,
        Field, who soon became so popular that he was working until 2 a.m., also collected Hemingway memorabilia, like one of the author's typewriters, for the small room, and he began perfecting the kinds of classic cocktails, including the Hemingway daiquiri, that garnered hm a reputation for professional excellence. (He was the first bartender to be included in France’s Who’s Who in 2011. )
       After a while everyone who was anyone, and just about everyone else, made a bee-line to the little bar at the rear of The Ritz, and Field himself had become like a character in one of Hemingway’s novels. In the days before cell phones the bar operated as a place people could make and receive phone calls, and some left mail for friends, knowing that sooner or later they’d be in for a drink.
      Even though the hotel was closed from 2012 to 2016 for total refurbishment (Field traveled around the world as a bibulous ambassador of The Ritz) and during Covid, the Hemingway Bar re-opened and Field arrived at work in his white jacket and black bow tie, set out the tools of his trade, polished the bar and was as ready as ever to serve a regular clientele who appeared in droves. That clientele included several James Bond actors, and model Kate Moss donated vintage typewriters to the décor.
      I am one of those for whom a trip to Paris without heading for The Hemingway Bar is unthinkable, and on one occasion, when I found Colin was not working that night, I was crestfallen and turned on my heels to head over to nearby Harry’s New York Bar on the Rue Danou for its signature bloody Mary. (For years Colin and I have argued over the origins of the drink, which I insist originated at Harry’s during Prohibition). I always used to precede my entering the Hemingway Bar by having a friend go first to hand Colin my card, on which is printed my daiquiri recipe, as Palladin used to do on “Have Gun Will Travel.”
         I asked Colin this week about his plans, and he told me, “A
ctually, this was my way of getting out of the Ritz to start doing things that are creative and fun. I always dreamed of working at Maxim’s, so I did that ten days ago. Tomorrow, I have a fashion event at the Palais Galliera, and I am in talks for a week on a Monaco yacht week and then at Formula 1. So I’m really enjoying myself. Oh, and I’ll be working in November in the new boutique hotel in the Marais called Maison Proust.” Eventually, he plans to open a guesthouse outside of Paris.
         Now I’m not sure what I’ll do when next in town. I will, of course, be interested to see if the newly appointed bar woman, Anne-Sophie Prestail (right), Field’s deputy, can bring the special savoir-faire needed for the job, for one cannot overestimate the wry British wit that Colin brought so effortlessly to the job. It won’t be easy for Madame Prestail, for The Hemingway Bar was never about the drinks or even the memorabilia. Field was totemic, in the way that Harry’s Bar in Venice (unassociated with the Harry’s in Paris) is when Arrigo Cipriani is there. The Ritz without Field is like a Jason Bourne movie without Matt Damon. Fans may forever debate which actor was the best 007, but there’s no doubt that Colin Field embodied a place whose woodwork seems ingrained with his spirit. 
So, his fans and I are not really saying goodbye to Colin Field. Indeed, I am reminded of the lyrics every Brit has taken to heart since World War II, when Vera Lynn sang,
“We’ll meet again, Don’t know where, don’t know when, But I know we’ll meet again, Some sunny day.”




16 West 29th Street
By John Mariani



      Austrian restaurants have never had a large presence in New York, and a few have come and gone. I am, therefore, delighted that the latest iteration comes via a superb Austrian chef named Markus Glocker, previously at Bâtard, who refines traditional dishes in elegant ways that only Kurt Gutenbrunner has achieved over twenty-three years at his Wallsé in the West Village.  Glocker has a command of technique that invests every traditional dish, from asparagus soup to Wienerschnitzel, and the restaurant’s design and décor evokes the Vienna Secession art movement, one of whose leaders was Koloman Moser, who opened the Wiener Werkstätte workshop; that's his self-portrait at left. 
      The premises were most recently The Breslin, which had an English tavern cast. Now, with two floors, gas lamps, geometric-patterned wallpaper and a huge clock, Koloman has the handsome ambience of a Viennese café on the Ringstrasse. The difference is that the crowd here insists on being twice as loud as in a similar venue in Vienna, so try to get one of the booths towards the rear, near the kitchen.
      The menu is of sensible size, with twelve appetizers and ten entrees. At a time when many restaurants are now charging for bread and butter, Koloman does not, instead sending out freshly baked breads of poppy seed rolls and sourdough bâtard with cultured butter, all of which mate splendidly with the rest of the food here. But by all means get the puffy gougères laced with bergkäse (mountain cheese) and red wine shallots ($15) that are as sumptuous as anything on the menu, not least when paired with the luscious duck liver parfait with sweet kracher wine gelée ($25), even though it comes with its own toasty brioche bread. 
Boeuf  tartare studded with oxtail and tongue ($26) is a pleasant alternate to one made entirely of beef, and the chilled asparagus soup with  mussels escabeche and a savory sable ($24) is as good an introduction to summer as anything you could eat this month. Correction on that: At the moment—though only while they last—Marchfeld Spargel white asparagus from the Marchfield Valley near the Danube River come with a ramp sabayon, red endive, and sourdough bread ($36).
      Do I sense a return to restaurants of the cheese soufflé? If Glocker’s marvelous version is any indication, it really should be on other’s menus, made with Pleasant Ridge Reserve (an American Alpine-style cheese), aged cheddar and a mushroom jam to be spooned into the center ($29). At this price, however, it is not a very large portion, more a titillation than wholly satisfying. A more ample agnolotti packed with rutabaga and springtime morels come in a lovely mahogany-colored, intense broth ($29).
      And so we come to the butter-fried Schnitzel “Viennoise” ($38), which on its own is as good as any I’ve had in Vienna, but enhanced with creamy potato salad, cucumber, lingonberries, and sea buckthorn. Poached halibut is a nice light dish ($48) with spring garlic, cannellini beans and charred broccoli that gives it a pleasing smokiness.
      You might expect that “salmon en croûte” would come wrapped in a coat of pastry, but at Koloman it comes as a dainty looking cake of pastry  sheets and thickly sliced salmon with green parsley-scallop mousse, with pickled cucumber, a little red roe, sunchoke and a gorgeous beetroot-beurre rouge ($51). I don’t know why Glocker flies his salmon in all the way from Australia, but it does havebetter flavor than most farm-raised brands. Well-cut slabs of rose-colored, crisp skinned roasted duck breast enjoy the sweet tang of oranges, braised celtuce and crispy einkorn grain ($49).      
Austria’s desserts had enormous influence on European pastry-making, and it becomes clear why when you taste
Emiko Chisholm’s updated classics ($15) that include an apple-rich, not-too-sweet apple strüdel dotted with rum raisins and toasted hazelnuts and a dollop of frozen buttermilk.  Duck eggs add to the usual richness of crème brûlée, with the added appeal of caramelized pineapple and mint, while the epitome of Austro-Hungarian goodness is evident in her rendering of the Esterhaźy Torte (named after Austrian Prince Paul III Anton Esterházy de Galántha) with an almond and  hazelnut sponge cake and lemon verbena sherbet.
My favorite of all is simply called on the menu “Soufflé for two,” but its more evocative name is Salzburger Nockerl, which is that charming city’s version of our baked Alaska. With some lingonberry jam and rum-laced vanilla ice cream, this is a guilty pleasure, mostly meringue fluff but a dessert to make everyone smile.
         Beverage Director Katja Schnargl, last seen at Le Bernardin, together with three sommeliers, has put together a balanced wine list with a proud number of the best Austrian bottlings of varietals like Grüner-Veltliner Blaufränkisch and Furmint. There is an admirable number of half-bottles, too.
         Reading my descriptions you can tell that Glocker and Chisolm are always adding little extras to each dish, something surprising but always providing more flavor and texture. As noted, Austrian cuisine is hardly ubiquitous in New York, and Austrian cuisine of this high order is not found anywhere in the city except at Koloman.



Since Koloman is adjacent to a hotel, it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.


By  John Mariani





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


“I don't care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations ... I don't think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren't there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?” ― Graham GreeneOur Man in Havana



    The Americans parted with Rufina Philby, thanking her for the tea and for helping to set up the meeting. She retained the same slightly sour look on her face as when they’d first met. She looked worn down and resigned, rather than overly concerned about what would happen to her when her husband died.
         “I wish you two luck finding your Harry Lime,” she said. “It is time to put to rest that ghost in my husband’s life before he himself goes to the grave.  My husband was many things, both good and not very good, but he was not the kind of man Harry Lime was. And, if this man Neame is anything like Lime, then I hope you can bring him to justice.”
         Katie and David exited the apartment building and began walking towards the Metro. The air was much colder now.
         At the end of the block they took a right and were confronted by the same two students they’d asked directions from two days before.
         Katie and David expressed wary surprise to see them again, and thanked them for their help.
         One of the students asked, “Did you see the person you came to see?”
         “As a matter of fact we did,” said Katie. “It went pretty well.”
         Both men nodded, then the one who spoke English said, “Yes, well, I am afraid you will have to come with us to answer some questions,” opening his coat and showing some kind of official’s badge.
         David braced himself and said, “And who the hell are you?”
         “We are with Moscow security. We have orders to bring you  to our office.”
         Katie looked at David, frightened; he put his hand on her arm.
         “You’re charging us with some crime?” he asked, eyeing the two men up and down to see if they might be carrying guns. He couldn’t tell under their heavy coats.
         “No, no,” said the young man. “We were just asked to bring you to our superiors for a few questions. It should not take very long.”
         David said to Katie that they should cooperate, then to the men, “I’d like to contact the American Embassy first.”
         “I’m sure that can be arranged when we get to our office,” using his gloved hand to show the way. “It is ten minutes from here.”
         Katie suddenly recalled how, two days before, the same man had said he was going to the “University of New York” rather than New York University and realized that mistake should have tipped her off that something was amiss.
         A black unmarked Mercedes was at the end of the block. Katie and David were put in the rear seats. There was no divider between the rear and the front and no driver.  David quietly tried to open the windows to no avail, locked from the driver’s side, and indicated to Katie she should not say anything. The doors were locked too.
         “I think you should know I am a retired New York City police detective,” said David, eliciting no response. The two Russians stayed silent, one in the driver’s seat, the other to his side. 
A very light snow began falling and the sky was quickly turning dark, causing the street lights to come on.  The car turned out of the neighborhood’s quiet, narrow streets onto
Tryveskaya Boulevard. They drove several blocks, past the Pushkin Theater before turning right, going past the Bolshoi Theater (right), then left to Lubyanska Square. The car stopped outside a large, block-long building five stories high on which the sign read “Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации.” This was the headquarters of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (below), which under the Soviets had been called the KGB.
         Two uniformed guards opened the car’s doors, helped Katie and David from the back seat and followed the party of four to a side door of the huge building.  Katie tried to look calm but was slightly shaking.  David had his arm around her shoulder and patted it, saying, “Don’t worry. We’re American citizens who haven’t broken any laws. Let me do the talking.”
         Katie whispered, “I thought the Cold War was over.”
         “That’s why we’re going to be all right,” said David. “These guys are not Soviets. They got rid of the thumbscrews a long time ago.”
         Katie looked at David, hoping he was joking, and he smiled and said, “Trust me. They just want to know what we were doing talking to a dead man.”
         They were led through a barren yellowish hallway with a high ceiling and buzzing fluorescent lighting. Their footsteps echoed. At about the sixth office on the left the men who brought them there opened the door to reveal a small outer room with two identical desks with two middle-aged women at computers. The Russians announced themselves and the Americans’ names.  One of the women stood up and asked Katie for her handbag, saying, “Is your passport in your bag, Madame?” Katie said yes and handed it over.  “I shall give it back to you when you are finished here.”
         A door to a larger room opened, wherein they were greeted by four other men, one of them standing behind a desk, dressed in an olive green military uniform with at least a dozen medals on his chest; the other three were in badly fitting dark suits and ties. The room had little else but four chairs, a file cabinet, some official documents hanging on the walls, and the white, blue and red flag of the Russian Federation in the corner.
         The man behind the desk was well over six feet, stocky and overweight, with wiry white hair. No one spoke until he did, then he dismissed the men who brought the Americans in. 
“Welcome,” he said, without a hint of a smile. His accent was thick but his English wholly understandable. “Miss Cavuto? Mr. Greco? Please sit down.  I am Colonel Nikolai Kovalyov, director of internal security (right). I hope this will not be too unpleasant for you.  It should not take very long.”
         David wanted to show a strong front, saying, “I think I’d prefer to stand. I’d like to know why we were brought here against our will. And I’d like to speak with the American Embassy before we speak to you.”
         “Mr. Greco—or should I address you as Detective Greco, out of respect?”—clearly the Russian knew exactly who the two Americans were. “You have not been arrested, you are not being accused of a crime, so please let us just have a little talk and you can go home. Okay?”
         David said nothing, noting that Katie seemed a little calmer now.
         Kovalyov again asked the Americans to please sit down, which they now did, and proceeded to ask what they had been doing visiting an apartment in that particular neighborhood. Did they have friends who lived there?   
David was well aware that Kovalyov knew very well why he and Katie had been there and said so straightaway. 
“I’m pretty sure you know who we went to see, Colonel.”
         “Yes, of course we do. You were trying to see someone you believed was Kim Philby, the British double agent who betrayed his country.  And you did see him?”
         David nodded.
         “And what was the reason you were so interested in this man?”
         Katie glanced at David for permission to speak and said, “I’m a journalist for an American magazine named McLure’s”—Kovalyov nodded once, showing he knew that, too—“and I have been researching a story about the British author Graham Greene.”
         “Who wrote The Third Man,” said the Russian official matter-of-factly. “And you came to Moscow to find out if Kim Philby was the inspiration for the character of Harry Lime.”
         Katie said they did. Kovalyov seemed to sigh at the thought. He sounded almost bored by the idea.
         “It’s an interesting question,” he said. “I have seen the movie, but it takes place in Vienna after the war.  Why would you think Mr. Philby had anything to do with that character?”
         Realizing that Kovalyov was probably not interested in her research on the subject, Katie said that she was not the first person over the past fifty years to link Harry Lime with Kim Philby and that, as a journalist, she was simply following leads.
         “But, of course, you are aware that Kim Philby died several years ago and is buried here in Moscow.”
         Katie said she’d received information that that wasn’t true and that he was still living in the same apartment he had for many years. 
“And who was your source for that information?” asked the Russian.
         Katie suddenly had a vision of those thumbscrews David had joked about. David interjected, “Two things, Colonel: First, you know that as an American journalist she cannot reveal secret sources, and, second, let me remind you again that we are American citizens and don’t have to speak to you at all.  You already said we are not under arrest.”
         Kovalyov breathed deeply and shook his head, then said, “What if I told you I am just trying to spare you time, money and embarrassment?  For you see, the man you spoke with at the flat is not Kim Philby.  And that woman who lives there is not his wife.”
         Katie and David’s minds were racing, with flashes of the Philbys’ faces, the look of the apartment, the books on the shelves.  How could it not have been the Philbys?  How could an imposter know all the things he’d told them? 
“I’m afraid your information was incorrect,” said Kovalyov.  “And it was given to you on purpose.  And I believe the name Leonid Lentov may mean something to you?  Oh, I know, I know you cannot tell me that, but it is a good guess on my part, no?” Katie and David remained silent.
         The Russian went on to say that Leonid Lentov was well known to his office as a double agent who had worked for the British a very long time ago.
         “He is a pitiful man,” said Kovalyov, “and he is a man desperate to seem in some way—what is the word, aktual’nost’?”  His assistant answered: “Relevant.”
         “Yes, relevant. All these old spies and double agents want their story told—Philby told his, you know, before he died. To do so during the Cold War was very dangerous. But now we are all friends and no one cares about what happened so many years ago. Now everybody just believes in James Bond, who stopped spying on us Russians in his last few movies, eh?  And to think that an old cat like Lentov would try to in some way capitalize on a dead man’s famous name! It’s. . . zhalkly.”  The assistant said, “Pathetic.”
         David wanted to give nothing away and didn’t believe Kovalyov, trying to figure out why he would deny the existence of Philby as the man in the apartment.
         “Well, if that’s true, Colonel,” asked David, “then who is the couple in that apartment?”
         “Would it offend you if I told you that you were not the first journalists who have come to Moscow over the last five years after ‘finding’ Kim Philby?  The people who took over that flat when Philby died are actors who saw they could make a little money by fooling people like yourselves, and people like Lentov knows them and makes a little money, too.”
         “We didn’t offer them any money,” said Katie,
         “Many others do,” said the Russian, tapping a manila file on his desk. 
“But we haven’t seen any stories published like that,” said David.
         Kovalyov put his hands to his cheeks and said, “No, and that is because we have persuaded them not to publish them.  We say they have been fooled, most of them leave, with a little less money in their pockets than when they came to Moscow.”
         Katie asked, “Then why don’t you arrest these people living in Philby’s apartment?”
         “Why bother? They are harmless, just actors doing a good job of acting.  The one who plays Philby is actually British, I believe.  He married the woman, who is Russian, and lived here ever since.”
         Kovalyov rose from his chair to his full, looming height, and said, “Well, then, I hope I have been of some service to you both, and I am glad you did not give any money to the fake Philbys.  And we have arranged for you to be driven to the airport tomorrow for your flight back to—I believe it is London on the ten o’clock flight?”
         Katie said, “Thank you, but we actually are not due to leave Moscow for another three days on our visa. We hoped to see more of the city, perhaps go to an opera or a ballet at the . . .”
         Still smiling, Kovalyov interrupted her and spoke slowly. “Yes, well, we have arranged for you to leave tomorrow. Your business visa is no longer valid now that you have finished your work here. If you were to stay three more days without a visa, then you would be committing a crime and you could be arrested. But, I thank you for coming in, and I wish you a good flight home.”
         Kovalyov did not extend his hand to say goodbye. The door opened and in came the two young men who had brought the Americans to the  office.  They were escorted back to the car and driven back to their hotel in silence.  The snow was coming down harder now. As Katie exited the car she snapped, “Hope you enjoy your studies at the University of New York.”  The man did not look at her but just drove away.
         Katie and David wanted to get back to their room before discussing anything, but when they asked for their keys, the man at the front desk said, “I see you will be checking out early tomorrow instead of staying for the next three days?  And that your transportation to the airport has been arranged already to leave our hotel at seven a.m. Is there anything else you will need this evening?”
         Katie and David said no and took their keys.



John Mariani, 2016




By John Mariani


         According to spirits authority Fred Minnick, about 37% of whiskey drinkers (Scotch, Irish, bourbon, rye, etc.) are women, double the number than in the 1990s. So a “What to Give Dad for Father’s Day” story is little more than a hook to do a round-up of so-called “brown goods.” Still, the market is now so flooded with premium booze, it takes more than an annual look-see to do justice to what’s out there right now. Here are some I’ve found of particular interest. (There are now so many new bourbons on the shelves, I’ll treat that liquor in another article.)


ROYAL SALUTE 21-YEAR-OLD JODHPUR POLO EDITION ($160)— Royal Salute got its name in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned— she received a 21-gun salute—and it was made in her honor by Scotland’s oldest distillery in Strathsia. This is the fifth release in its Polo Collection, celebrating the whiskey’s longstanding affinity with the “Sport of Kings,” this one named after the Blue City of Jodhpur, India, birthplace of modern polo. Crafted by master blender Sandy Hyslop, with whiskies at least 21 years old, it has appropriate spiciness (through added spices), fully finished in virgin oak casks.



GLENGOYNE 15-YEAR-OLD HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT SCOTCH ($130)—Glengoyne, which dates back to 1820 at Burnfoot Farm, proudly says it is “Scotland’s slowest distilled single malt whisky,” and this new iteration is matured in bourbon and sherry casks that help bring out the sweetness and oaky edge. It is a smooth Scotch, but has a lingering finish that it not too biting, at 43% alcohol. Up until Father’s Day, you can even get your bottle engraved.


HARLEM STANDARD STRAIGHT WHISKEY($39)—This blended whiskey was “born in Harlem [NY] and blended in Kentucky,” although it’s actually distilled in Lawrenceville, Indiana, before blending and bottling in Bardstown, Kentucky. Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance during Prohibition, Harlem Standard donates a portion of proceeds to the Jazz Foundation of America’s COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund. It is a blend of 45% alcohol light whiskey from 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% barley malt and rye bourbon, aged three years. It is currently available only in New York stores and top restaurants like Marea and Benoit. 


LA MARIELITA 18-YEAR-OLD RUM ($60)—As the story is told, Cuban-born Janet Diaz-Bonilla, an award-winning screenwriter and director, wrote a screenplay titled La Marielita, whichstimulated her entrepreneurial spirit” to undertake creating a rum  by the same name. In Panama she met renowned Cuban Maestro Ronero (rum maker) Francisco José “Don Pancho” Fernández Pérez and they collaborated. The labels are always colorful paintings by Humberto Benitez (right). It is distilled in Las Cabras de Pesé, Panamá. Its alcohol is 40%, yet it is a full-bodied rum made for sipping straight or on the rocks.


TEELING IRISH WONDERS OF WOOD  ($100)—This is Teeling’s second release in the Wonders of Wood series of Single Pot Still Irish whiskey, triple distilled in Dublin, then matured in virgin Portuguese oak barrels. The name comes from Jack Teeling’s commitment that each bottle purchased will aid the Tree Council of Ireland in the reforestation of a designated area of woodland with exclusively native Irish trees. The first edition of the series won 2022 World Whiskies Awards as the World's Best Single Pot Still. Its 50% alcohol packs a punch, but it also has a characteristic Irish whiskey softness on the palate.

NIKKA YOICHI SINGLE MALT 10-YEAR-OLD ($175)—No one any longer debates the high quality of Japanese whiskies made along the lines of Scotch and other spirits, and Nikka has achieved the distinction of being named in 2022 one of Japan's "Important Cultural Properties.” The Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old comes from the Yoichi Distillery founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru near Hokkaido’s coastline, whose salty air lends a fine briny character to it. Having previously removed age statements from its bottles, this is a return to competition with its rival Suntory, and it is already soaring in price well above SRP. Bottled at 45% alcohol.



REDWOOD EMPIRE WHISKEY—This California limited-edition, straight-from-the-barrel cask-strength, uncut bottling was a big hit when it debuted last October, and fans have been awaiting its release for this year. Offerings have been highly praised by both the press and consumers. Redwood Empire Whiskies include three offerings: Pipe Dream Bourbon, Emerald Giant Rye, and Lost Monarch, a whiskey blend of Bourbon and Rye. Established only in 2015, the distillery’s stocks were first placed in glass barrels, but they now own the largest rick house (stacking facility) of oak barrels in the state. All of its grains are from California, and its water comes out of the Russian River. Prices in the company’s website are oddly all over the place, with a bottle of Lost Monarch Blend offered for between “$29.99 - $50.59” (on-line stores sell it for about $35) and availability is iffy.

PAPA’S PILAR RYE-FINISHED RUM ($50). Based in Key West and inspired by the intrepid Ernest Hemingway’s life, Pilar’s distillery has a range of rums from different countries. Their newest is Master Distiller Ron Call’s blend of its dark rum together with others from Barbados, Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela and Florida, bottled at 43% alcohol. It has a richness and depth, with a discernible caramel flavor favored by those who like dark rums with  bittersweet

OLD POTRERO STRAIGHT  RYE ($90)—Only 6,400 bottles have been released in the U.S., which means the price might spike higher for this  100% Straight Rye Sherry Cask Finish, selected by Master Distiller Bruce Joseph. The bottle is currently available at select retailers in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Minnesota. Old Potrero, founded by Fritz Maytag, who owns Anchor Brewing, is credited as being the first American Craft Whiskey to hit the market since Prohibition, and it was re-launched last year with three limited expressions. Aged eight years and three months, the Straight Rye  is 64.95% alcohol. The Old Potrero Port Cask Finish ($90) is aged in extra fine grain American oak and finished in French Oak Port casks. The mash of 100% malted rye is fermented for four days and then double distilled in traditional copper pot whiskey stills.




A funeral parlor named Go As You Please Funerals in Edinburgh, Scotland, is offering its customers coffins with designs of a Greggs sausage roll, a pint of Tennent’s lager or a can of Irn-Bru.  “We’re absolutely not making fun of death,” he said. “This is something that each and every one of us are going to face, which is why we try to get people to talk more about it. We don’t laugh at death — it’s sad, people are grieving. But we also believe that there can still be things to laugh and smile about."


 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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