Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra in "High Society" (1956)
HAPPY V ALENTINE'S D AY!
DIVERSION MAGAZINE: To Read my article "The Year of the Pig" in the January/February issue of Diversion Magazine, click here.
CELEBRATES IN 2009 By Robert Mariani
10 FAVORITE ROMANTIC RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD by
NEW YORK CORNER:
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Navarra Wines Quickly Adapt to 21st Century Global Market by John Mariani
CELEBRATES IN 2009
In 2009, in conjunction with the anniversary of the birth of their national poet, Rabbie Burns, Scotland will be celebrating a year-long series of events under the heading of “Homecoming Scotland 2009.” It’s an open invitation to anyone with Scots’ ancestry or just an interest in things Scottish to visit and explore this land of myriad whiskies, ancient landscapes, great poets and thinkers, and creative cuisine.
No, that last is not a misprint. Anyone who still thinks of Scotland as simply the home of haggis and oatmeal will be surprised at the level and variety of food offered. Take the relatively new Dakota Hotel and Restaurant in Edinburgh, for instance. Lit from within and rising like a huge iridescent ice cube in the night sky, the Dakota offers handsome, modern accommodations and a restaurant (below) that was voted Scotland’s Best of the year in 2008. The menu adds some interesting variations on a number of standard dishes. For starters, in addition to things like steamed mussels in white wine and fish and shellfish soup, they offer a duck liver parfait with fig jam; or an appetizing squid salad with a tart dipping sauce. Basic entrées like steak tartare, fish and chips, and rib eye steak were contrasted with a hearty gnocchi dish accompanied by roasted tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
As elsewhere in the British Isles,
placing more emphasis on local food resources for freshness and flavor.
Nowhere is this more evident than at Edinburgh’s Farmers’ Market, a
series of 70 or so small tents and trailers set up in the shadow of the
imposing Edinburgh Castle in the heart of the city. Every Saturday
people stroll the cobblestone walkway, sampling and buying fresh
produce, eggs from free-range chickens, honey, cheeses, organic beers,
liqueurs, breads, chocolates and chutneys.
Located next door to the stately Edinburgh Castle is
the institution known as “The Scotch Whisky
Experience,” a good place to learn about the past history and present
state-of-the-art of Scotland’s most famous beverage. This museum is
presently undergoing renovation and will re-open this spring in
time for the Homecoming Year and will provide insights into the secrets
of the drink whose Scottish name, uisge beatha, means “the Water of
Ardeonaig, a Hidden Treasure
About another hour’s drive west from Loch Leven, on the
banks of South Loch Tay in the farm town of Perthshire sits the Ardeonaig Hotel and
Restaurant. There have been settlements in this
rustic area since prehistoric times— indeed, you can still see remnants
in the fields of ancient stone circles and rock markings that go back
many centuries. Early records show that there’s been an Inn at
Ardeonaig since at least 1649 when it was a stopover place for cattle
drovers on their way to market. As we pulled up to the little doorway
of the centuries-old hotel, a twilight dew was settling on
the mossy slate roofs. The only sound was the steady whisper of the
rapids that run alongside the inn and down into Loch Tay a few hundred
yards behind the Inn.
jaunt through Scotland
would be complete without frequent stops at local distilleries. The Aberfeldy
Distillery in rural Perthshire is where the well-known
Dewar’s Scotch is created. Dewar’s has been one of the most popular
Scotches in the U.S. for many years, and its heritage goes back to
when this brand was established by the enterprising Sir John Dewar.
Here you can taste the beautifully well-rounded flavors of Dewar’s
12-year old single malt as well as the complex Aberfeldy single malt,
which is seldom seen here in America.
Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery is
the ironic title of some Scottish novel. It’s the name of a small but
thriving restaurant franchise with three locations in Glasgow. The
quirky name is derived from the bingo call for 88. The restaurant where
we dined was at 652 Argyle Street. With its dark woods and stained
glass windows, it provided a cozy, Victorian setting for a
straight-forward, contemporary menu. The options were minimal:
Starters included soup of the day; squid, pancetta, mussel and radish
salad with bacon bits; or a mixed game stew.
Robert Mariani is a freelance writer
living in Bristol, Rhode Island.
10 FAVORITE ROMANTIC RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD
I don't think I've ever actually
taken my wife to a restaurant on St. Valentine's Day for the simple
reason that the restaurants are overrun with dewy-eyed couples
expecting things like a complementary glass of cheap Champagne, little
chocolate cakes in the shape of hearts, and a single red rose at
dinner's end--all for far more than a usual night out at the same
restaurant costs. But I do take her out sometime during the week
of St. Valentine's Day so that we can enjoy the time together without
any of the rigamarole attached to such a highly commercialized
feast. Here, then, are some of my favorite, most romantic
restaurants in the world--in no particular order--where I'd take the
woman I love any night of the year.
Azul, Miami--Brilliant design and
great fusion cuisine make this dining room looking out over the
brilliant blue water the most enchanting in the city.
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford,
CA--Sitting here on the terrace verlooking the vineyards of Napa Valley
and feasting on California cuisine and a daunting winelist makes this
the most romantic venue I know in northern California.
Montagna, Aspen--The fine
dining room at Aspen's Little Nell Hotel with a panorama on the Rockies
and ski slope here, this also has some of the finest cuisine, viua chef
Ryan Hardy, in the west.
Massachusetts--A 19th century mansion of remarkable and exquisite
design, Wheatleigh affords a candlelighted dinner overlooking
acres of New England greenery--or quiet snow in winter--with
deferential service rare in this country.
Ciragan Palace, Istanbul,
Turkey--The gorgeously appointed dining room here oversees the
Bosphorus in all its majestic, flowing beauty and you are serenaded by
the singing of prayers from the mosques while dining on
The Ritz Dining Room,
London--Over-the-top, effusively baroque and Edwardian decor and huge
windows on the green, the Ritz dining room, with its impeccable service
and live music is a rare enchantment of truye Btitish design.
Les Ambassadeurs, The Crillon
Hotel, Paris--Had Les Ambassadeurs only had its grandeur, its marble
and mirrors, gilt and murals, it would be breathtaking. Add to
that a panorama on the Place de la Concorde and exquisite cuisine,
widely spaced tables, and perfect service, and you cannot do better in
Ristorante, Venice--The Grand Canal before you, San Marco
behind you, wondrous Italian cuisine with real flair--you need more?
Cuneto-sul-Olio, Italy--An expaned farmhouse of complete charm with the
Santinit family taking care of your every wish and some of the finest
food and wine in Italy make this out-of-the-way place very very
480 Lexington Avenue
Rohini Dey and Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan opened the original Vermilion in
Chicago four years ago, I wrote in praise of a new and
exciting idea of combining the techniques of Indian and Latino
cuisines, which share many affinities, not least the chile pepper,
which got to India from the Americas some time in the 17th
century. These two beautiful Indian women also gave Chicago a
stunningly modern design, completely different from any other Indian
restaurant in America, which are always draped in paisley fabrics and
set with bronze statues of elephant gods. You find none of that here.
Vermilion is open for lunch Mon.Fri. and for dinner nightly. Appetizers
run $8-$14, main courses $22-$34. There are tasting menus at $70 and
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Wines quickly adapt to 21st century global market
On the heels of Ribera del Duero, Catalonia, and Rioja, Spain’s region of Navarra has very quickly leapt into the global market by capitalizing on its tradition of excellent garnachas and its willingness to adapt to more popular varietals like tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah. A tasting in New York last month of dozens of Navarra wines showed how fast the region’s viniculture has come since the 1990s when its wines had next-to-no international reputation or distribution. “It’s a region on the move,” said Robin Kelley O’Connor, director of sales for Sherry-Lehmann Wine and Spirits Merchants in New York. “They’ve discovered great terroirs; now all they need is a little patience to make great wines.”
This mountainous northern region, made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his novel The Sun Also Rises, ranges from the eastern Pyrenées to the edge of Rioja Baja, with Pamplona as its principal city. Today the region’s total wine production has reached 60 million litres from 18,000 hectares separated into five zones—Valdizarbe in the north central; Tierra Estella in the northwest; Baja Montaña in the Northeast, which makes the best rosados; Ribera Alta around the town of Olite; and Ribera Baja in the south.
For an article on visiting and dining out in Pamplona, click here.
According to Ana Laguna, wine
expert with the
Navarra School of Tasting, 70 percent of the region’s grapes are
indigenous—mainly tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, and mazuelo for the
reds, viura and moscatel de grano menudo for the whites—and 30 percent
international varietals. Ninety-four percent of the wines produced are
NEXT WEEK HE'S MIXING UP A NICE BATCH
OF FUNKY HITLER MARZIPAN
In NYC Ted Kefalinos, proprietor of Lafayette French Pastry, allegedly asked a customer, "Would you like some `drunken negro heads' to go with your coffee? They're in honor of our new president. He's following in the same path of Abraham Lincoln; he will get his." Later Kefalinos told a Fox news reporter, "I called them Drunken Negro Heads. What's the problem with that? On Inauguration Day I thought it would be cool to change the name to Obama Heads. I just changed it for the day." Kefalinos insisted that the cookie is "not unflattering. I think it's a fun face. And anyone who says anything else should be ashamed of themselves," insisting that he couldn't be a racist because "my brother-in-law, he's Cuban." People in the neighborhood called for a boycott of the pastry shop.
"I’m fed up with readers writing that I never go north of
Watford. This is the fourth review this year of a northern place. With
at least three more to come. I’m also fed up with readers telling me
I’m a name-dropper. So are you. You talk about the people you meet. Mrs
Betty Twiddle the shopkeeper, Elisa Birdwalk the lawyer, Rog Makepeace
the used-car dealer, Mr and Mrs Plod your neighbours. They’re names.
You drop them. I live my life among famous people. That I mention them
when recording my wanderings is no more name-dropping than
you."—Michael Winner, Sunday Times
(Aug 31, 2008).
Winner in his Christmas
* On Feb. 22 The Bistro Garden @ Coldwater in Studio City, CA, is holding a Gala Academy Awards Party with a glass of champagne followed by buffet. A ballot drawing for the winners offering dinner for 4 and more. $55 pp. Call 818-501-0202.
* In NYC, Cercle Rouge Brasserie introduces a Mon. night prix fixe of 3 courses for $25 and 25% off all wines. In addition, a selection of bottles will also be available at $25. Call .212-226-6252.
* In Boulder, CO, Laudisio
is opening its extensive wine cellar to the public, by way
of a monthly wine pairing, most with 5 courses and 6
wines. $60-$75 pp. Feb 23: " A Tuscan Evening.”
* In NYC, Chef Riccardo Buitoni, of Aurora Soho, will host a series of monthly, regional Italian culinary nights every Mon. His Piemonte, 3-course at $40 pp. incl. wine pairings. Call 718-388-5100 ; www.auroraristorante.com
* On March 5 in Austin, TX, The Driskill Grill will hold a ZD
Vineyards Wine Dinner & Fundraiser With 15% of fee going to the
Leuze Family Endowment for a Cure for Lymphoma. Chef Jonathan Gelman
will pair dinner with ZD wines yet to be released, reserves and
the Abacus Cabernet Sauvignon ’92-’07 solera blend. Regional
Sales Manager for ZD, Kendra Gillette, will host the dinner. $98
p. Call 512-391-7041.
* Beginning in March, Rancho
de San Juan between
Taos and Santa Fe, NM, will present 4 monthly “Passport
each representing a culinary destination: March 7 – Exotic India;
April 25 – Spicy Oaxaca, Mexico; May 30 –Viva La France; June 20 –
That’s Amore, Italy. One Passport for all 4 dinners is priced at $200
pp, single dinners are $65. Call 505- 753-6818 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.ranchodesanjuan.com.
*The Wine Road (formerly
known as The Russian River Wine Road) will be hosting its Annual
event, March 7-8 and 14-15, with over 100 wineries from the region.
opens its cellar doors, offering wine lovers a chance to meet with
winemakers, sample wines directly from the barrel, and purchase
“futures” at a 25-30% discount. Visit www.wineroad.com. $20 pp.
* Kiawah Island Golf
Resort will have Charlie Trotter host the opening
event of its March 13-15, “Gourmet & Grapes” food & wine event
to benefit the Medical U. of South Carolina Hollings Cancer
Center. Accommodations start from $2219 pp. Chef Expo Day
Passes $300 pp. A Sat. Lunch and Seminar Pass $125. Visit
www.kiawahresort.com or call 800-654-2924.
* Innovative Dining
Group of Los Angeles is offering 3- and 4-course dinners
ranging from $25 - $40 pp at incl. BOA Steakhouse; Sushi Roku, Sushi
Roku, and Katana. Visit www.sushiroku.com.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: European Airfares on Sale; Intrepid Travel and Their Very Affordable Adventures; Biking in style in Europe; Nicholas Lowry of Antiques Roadshow and The Art of the Ski Poster.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK: A Report on The Four Seasons Jackson Hole. Click on the logo below to go to the site.
Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!",
is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with
children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
All You Need to Know Before You Go
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.