Virtual Gourmet

August 27, 2023                                                                                           NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer in "The Fisher King" (1991)





By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani





By John Mariani

                                                                     GAGE & TOLLNER


         About ten years ago, when Brooklyn became trendy, with young couples moving there to avoid Manhattan rents (then soon finding they were paying the same), the borough met the need for more and more enticing restaurants in every neighborhood—Bensonhurst, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Carroll Gardens, Williamsburg and others. Many were part of ethnic enclaves already there; others were trattorias, sushi counters, even some tasting menu restaurants priced as high as any in Manhattan.          This so-called "restaurant renaissance" was ravenously covered by food media who lived in Brooklyn and suddenly found stellar storefronts and perfect pizzerias from Bushwick to Gravesend, while coining the ridiculous neologism “Brooklynization” to describe countless restaurants with brick walls, no tablecloths, loud music and “artisanal cocktails.”
         Yet Brooklyn has always had a vibrant restaurant scene, largely due to the enormous variety of ethnic communities that appealed to their own people who had begun to settle in the borough in the late 19th century. An amazing number still survive to this day; others were successful for more than half the 20th century.
      One restaurant guide of the 1930s listed Brooklyn as “Out of Town,” but happily included places like Restaurant Morilllon, known for its prime rib and Yorkshire pudding; Price’s Tavern for its fried chicken dinner; Schneider’s Lobster House for seafood. Lundy’s started as a pushcart in Sheepshead Bat, then was opened as a restaurant in 1926 by Irving Lundy, eventually expanding to an entire city black, with 2,800 seats, serving a million people a year. The menu was enormous, mainly seafood but just about anything anyone could want to eat—it was the Cheesecake Factory of its day. It closed in 1979.
      Of course, Peter Luger, in Williamsburg, is still famous as one of the great steakhouses of New York. Opened as a German restaurant in 1887, it is still considered one of the toughest reservations to come by in all of New York to this day, known for its nonpareil porterhouse (right), personally selected by the owners, the Forman family since 1950. To this day they only accept their own Peter Luger credit card or cold hard cash.
      Luger’s most famous competitor, still, is Gage & Tollner, opened in 1879 by Charles M. Gage, and though it went out of business at the turn of the 21st century, it was taken over by new owners three years ago and has been a huge success all over again, serving classic American fare.
      The neighborhoods for both Luger and G&T declined badly by the  1979s, so that diners who drove there would pay a few bucks to a local guy to watch their vehicles. The recent gentrification of those same neighborhoods changed all that.
      Of course, everybody’s heard of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs—you can find their franks in airport eateries and supermarket cases (it’s now a publicly traded corporation). The sprawling original in Coney Island debuted in 1916, selling hot dogs for a nickel. Its annual hot dog eating contest has grown in national interest every year. In 2023 perennial winner Joey Chestnut downed 62 dogs and buns in ten minutes, though that’s not even his personal best showing. 

      Junior’s (1950) advertised itself as having “The  World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake,” and few New Yorkers would disagree (right). It still serves what many think is the best New York cheesecake in any borough.  
Obviously, with so many Jews in Brooklyn the borough abounds in  bagel shops and delis, both Glatt kosher and non-kosher. Though most of the old-timers are gone, they’ve been replaced in more modern times with younger editions like Mile End, Frankel’s, Essen and Shelsky’s.
      Italian neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens and Red Hook teemed with long-lived places like Ferdinando’s Focacceria, opened in 1904, which has thrived for four generations, even after the Brooklyn Queens Expressway disemboweled the neighborhood.

      Gargiulo’s (right) opened in Coney Island in 1907 and expanded by the Russo brothers in 1965 to meet demand, serving up Neapolitan fare of imperial classic proportions with rarely an empty seat. Mick and Angelo Monte from Naples opened Monte’s in 1906 (which made it the oldest Italian restaurant in Brooklyn,now closed), with a Venetian décor that nodded to the nearby Gowanus Canal; Frank Sinatra  and Sammy Davis Jr used to sing in its Venetian Room (left), and the movie Prizzi’s Honor had a scene shot there.
      In Coney Island the lines still stretch out the door to get pizza at the century-old Grimaldi’s on Front Street and Totonno’s (1903), which closed in 2012 but was re-opened within a year by popular acclaim.       

      Bamonte’s in Williamsburg, opened in 1900 and known to viewers of the “Sopranos,” has a menu that has not changed in years and its red sauce is legendary. People still go for the opera floor show to Tommaso’s in Dyker Heights.
      Brooklyn’s main Chinatown is Sunset Park, home to vast dim sum parlors like Bamboo Garden (left) and East Harbor Seafood. The large Russian communities like Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay turn out for the extravagant meals at nightclub restaurants like Tatiana and Mednyl Chainik, chowing down on borsch, pelmeni, smoked salmon, caviar and beef stroganoff while drinking straight vodka.
      Meanwhile, the hipster new places come and go, changing from a taqueria to a vegan storefront. The old places endure for reasons that are entwined with Brooklyn’s long history, and the best of them are not going anywhere.




                                                                                   517 Lexington Avenue


                                                                                 By John Mariani

    The evergreen satisfaction provided by the traditional French bistro has never abated in New York, despite the food media’s neglect of the genre in favor of exotic eateries around town. The distinction between bistros and brasseries blurred years ago, though in Paris the latter still suggest Alsatian origins and specific dishes. Nevertheless, the 19th century brasseries of France always offered decorous touches widely copied to this day.
Brasserie Cognac, with two locations on the East Side of Manhattan (there had been a third on the West Side), happily borrows the look and feel of Parisian models like Lipp, Le Balzar and La Coupole, in their bright colors, gilt framed mirrors, globe lighting, soft banquettes, Toulouse Lautrec posters and a reasonable noise level (the tables to the rear are the quietest). The knives are Laguiole, there are pepper and salt mills on every table, and the menus are of a sensible size. Tablecloths would be an even more authentic touch.
      Restaurateurs Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato, who run the Serafina chain, break no culinary ground at Brasserie Cognac, which is as it should be. The menu features precisely the kind of dishes you expect and wish for, beginning with cheese-rich, hot gougère  pastry puffs ($12)—you get a generous eight of them—which are far superior to the warm but stale-tasting bread slices. There’s a summery tomato-and goat’s cheese tart tinged with thyme on puff pastry ($10).
      I’ve been noticing a return to favor of the French cheese soufflé (right), and Brasserie Cognac’s is near perfect ($28 as an appetizer, $34 as a main course), lavish with Emmenthal, Gruyère and Parmigiano cheeses, poofed up with ethereal lightness by egg whites. There’s also a cheese fondue ($35) for a table to share, a croque monsieur ($22) and a variety of egg dishes. I was surprised by the menu lacking a terrine or pâté; perhaps in the fall?
       Quintessential to a brasserie menu is onion soup gratinée  and Brasserie Cognac’s is a good one, though in need of better
caramelization of the onions to give it more sweetness and depth ($18).
       Among the main courses are more classics, including a hearty, well-
reduced  beef bourguignon  ($36) good for sharing, made from marinated, braised short ribs cooked with baby carrots, mushrooms and pearl onions, served with buttered mashed potatoes (left). Steak frites ($39) is made with grass-fed Angus beef, so it comes closer to its pleasantly chewy French cousin, and the frites are as good as you’d expect.
        Pardon the pun, but that old canard, duck à l’orange ($38) has made a welcome comeback at Brasserie Cognac, and the bird was juicy, cut into slices but, except for the slices of sweet confit of oranges, didn’t have much orange flavor, despite its addition of marmalade (right).
        Among seafood options are mussels marinière  in white wine and cream ($27), pan-seared scallops with an asparagus risotto ($40) and halibut (43), dressed with ponzu sauce, accompanied by mashed potatoes and baby bok choy, though that night the fish was somewhat overcooked (which certainly doesn’t mean it always is).
        You never skip dessert at a brasserie, and all the beloved ones are here, beginning with a perfect  île flotante (floating island) bobbing in vanilla-rich crème anglaise. The profiteroles ($14)—big fat ones—are packed with vanilla ice cream over which the waiter ceremoniously pours hot chocolate. Chocolate lovers will also enjoy the “Signature” cake with an airy almond joconde  sponge cake, pistachio and a chocolate mousse.     Having delighted in the cheese soufflé, we could hardly resist ordering a chocolate version ($18) that comes piping hot to the table to have crème anglaise poured into its center and given a further bonus of vanilla ice cream.
        Brasserie Cognac, for its contemporary liveliness and balance of French traditions meets the requirements for all who like change in small ways. 

Open for breakfast and lunch Mon.-Fri; dinner nightly; brunch Sat. & Sun.



By  John Mariani


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




       “Can we go to that pub around the corner to discuss?” she asked.
         “The one I just came from? Where I spoke with Chambers?”
         “He actually came to see you?”
         “Yeah, and he tried to seem so ‘teddilbly’ unconcerned by what I told him.”
         “Which was what?”
         “You first.”
         The two of them left the hotel and went around the corner to the pub, where the barman nodded to David as if he were now a regular.  David ordered a pint of lager, Katie coffee.
         Katie brought out her notebook and said, “I heard back from Tom Spollen, who turned up some stuff in his paper’s database about Pogue, and then from Boyer about Neame. It seems although there was never an obit about Pogue—nobody ever claimed he died—Spollen found an article done by a Guardian reporter who was in Russia about five years ago to research the former Soviet gulag prisons in Siberia.”
         “Weren’t they all closed by then?”
         “Yes, and one of them was named Perm-36 (above), which was finally closed in 1992. Then, believe it or not, it was turned into a Gulag Museum of Political Repression.”
         “Gotta put that on my list of places not to miss,” said David.
         “So, as part of his research the Guardian reporter went to the museum, which had thousands of photos of former inmates. Apparently millions had been imprisoned there over the years and a lot of them were worked to death.”
         “Yeah, the figures keep going up the more they find out,” said David.
         “Right, and that’s what the Guardian reporter was trying to find out. Anyway, as he was going along the wall of photos, many of whom were identified with nationalities, he saw one photo of a young man I.D.’d as ‘British,’ and the name was listed as ‘Nathan Poag.’”
         David said, “Shit, that must have been our man Jonathan Pogue. Was there any more information about him?”
         “The reporter was intrigued and asked, but his Russian was apparently not good enough to find out anything more. But the listing on Poag had a birth date but no death date. So at least as of five years ago he was likely to be alive.”
         “And the reporter published the story?”
         “No.  Spollen said it just didn’t work out to be a solid story and they didn’t want to just publish it as travel story to the Gulag Museum.”
         “Gee, I can’t imagine why,” said David.
         “But the data base at The Guardian still had the reporter’s article as he’d written it. The reason I didn’t find anything in the library files was because the story was never published. Plus, it had the spelling of Pogue’s name wrong.”
      “So, we don’t know if Pogue’s still alive or not. You gonna tell that woman Stinchfield about this?”
         “I really think I should. She deserves to know.”
         “Okay, but you may want to wait until I hear back from Chambers.  I think he might have something more on Pogue, as well as Neame, though he denied knowing either of the names.”
         David then told Katie all that had been discussed at the meeting with Chambers, including the sleight of hand with the recorder, which made Katie laugh loudly. Then speaking of the Capone case, "That little recorder has sure come in handy aside from recording information. But, aha, let’s not forget we don’t have the original recorder, so we don’t have what you told Chambers we had sent to Dobell.”
         “Like I told you, I’d never betray your confidence or lie on your behalf.  A bluff’s a bluff, a lie’s a lie.”
         David went on to tell her that he was sure Chambers would be getting back to him as soon as possible, and that she could claim him as an anonymous source.  Katie was all right with that.

                                                                   *                         *                         *


         Until they heard back from Chambers, Katie and David had little else to do but go over the information they’d gathered.  Katie had her notes photocopied and sent to her home address. David went over the archival material he’d gathered. Which left them with free time the next day to simply be tourists.
        David didn’t much care where they went. Tagging along with Katie suited him just fine, and Katie in her own way enjoyed being a kind of guide during their visit to the British Museum in the morning and the National Gallery, explaining the story of the Elgin Marbles at the former and commenting on a wide range of master paintings at the latter. In between they wedged in a quick lunch at the restaurant in the British Museum.
         There was nothing yet from Chambers, and Katie knew that Byron Dobell’s leash on her time abroad might be yanked soon, if she could not report further progress on the investigation, so she sent him a vague message about how there were substantial leads she and David were following up on and that they should have a report in a day or two.
         The next day David was contacted by Chambers, who asked to meet inside the British Museum’s Egyptian Department on the second floor, “next to the Rosetta Stone.”  David had to ask Katie what the Rosetta Stone was, and she told him it was a stone slab with a Pharaoh’s decree written in Ancient and Late Egyptian as well as in Ancient Greek.
         “It was discovered by a French soldier in 1799,” she said, “and it proved to be the key for deciphering Ancient Egyptian writing.”
         “That sounds like an appropriate place to meet,” said David. “Maybe Chambers will help decipher our little mystery.”
         “Should I come with you?”
         “Probably best he and I meet alone. But why don’t you wait for me near the museum? I’ll call you when I’m done. Can’t imagine it’s going to take very long. If Chambers has anything, it’s going to be short and sweet. And probably not written down.”
         “You want to use my recorder?”
         David laughed and said, “I think if he lays eyes on that thing he’ll walk the other way.”

       The meeting was set for 11 o’clock. 
        David entered the main entrance at Russell Square, asked where the Rosetta Stone was located and found Chambers looking up at the great statue of Ramesses II nearby. The MI6 officer had his overcoat on, suggesting this was not going to take very long. He glanced over to see David walking towards him, smiling very slightly. Chambers had his usual stone face on.
         “So,” David began, “I don’t suppose we’re here to admire the dead Pharaohs. Have anything for me?”
         “You gave me two names the other day, and I told you they rang no bells with me. But I was able to find out some information about both that may be of some help to you and Ms. Cavuto.”
         “Pogue first. First name is Jonathan, born in Manchester, went to university there and afterwards became a journalist. Seems he wrote for some of the better British newspapers and magazines but was never attached to any. Where he enters our files was in 1989, when he went to Moscow, presumably for a story on the city’s subway, but he apparently disappeared.”
         “So far, you’ve told me nothing I don’t already know. “
         Chambers did not respond but just went on, as if reciting a grocery list. “We, that is the Foreign Office, were contacted by his fiancée, a woman named —"
          “Peggy Stinchfield. Go on.”
         “Miss Stinchfield was worried about Pogue after not hearing from him in some time. The Foreign Office made the standard inquiries at our Embassy in Moscow but only became suspicious of foul play a few weeks later, when a report came in from a local that a young British man had been arrested and sent to a labor camp, but, of course, the Soviets denied it.               
     “Yes, he was sent to Perm-36,” said David.
     Chambers cleared his throat and said, “Mr. Greco, please tell me why I am standing here telling you things you already know? I don’t really think this meeting is to anyone’s advantage.”
         David shrugged and said, “Well, just go on with your story. I’ll let you know when I hear something new. Even if I don’t, you have corroborated what we already know. A solid second source.  Unattributed, of course.”
         Chambers went on. “We made our usual protests to the Soviets and found that Pogue had been making inquiries—much as you did—about Kim Philby. I don’t really know if he thought he was alive or not. This was not a case I was involved with. But it would have been consistent, back in 1989, that the Soviets would arrest such an individual and send him off to prison. Today, as you and Ms. Cavuto have shown, that simply would not happen. Today you’d have to commit a true crime, not just make some bureaucrat suspicious of your intentions.”
         “And you couldn’t do anything to get Pogue out after the fall of the Soviet Union a year later.”
         “I’m sure you can appreciate, Mr. Greco, that the fate of one British citizen during the upheaval of the entire Soviet system was not of much concern to anyone.”
         “Not even you?” asked David.
         “I can’t say it was a case we’d kept on our front burner at that time. We did, within a year or two, begin working with survivors like Kavalyov on cases that involved the exchange of imprisoned agents on both sides, and even those took a long time to conclude. Pogue was not one of our captured agents, so he was way down our list of priorities.”
         “So you just let him rot in Perm-36?”
         Chambers was becoming visibly irritated. “Let me ask you, Detective Greco, did you and your colleagues in the New York Police Department work night and day to obtain the release of people in your jails who you knew were probably innocent? People who did not fall within your purview, which I believe you said was focused on the New York mobs?”
         “No, I guess not,” David replied. “Sorry for the sleight. But we understand that Pogue finally did get out of prison and that he’s probably still alive.”
         “Yes,” said Chambers, “that we do know. When Perm-36 was finally closed, the Russians didn’t quite know what to do with people like Pogue. They didn’t want to just send him back to us with an apology, and they were perhaps embarrassed to have him hang around Russia. They told us where he was, but apparently he had no desire to return to the UK.  The last we know of him was that he moved to the Far East and became a correspondent for an English-language newspaper in Bangkok. And that’s about it.”
         David felt that Chambers probably had not had much, if anything, to do with the Pogue case, but sensed that MI6’s neglect of Pogue’s case was based on its fear that Pogue might have discovered the truth about Philby.
         “Can I assume, Chambers, that one of the reasons you didn’t pursue Pogue’s release was because MI6 was only too happy to have him off in Siberia, where he couldn’t speak about his finding Philby alive?”
         Chambers looked at his watch. “What I’m telling you was that Pogue was, shall we say, conveniently beyond our reach.”
         “And did Kovalyov ever speak to you about what Pogue had found out in Moscow?”
         “No, Mr. Greco, he did not. Apparently, some of my MI6 colleagues suspected as much but had nothing more to go on.”
         “And since then—Pogue was released five years later—Kovalyov never mentioned him?”
         Chambers raised his chin slightly. David thought he saw a stiff upper lip, too.
        “I can say this,” said Chambers. “I told you two days ago I had never heard the name Pogue. But when we were contacted by Kovalyov about Ms. Cavuto and your being sent back to London, he mentioned you were not the first to try to find Philby.”
         “Who Kovalyov insisted was dead.”
         “Yes, and he told us about the actors in the flat and Mr. Lentov. He never mentioned the name Pogue.”
         “Did he mention Joseph Southey in all this?” asked David.
         “You told me you would not bring up Mr. Southey again. I’m taking you at your word.”
         David knew he had played a weak pawn with that promise, but he figured, if Southey were not involved, Chambers would have just scoffed and said no. He hadn’t. David moved on to Harold Neame.
         Chambers said, “I’m interested as to how you came upon the name Harold Neame. Do you mind telling me?”
         “Frankly,” said David, “I just found his name among black marketeers after the war in Vienna in the official files stored out in Kew Gardens. Neame was listed as ‘whereabouts unknown.’”
         “And just why did you focus on his name? There must have been many others.”
         “I’m afraid that was just a process of narrowing down and elimination. Basic police vetting. He was also on the Americans’ black market list.”
         “And you think that this Harold Neame might be the inspiration, as it were, for Graham Greene’s Harry Lime?”
         “We don’t know yet. But with more info from you about him, maybe we can proceed.”
         “And you think you can find him where the British Military Police could not, back in Vienna?”
         “As you said, many escaped capture. So, do you know anything about Neame?”
         “Well, such activities and investigations were long before my time.  And I doubt if there’s anyone left at MI6, or anywhere else in the Foreign Office or Army, still around to shed any more light. What I was able to find is this: Harold Neame was a young British officer—born in 1925—who served in the medical corps during the war and was assigned to duty in Vienna after the war ended. He eventually resigned his commission and decided to stay in Vienna, where he came under suspicion of selling black market drugs.”
         “Like bad penicillin?”
         “That is not spelled out in the records. In any case—and this is interesting with regard to the Harry Lime figure—Greene seems to have known, or at least met, Neame in Vienna while researching the movie.”
         “How did you know that?”
         “Again, this is all from the files of the day,” said Chambers. “Since Greene had been in MI6 he had a few contacts left in Vienna who might have put him on to Neame.”
         “Even if Neame was under suspicion?”
         “MI6 at the time might not have known that. Neame would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the American and British Military police. He wasn’t, after all, a spy or double agent. Then again, with all the intrigue among Americans, British and Soviet sectors, the Soviets may have been protecting him for a while, telling their American and British counterparts to keep their hands off him.”
         “So, you’re suggesting Neame did not come under greater scrutiny till later, after Greene met with him?”
         “Either later, or right about that time. If Greene had used Neame as his inspiration, Neame must have already been a pretty shady fellow. “
         “So, when did Neame become a person of intense interest?”
         “Apparently, just before he escaped Vienna in 1949 or 1950.”
         “With the police hot on his trail?”
         “Apparently not. Neame was a low-level marketeer guilty of who knows what? If he had escaped with the Soviets’ help, good riddance.  At least that’s what I assume from this distance.”
         “So, there’s nothing more you can tell me about Neame?”
         “There were some notes on his name suggesting that he changed it and became involved in the pharmaceutical industry in Eastern Europe. Today he’d be, what, seventy-four years old? He may well still be alive.”
         David thought for a moment, then said, “I’m curious. If Neame were to be found alive somewhere in Eastern Europe, would there be any attempt to have him arrested or expatriated?”
         “Frankly, I have no idea. I suppose you’d have to ask Interpol.  MI6 never had anything to do with Neame’s case. The files I consulted were British Military. I’m sure the statute of limitations on black market activities in post-war Vienna ran out decades ago.”
         “What if he had been shown to have caused the death of people, maybe even children, as Harry Lime did?”
         Chambers pulled his coat closed and buttoned it, saying, “I’m afraid that’s what you and Ms. Cavuto will have to find out, won’t you?  And now, I have to be off. Pleasure meeting you, Mr. Greco.  I trust this is the last we shall see of each other.”         Those last words were spoken as a statement, not as a question.


John Mariani, 2016



By Geoff Kalish


        Late summer—from mid-August through roughly the third week in September, the fall equinox—is considered by some as a fifth calendar season, especially those of us residing in the Northeast. Daylight hours are shorter than earlier in the summer with the heat and humidity often lasting until bedtime. Salads, especially those focusing on tomatoes and cucumbers are frequently served and outdoor grilled fare are favored over stews, roasts and even broiled items. In wine, refreshing, crisp whites and lighter reds (perfect for sipping outdoors with light hors d’oeuvres or a full meal) are generally chosen over those with more depth. Some of these wines sure to please even the most sophisticated palate are discussed below.




2022 Round Pond Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($28)—Made of grapes sourced from the owner’s Rutherford Napa Valley estate that are grown in alluvial soil, the wine has a bouquet and flavor of peaches and lychee, with some grapefruit and lime its crisp finish. It’s ideal with grilled shrimp or  chicken.


2020 Ravines Dry Riesling ($20)—From a small family-owned winery on the shores of Lake Seneca in New York’s Finger Lakes region, this wine shows a floral bouquet and taste of tropical fruit and has a crisp dry finish that marries harmoniously with grilled branzino or trout, even pork chops.


2021 Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling ($13)—This wine from Mosel,  Germany, fills the bill for those who prefer their Rieslings with a bit of sweetness in their finish. It has a fragrant bouquet and taste of pineapple and lychee with a hint of lemon in its slightly sweet but zesty finish. It perfectly counterbalances the flavors of barbecued  ribs and even spicy sushi.


2021 Albert Bichot Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis ($35)—A great bargain for lovers of white Burgundy, this wine has a bouquet and taste of ripe pears and apples, with notes of herbs in its long smooth finish. Tuna tartare, and grilled swordfish mate well with this wine.




2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida Malbec ($18)—Certified organic grapes from Argentina’s Uco Valley (at the foot of the Andes Mountains) were used to make this Kosher, sulfite-free wine. It shows a bouquet and rich, elegant taste of ripe cherries and raspberries, with a hint of cranberry in its finish. Very versatile, it makes great accompaniment for duck, roast chicken as well as grilled tuna and a good choice for those who want to serve a kosher wine for the Jewish High Holy Days.


2020 Fattoria Luiano Chianti Classico ($23)—Made of a blend of 90% Sangiovese,  5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon fermented in stainless steel and aged in a combination of stainless steel and wooden barrels for nine months, this wine shows a bouquet and taste of ripe plums, with hints of raspberries and herbs in its long smooth finish. Mate it with ribeye or porterhouse steaks or veal chops.


2022 Cos Frapatto ($30)—This wine was produced using organically grown grapes from vineyards just outside the southwestern Sicilian town of Vittoria. Fermentation was conducted in cement tanks and the wine was aged for nine months prior to bottling. Its bouquet and taste are reminiscent of a top-flight French Beaujolais, with a fresh plummy bouquet and taste, with notes of strawberry in its finish. It’s ideal to serve with grilled lamb chops or skirt steak.


2018 Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon ($48)—To make this wine, sustainably farmed, hand-harvested grapes from Oakville and Rutherford vineyards were fermented and aged in a combination of French and American oak for 18 months before bottling. It has a bouquet and taste of cassis and cherries and a finish with hints of chocolate, great with grilled lamb or ribeye steak.

Dr. Geoff Kalish is a food and travel writer who lives in Mount Kisco, NY.  




"Strap them kids in, give 'em a lil bit of vodka in a cherry Coke, we're goin to Oklahoma."—James McMurty “Chocktaw Bingo”





 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.


If you wish to subscribe to this newsletter, please click here:

© copyright John Mariani 2023