➔ QUESTIONS? TO REACH JOHN MARIANI
RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA 2009 by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Champagne in All Its Bubbly Variety, Part I by Brian Freedman
ESQUIRE'S BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA 2009
by John Mariani ➷
To make the list, a restaurant must:
1. Have opened after September 2008.
2. The restaurant cannot just be a relocation or new décor with the same chef.
3. The restaurant cannot be a branch of an original restaurant somewhere else.
4. The Chef must be a working chef, not one who merely puts his name on the door and rarely visits.
5. A distinctive style of food separates very good restaurants from innovative ones.
6. Atmosphere and comfort count far more than dazzling décor.
7. Prices should reflect the quality of food, décor, and service.
8. A wine or beverage list should reflect the kind of cuisine the restaurant serves.
➔ Here, then, are the winners for 2009 (in alphabetical order), followed by 4 Chefs to Keep Your Eye On and an added bonus this year--15 More Great New Restaurants You Don't Want to Miss.
AREA 31--The Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; 866-781-9924; Chef John Critchley.
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR: BAZAAR, SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, 465 South La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-246-5545; . Chef/owner José Andrés. (right).
THE BEDFORD POST INN--954 Old Post Road, Bedford, NY; 914-234-7800; . Chef Brian Lewis.
CHEF OF THE YEAR: BARTON SEAVER of BLUE RIDGE--2340 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC; 202-333-4004.
BOTTEGA--6525 Washington Street, Yountville, CA; 707-945-1050; Chef/owner Michael Chiarello. (left)
CORTON--239 W Broadway, NYC; 212-219-2777; Chef/owner Paul Liebrandt.
L’ALBATROS BRASSERIE & BAR--11401 Bellflower Road, Cleveland; 216-791-7880; Chef/owner Zachary Bruell. (right)
LEMAIRE--The Jefferson Hotel, 101 West Franklin Street, Richmond; 804-649-4644; Chef Walter Bundy.
LOCANDA VERDE--379 Greenwich Street, NYC; 212-925-3797; Chef Andrew Carmellini/Owner.
MAREA--240 Central Park South, NYC; 212-582-5100; Chef /owner Michael White.
NOPALITO--306 Broderick Street, San Francisco; 415-437-0303; Chef/Owners Allyson and Laurence Jossel.
PACCI RISTORANTE--866 W Peachtree Street, Atlanta; 678- 412-2402; Chef Keira Moritz.
PACES 88--St. Régis Hotel, 88 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta; 404-563-7910; Chef Mark Alba.
PERLA’S SEAFOOD AND OYSTER BAR--1400 South Congress, Austin, TX; 512-291-7300; Chef.owner Lawrence McGuire.
PRADO--The InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, 4949 E. Lincoln Dr. Scottsdale, AZ; 480-627-3200; Chef Claudio Urcuoli.
RIVERA--1050 South Flower Street, Los Angeles; 213-749-1460; Chef/owner John Sedlar.
SEASALT--1186 3rd Street, Naples, FL; 239-434-7258; Chef/owner Fabrizio Aielli.
SHO SHAUN HERGATT--The Setai New York Hotel, 40 Broad Street; 212-809-3993; Chef Shawn Hergatt. (left)
SOCIETY CAFÉ ENCORE--Wynn Encore, 3131 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas; 702-248-DINE; Chef/owner Kim Cateenwalla.
SRA MARTINEZ--4000 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami; 305-573-5474; Chef/owner Michelle Bernstein.
15 NEW RESTAURANTS YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS
☛ THE BRISTOL--Chicago
MOUNTAINSIDE BAR AND GRILL--Avon, CO.
☛ PASSIONFISH--Reston, Virginia (left)
☛ THE PUBLICAN--Chicago
☛RAMBLA--New Orleans (left)
☛ RH--Los Angeles
SIDE TAVERN, Los Angeles
. . . AND SOME WONDERFUL CHEFS TO KEEP YOUR EYE ON
✓Chris Lusk, Café Adelaide, New Orleans
✓David Katz, Meme, Philadelphia
✓Victoria Ann Moore, The Lazy Goat, Greenville, SC
✓Raymond Mohan, Onda, NYC
NEW YORK CORNER
ever-growing restaurant scene on the Lower East Side and Bowery has
been one of ambitious aims for an area that depends largely on its
aim to be a hip place to go for food that would cost considerably more
uptown. Or at least that's how things began
down there. But anyone
checking out the menus at places like Allen & Delancey, Sorella,
Schiller's, Stanton Social, and wd-50 will find this really isn't the
case at all, when main courses can run to $35. And for the most part
get much in the way of décor or service, instead sittiing on
furniture, naked tables, waiters in sweaty t-shirts, and pulsing loud
music for your trip to the
neighborhood, plus, unless
you live down there, a whopping $20 taxi cab
fare both ways or parking lot bill.
Double Crown is open
for brunch on Sat. & Sun, nightly for dinner.
THE END OF Gourmet
. . .
by John Mariani
news gets worse and worse.
Magazine cover, November 1983
It was a curious choice of title
back then, when the very word "gourmet" sent home cooks scurrying for
the nearest casserole dish. This was twenty years before Julia Child
encouraged Americans to master the art of French cooking, and in 1941 Gourmet's only real competition was
the Boston Cooking School Magazine, American
Cookery. Yet neither war rationing nor Americans' antagonism for
French culinary pretension could stop the new magazine from publishing
straight through the war. "Between Pearl Harbor and V-J Day, deluxe
existence became, along with taxicabs, T-bone steaks, whitewall tires,
and desirable travel accommodations, in great requisition, but never
entirely disappeared," wrote the great gourmand Lucius Beebe in
December 1945. "The torch which set the cherries Jubilee in flames was
never wholly extinguished."
. . . WHICH BRINGS UP ANOTHER QUESTION? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RESTAURANT CRITIC AND A FOOD WRITER?
The demise of Gourmet, which once hired some of the world's finest food writers, some of whom enjoyed the largess of Condé Nast budgets and others who did not, brings up the question, what is the difference between a local newspaper "restaurant critic" and a "food writer"--one brought into focus this week by the respected restaurant critic Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post, when he wrote, "I tend to trust newspaper reviewers to magazine critics, some of who are too easily seduced by public relations people."
Since I've known Tom as a friend and colleague for nearly 20 years, I take what he says seriously, so I spoke with him on the phone about his contention. He reiterated that while he has tremendous respect for many of the nation's food writers in magazines like Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Saveur, and others, he believes that a local newspaper's restaurant critic, as well as those writing for city magazines like Washingtonian, is more reliable because he usually visits a restaurant two or three times before reviewing and goes anonymously, even, in Tom's case, in disguise. "I don't think a chef can necessarily become a better cook when he spots a restaurant critic," he told me, "but he might be able to select the best piece of fish in the kitchen or not serve one left from last night. Even though I am often recognized, I think the element of surprise is important."
Still, Tom admits that a food writer who sits down with a chef to interview him or her, asks to be guided in the choice of dishes and wines, and perhaps obtain a recipe is valuable, too. "You can get really good stories out of the interaction with chefs and restaurateurs, but readers need to read it that way, not as a restaurant review, and I don't think readers are that careful these days." Nor do I.
I also think that if a local restaurant critic has the unfettered budget of those very few newspapers, like The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and NY Times, that don't blink at his expense account, the reader will get a more complete indication of an individual restaurant's strengths and weaknesses. National magazine food writers don't have the time or budget to visit more than once--including, as Tom told me, himself, when he travels outside of DC, saying he pays about $15,000 to $20,000 a year out his own pocket to travel because the Post does not send him, and, when on such excursions, he can only visit a place for a single meal.
The important distinction here is that nowhere on the mastheads of the most renowned food or lifestyle magazines will you ever find anyone called "restaurant critic." You may see "contributing writer," "reporter at large," "food writer, or, in my case at Esquire, "food & travel correspondent." It would be almost unheard of for a magazine to, say, fly a writer to Munich or Paris or Tangiers for a week and tell him to eat anonymously at least three times at a single restaurant for an article intended as a round-up of good places to eat in those cities. The writer might go to 10 or more restaurants, once, then whittle those down to a half dozen to make the magazine's length limit. Far more often than not, these writers want diligently speak with the owner and chef as to what kind of cuisine the restaurant serves, what is special about his cassoulet or couscous, and to learn as much as possible about the food culture in a short period of time. In the case of the Michelin Guide inspectors (notice they are not called "restaurant critics"), they go to a restaurant once, usually alone, and on that slim evidence either do their write-up or, if a restaurant looks like it might merit a star, recommend follow-up visits by a totally different inspector.
Also, newspaper and local critics--much to their dislike--have to give out those odious stars, for people who don't bother to read the review; national magazine writers never do.
Many of the greatest food and travel writers, including Johnny Apple of the New York Times, Waverly Root of the Washington Post, James Villas of Town & Country, Colman Andrews of Gourmet, and A.J. Liebling and Calvin Trillin of The New Yorker would never answer to the title "restaurant critic," and most of their best writing was done after extensive meals with the chef or owner of the restaurant under consideration, trying to put it into perspective with the local food culture. Unlike most local restaurant critics, whose papers will not fund trips ourside the region, food writers travel and get to know what's going on everywhere from Bangkok to Bangor, Bordeaux to Boston.
There is a very important, if not razor-sharp, distinction between restaurant critics and food writers, and both play their parts in food culture. Sadly, losing Gourmet is another blow against good writing at a time when blogs by anonymous, unedited "eaters" clog up the internet. No responsible newspaper would ever allow the kind of foul-mouthed drivel and libels that fills blogs to be published in its Letters to the Editor section, but they allow it in their blogs. As Christopher Kimbal, publisher of Cook's illustrated, wrote in an op-ed in the NY Times last week, "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades."
All Its Fizzy Varieties, Part One
Next Week: Part Two and
☛ Brian Freedman is a food
and wine writer, wine educator, and food and wine consultant. He is
Director of Wine Education for the Wine School of Philadelphia,
contributing editor for Philadelphia
Style Magazine, wine columnist for
Affluent Magazine, and
writes the blog www.UncorkLife.com for
www.WineChateau.com. His web site is www.BrianFreedmanPhiladelphia.com.
WHEN THE New York Times IS WRONG, THEY SAY SO!
for submissions: QUICK
only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant
openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the
most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as
simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below.
Thanks. John Mariani
* In October in Chicago, IL, The Peninsula Chicago has created a number of initiatives during October to raise awareness and funds Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation, incl. : the front entrance and hotel name will be back lit with pink lighting to build awareness for women to remember to schedule their annual mammogram, $2 for every Afternoon Tea and Chocolate Bar served in The Lobby will be donated to the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation along with $5 in Avenues and Shanghai Terrace when mentioning Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation. Spa guests will be able to make a donation on their bill when leaving The Spa.
* From now thru Oct. 25 in NYC, Brick Lane Curry House celebrates the Indian holiday of Diwali with a series of rotating menus representing the cuisines of the four corners of India. Female diners will receive a free goodie bag of Indian sweets over the holiday weekend of Oct. 16th-17th. Call 212-979-2900. www.bricklanecurryhouse.com.
* Starting Oct. 12 in NYC, La Fonda del Sol will offer a Spanish 3-course prix fixe menu at lunchtime. The "Cocina Rapida" menu is designed for a 40-minute lunch break, and incl. a choice of 3 appetizers, 3 entrées and a dessert "to go." $35 pp. Call 212-867-6767 or visit www.patinagroup.com.
Oct.14, 21, 28, in NYC, Thalassa, in Tribeca, Executive Chef
Ralpheal Abrahante will teach fall cooking classes in the restaurant's
open kitchen. $75 pp. . . . On Nov. 16, Thalassa
presents a Greek Wine and Cheese Tasting Class in the Wine Room, with
10 Greek cheeses and 10 Greek wines, with special guests Chris
Hallowell from Wine & Spirits
Magazine, and Thalassa Maitre D' Niko Mavreas. $65 pp. Call
* On Oct.
15 Giorgio Ristorante inside
Mandalay Place, Las Vegas,
in partnership with Whole Foods Market and Indian Wells Brewing Co.,
will be hosting a beer pairing dinner. Chef Nico Chessa’s menu
matched 3 courses of Italian food with 3 Indian Wells microbrews.
$49 pp and each guest will leave with a gift card to Whole Foods
Market. Call 702-920-2700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* On Oct.
15 in Yountville, CA, Brix restaurant will host the last
of 3 “street food” dinner events called “Brix Unpaved.” beginning with
an Italian-themed evening called “Street Feasts of Sicily.” $35
pp at www.brix.com Call 707-944-2749.
* On Oct.
17 Chillingsworth in Brewster, MA, will host its
annual game dinner featuring wild game, wild local shellfish & line
caught fish, local mushrooms, seabeans and herbs. The wines featured
will be a selection of white from Remy Pannier of the Loire Valley.
$125 pp. Call 508-896-3640.
* On Oct.
17, Chef Robert Danhi author
of James Beard nominated book, Southeast
Asian Flavors: Adventures in cooking the food of Thailand, Vietnam,
Malaysia and Singapore will be conducting a culinary tour
through Little Saigon in Westminster,
CA, and will incl. food, beverage and a signed copy of
Southeast Asian Flavors for $75. Call 310-648-7970 to get
* On Oct. 18 at Le Titi De Paris in Arlington Hts., IL, Chef Michael Maddox will holds the 2nd Local Cuisines Wine Dinner at $48 pp. ingredients locally and sustainably. Call 847-506-0222.
* On Oct.
21 in NYC, Bar Boulud will hold a Domaine Saint
Prefert Wine Dinner with Isabel Ferando, five courses paired with
wines. $150 pp. Call 212-595-0303; www.danielnyc.com.
Oct. 21-24 The Chew Chew
Restaurant in Riverside,
ILL, will host a 5-course Autumn Wine Dinner $60 per
person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are encouraged by calling
Oct. 22-25, the village of Kohler,
WI, presents the 2009 Food
& Wine Experience.
With tips and treats from culinary experts including Jacques
Pépin, Andrew Zimmern and Lidia Bastianich, Kohler’s Food &
Details are available at www.KohlerFoodandWine.net or 1-800-344-2838.
Oct.23 in Temecula, CA,
Boornman Vineyards Estate Winery of Murrieta & Temet Grill at
the Temecula Creek Inn present
a 4-course "An Artisan Wine Dinner Experience" with winemaker
Todd Boorman and cuisine by Executive Chef Salvatore
Giuliano. $85 pp. Call er person for the four-course menu,
exclusive of tax and gratuity. Temet Grill Call 951-587-1465.
October 23 and 24 in Washington,
DC at the Hilton Washington, The National Italian American
Foundation presents Piazza d' Italia,
showcasing the best of Italian food, wine, fashion and culture. Sample
Italian wines, olive oils, chocolates, gelato and pasta. Also items
Abruzzo region and the city of L'Aquila, which was devastated by an
earthquake earlier this year. It's free and open to the public.
Call 202387-0600 or e-mail email@example.com.
* On Oct. 23 in South
Salem, NY, Le Château will
6-course Louis Latour Wine Tasting Dinner. $95 pp. Call
* Beginning Oct. 25 thru Oct. 31 in NYC, Beppe will present their Menu della Strega to celebrate
Halloween. The $60 menu features dishes such as foie gras with an
apple jolly rancher reduction and baked apple, and rock shrimp tossed
with black spaghetti in a pumpkin and squash puree. Call 212-
982-8422 or visit www.beppenyc.com.
* On Oct. 27 in Brooklyn, NY, the Brooklyn
Chamber of Commerce
will present the 12th Annual Brooklyn
Eats, a cultural food tasting
extravaganza showcasing over 30 Brooklyn restaurants, lounges and
cultural institutions at Abigail Kirsch -Stage 6 at Steiner Studios.
Proceeds go to the Brooklyn Eats Scholarship Fund. $110 pp.
$125 at-the-door; visit www.ibrooklyn.com.
* On Oct. 28 in Old
Town Alexandria, VA, lifestyle expert Jason Tesauro and Chef
Dennis Marron of The Grille at
Morrison House kick-off a 4-part men’s lifestyle series covering
food, wine and cocktails. The first in a series of 4 classes, is
“Sticks & Stones: Cigar How-tos and Whiskey Wherefores,” where
guests learn the difference between single malts and blends, while
appreciating the virtues of cigar cutting, rolling and smoking.
The series will continue Nov. 18 with “Brews and Birds: Craft Beers and
the Art of Carving,"; Dec. 16 “Corks & Forks: Essential
Wines and Splendid Pairings,” and Jan. 27 with "Fizz and Flask."
* On Oct. 29 in San
Francisco, Fifth Floor
restaurant at the Palomar Hotel will host a“Mad Hatter” wine dinner in
celebration of the U.S. release of this 2006 Shiraz by Hewiston
Wines. The dinner feature a multi-course pairing menu from Chef
Jennie Lorenzo, complemented by whimsical Mad Hatter-themed
décor. $75 pp. Call 415-348-1111.
* On Oct. 29 in NYC,
Dirt Candy restaurant
celebrates its first anniversary with special prices-- all appetizers
on the menu will be $5.30 and all entrees will be $10.29.
Call 212-228-7732, or www.opentable.com.
* From Oct. 29-Nov. 8, six internationally
celebrated chefs, incl. Ulf Braunert of the Palace Luzern, will
be joining executive chef Stefano Di Salvo at Cornerstone restaurant and bar at
Park Hyatt Seoul for Park
Hyatt’s first Asia-based edition of its annual Masters of Food and Wine
Festival. Highlights incl. Asian cuisine cooking classes and an art
gallery dinner at The Gallery Park Ryu Sook. Email
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212 861 4031.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~NEW FEATURE: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linking up with 5 excellent travel sites:
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." THIS WEEK: Bermuda Cruisin'; Smart Deals NYC.
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:
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.
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Niclk Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
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.