Virtual Gourmet

December 13,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

A Page from the original manuscript of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843) of the scene where Scrooge wakes to Christmas morning and asks a boy in the street to buy him a huge turkey at the butcher for Bob Cratchit's dinner. Now on display at The Morgan Library, NYC. To read all the manuscript pages, posted by the NY Times, click here.



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In This Issue

by Edward Brivio

NEW YORK CORNER: Crabtree's Kittle House by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Ferragamo's Latest Line Is Eminently Drinkable
by John Mariani



by Edward Brivio
Photos by Robert Pirillo

    If  you’re longing for things French but need down-time on a sun-drenched beach as well, then take your next vacation on the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Martin. Half Dutch (Sint Maarten) and half French (Saint Martin), the island‘s inhabitants have peacefully co-existed since a treaty signed in 1648.
    The Dutch side is where the cruise ships dock and mega-yachts wandering the Caribbean find a safe haven in its numerous marinas. If you’re into non-stop action: shopping, gambling, hordes of cruise ship vacationers, and don’t mind busy streets and cheek-by-jowl high rises of no particular architectural distinction, then stick to the Dutch side clustered around the capital city of Philipsburg.
      But for secluded beaches, undulating hills, and building on a more human scale, however, head north to the French part.  We visited in early October; the rainy season had just ended, so the hills/mountains (height-wise, they’re somewhere in-between) that make the island so appealing were covered in greenery, beach-goers were at a minimum, and getting reservations for dinner was easy, although a number of restaurants were closed for the off season. It was also during the two- to three-week window each fall when  small, white butterflies blanket the island “like snow,” as the locals are fond of saying.
    Near the northern tip of the island, the Radisson St. Martin Resort, Marina & Spa  on a small, secluded bay called Anse Marcel --now protected as part of a marine preserve-- has just reopened after two years of a complete renovation. Everything is brand new and fresh, every inch is immaculate.
     The Resort’s façade (right) conjures up the great house of a colonial plantation but on an even grander scale. Towering columns, a classical pediment, and billowing drapes some 20 feet tall form a monumental porte-cochère, flanked by symmetrical two-story wings, with verandas extending along the front. Inside, the lobby is a large, breezy, high-ceilinged space, without lower walls at either end. From the entryway, you have an uninterrupted line of sight through the back of the building, across the patio and gardens, with their twin rows of tall coconut palms, to the pool, and beyond, the bay shimmering on the horizon.
     High-end furnishings still manage to give off a casual vibe. The welcome is warm, the smiles bright, the English fluent; and the complimentary Planter’s punch, well-iced and delicious. Straightaway, you begin to feel “island-time” take over. An enormous, free-form pool (300 feet in length) with an infinity edge and a good-sized Jacuzzi alongside is steps from the beautiful sandy beach. Canvas-clad cabanas, with motorized shades that can be lowered for privacy or to escape the Sun, are available for guests, as are free snorkeling equipment and floats, as well as other water sports equipment for hire. The floats are perfect for these warm, calm waters; just don’t fall asleep.
     Guestrooms, in lovely, two-story, Wedgwood-blue and white buildings surrounding the large garden courtyard include Superior and Deluxe Doubles, Marina Suites, even more luxurious Grand Suites, and finally, a habitation of Presidential proportions known as the Anse Marcel Suite. Our roomy Marina suite (left)--living room, bedroom with king-size bed and spacious marble bathroom with both a walk-in shower and a large bathtub--had balconies at either end, one facing the gardens, in front; and the other, overlooking the small marina and narrow channel that provides it an outlet to the sea, in back.
     Here was the perfect spot for alfresco lounging in the evening, with the tree frogs going at it in unison on the hill across the way, the dark waters of the channel flowing quietly by, occasionally a vessel gliding past, and, off to the right, the placid marina filled with beautiful boats. One night, a storm came up. Freshening breezes soon segued into a rousing son et lumière display: howling winds, rolling thunder, torrential rains, and bolts of lightning,  all viewed from a front-row seat on our balcony sheltered under the wide eaves of its roof.
     Called simply “C,” the resort’s signature restaurant (below) is right at water‘s edge, with nothing but a low stone wall between you and the breaking waves. The dining room is  spacious, mostly white, and open-air: a timber-framed “shell” with no exterior walls. Sturdy uprights support a lofty, sloping, open-timbered roof of exposed beams and rafters. Ceiling fans, and a constant breeze off the water keep it cool, while large canvas shades can be lowered if the weather turns bad.
     Starters here include a cool and refreshing salade nicoise au thon, marred only by rather bland potato slices, and a well-made Caesar salad, with each torn leaf of Romaine coated but not soaked in the flavorful dressing, grated Parmigiano, crisp croutons, and OMG! Could it be? fresh anchovies, little-known this side of the Atlantic, but one of the sea’s great treasures. Slices of flame-seared Yellow-fin tuna, set off by a lively mango salsa, were garnished with a caviar de melon, spheres of cantaloupe so tiny and glossy that they did resemble fish roe, and, for another touch of whimsy, an air de citron or lime “foam,” that was actually quite tasty.  For a more substantial send-off, there’s an  assiette de jambon de Bayonne et fromage basque avec beurre demi-sel, one of the world’s great hams, and a semi-hard, ewe‘s-milk cheese named Ossau-Iraty, both indigenous to the foothills of the Pyrenees, and that superb butter, all served with slices of rustic farmhouse bread and a small salad of radicchio and mixed greens.
     Long gone is the island’s fishing fleet, but fresh seafood remains a prime menu item, and Executive Chef Bruno Brazier realizes that the less you fuss over it, the better. A filet of red snapper and a filet of mahi-mahi were both beautiful pieces of fish, simply grilled, the first with a sauce of extra virgin olive oil and aromatic herbs, and the mahi-mahi with a sauce provençale based on tomato, garlic, and olive oil.  Prawn brochettes with a coconut/ginger curry sauce, and a fresh Caribbean rock lobster with basmati rice and baby vegetables also benefited greatly from their time on the grill, the shrimp vaguely smoky, the curry sauce, clean and fresh, and the lobster well-prepared, but I thought the rice and steamed veggies a bit bland and pedestrian alongside it.
     There’s also  filet de bar et langouste en choucroute de papaya, the sea bass and good-sized pieces of rock lobster tail cooked en papillôte (with clean, delicate flavors that matched those of the shredded green papaya (the choucroute) cooked with it.  For a change of pace try the mignon de veau en croûte doré aux morilles, the loin of veal baked in a pastry crust containing morels and asparagus tips on the side, as well as a phyllo “pouch” enclosing delicious scalloped potatoes.
     The pastry chef at “C” turns out picture-perfect French pastry, often, with an island twist. Scrumptious, over-sized coconut macaroons, perfect creations in their own right, arrived one night filled with raspberry ice cream, and the next, with mango ice cream and chocolate sauce. A beautiful vacherin exotique sauce aux fruits rouges--the vacherin, or frozen meringue, another classic creation of the pâtissière’s art as unimpeachably French as Racine--was rendered exotique by the fresh mango and lime-juice sorbet within. And a warm pineapple and mango crumble with custard sauce, was dessert as Caribbean comfort food.
     We drank four wines from the well-chosen wine list.Frank Phelan 2002 (59 euros), is the 2nd wine of St. Éstephe’s Phélan-Ségur, one of nine Crus Bourgeois exceptionnels. It bears the name of estate founder, Bernard Phelan’s son, Frank, who was mayor of St. Éstephe for 30 years. Big, robust well-rounded, and with firm tannins, it was a characteristic St. Éstephe, but in a minor key.  Morgon is one of the best of the Beaujolais Crus, so when you find a good one, you’re in for a treat, and a bargain. Michel Picard’s deeply colored Morgon 2006 (34 euros) had Gamay’s lovely strawberry fruit, but richer and more powerful than in your run-of-the-mill Beaujolais, along with the medium-to-full body and silken texture of a good red Burgundy. The Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc Sonoma 2006 (32 euros), was a fragrant, dry Sauvignon Blanc, with ripe citrus and tropical fruit flavors. Aged in a combination of stainless steel and older French oak, it managed to be crisp and fresh, and still have a nice, creamy body, a whiff of smoke, and just enough acidity to balance them. We also had a Côte de Beaune Villages 2005 (55 euros) from Chanson which, try as hard as it did to be a good basic red Burgundy, never quite made it. Letting it breathe hardly helped at all, it was still somewhat thin and tight.

Starters at C  run 9 to 16 euros, 35 for langouste; entrees: 25 to 35; desserts: 6 to 9.

     St. Martin’s renown as the “culinary capital of the Caribbean,” is mainly based on a string  of restaurants lining both sides of the main boulevard in the town of Grand Case, a long stretch of sandy beach, a short 10 to 15 minute drive from the Radisson. Two of the best are L’Escapade, already with an impressive track record, and the recently opened La Villa.
     Why at first sight, did  L’Escapade (below) remind me so much of a classic, New York, theatre-district, French restaurant, say Tout Va Bien or Pierre au Tunnel?  Maybe that step down into the dining room, or the strings of small, white lights outlining some of the walls, maybe, the sight of le patron wiping glasses behind his cozy, congenial bar off to the right or the menu in its paperboard folder? Whichever it was, I knew upon entering that despite the tropical heat, the Caribbean right outside the open-air dining room, and the lights of Anguilla in the distance, I was, nonetheless, unmistakably on French “soil.” And all the better off for it.
     Between greeting guests warmly, handing out menus while describing the specials, and, finally, taking coffee and after-dinner drink requests, our host that night, Sergio  spent as much time in front of the bar as behind it.
     Foie gras three ways, I couldn’t pass it up. The Trilogie : a good-sized piece, seared, and served with a chocolate sauce (an unexpectedly successful pairing); a slice that had been marinating in sweet wine; and finally a  pâte de foie gras, each delicious in its own way, and quite reasonable at 24 euros. Lobster bisque “cappuccino” style, was indeed covered with a thick mousse above a creamy soup, based on a rich shellfish stock.
    Soupière de coquillages et crustaces had nothing to do with soup, other than the soup bowl, soupièr, it was served in. Sautéed sea scallops, flathead lobster, and jumbo shrimp vied for attention in an inspired lemongrass/ginger sauce. Marmite de poissons et crustaces was indeed a  soup, a rich fish soup chockablock with hunks of fish, shrimp, scallops, and a rock lobster tail, garnished with an irresistible aïoli, croutons and grated cheese.
     To cool off for dessert, order perfectly baked profiteroles, or cream puffs, filled with vanilla ice cream, and a lightly-flavored almond whipped cream, topped with a warm chocolate-peanut sauce. After that, all we needed was an excellent short espresso.
   Fifty-eight euros bought a 2006 Cellier aux Moines, Givry, one of my favorite appellations for Old World pinot noir pleasures .

Appetizers: 11 euros to 24; entrees: 26 euros to 38: desserts: 11 euros to 15.

     The dining room at La Villa (right) recalls a rustic, farmhouse interior, with fieldstone floors, stucco walls pierced by arched windows, and a steeply peaked roof with exposed timbers.
     Another fine example of a soupe de poissons, once again with its usual accompaniment: croutons, aïoli, and grated cheese (here, Emmenthal), rich with the flavor of the sea from its carefully made shellfish stock. Perhaps, the best dish I had on the island was the  nems du canard, duck egg rolls, with an orange and ginger sauce, served here. Crisp, well-drained and hot from the fryer, they disappeared all too quickly, and the sweet/sour dipping sauce alongside had the unmistakable tang of freshness. Another standout was the seared tuna steak with a thick crust of coarsely grated peppercorns adding real flavor, served with a delicious crab risotto. Here playing the role of side dish, the risotto is also available as a pasta and well deserves its stand-alone stature. Chilean sea bass was surrounded by garnishes, each as delicately flavored as the fish itself: a wonderful leek fondue, and a light, riesling cream sauce with clams.
    Even with AC, dining rooms here were still a bit warm, so profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce beckoned and were delicious, artfully presented on a square plate framed by a smear of chocolate sauce on top, two squiggles of raspberry sauce for the sides, and perfect drops of passion fruit on the bottom.
     Sancerre rouge, when good, is an excellent way to enjoy the charms of  Old world pinot noir while avoiding the stratospheric prices of red burgundy, and the Domaine Henri Bourgeois, 2006 Sancerre “Les Baronnes” (from vines 25 to 40 years old), on the wine list here, was quite good, and one of the lower-priced items at 38 euros.
    Overall, this was our favorite meal on the island, and the casual yet elegant dining room, as well as the warm hospitality of owners, Cristophe (the maître’d) and Florence (sommelier and, when needed, waitress) create the perfect setting for Chef Jean-Pierre Yeponde’s refined cuisine.

   Appetizers: 9 euros to 15; entrees: 24 euros to 29; desserts 9 to 12.

     Orient Beach, one of the island’s most popular beaches, is a mile long stretch of warm sand and turquoise sea, containing a handful of open-air, beach bars/restaurants. One of the best here is the oddly named Waikiki Beach (left) right at waters-edge. The most basic of post-and-beam structures, over a deck set right on the sand, with no exterior walls, just vertical uprights and horizontal joists supporting an open-timbered, gable roof, all of it rugged, bare wood, it’s the kind of breezy, laid-back place where you might dine in your bathing suit.
     I didn’t realize how much I wanted lunch until a bowl of Waikiki’s super Black Tiger Shrimp tempura--crisp, hot, and done to a turn--was placed before us. Conversation paled as all our attention quickly turned to gobbling them up, due, in no small part, to the addictive honey/soy dipping sauce alongside. Soon followed a feast of grilled seafood, presented simply on a bamboo mat over a large oval platter (right). Rock lobster tails, shrimp on skewers, and filets of sea bass, mahi-mahi, and swordfish surrounded a bowl of potent aïoli, and a second filled with an equally good tomato rouille.
     Expect to pay about $50 a person for lunch. Chaises-longues and umbrellas are also available if you want to hang-out here after lunch.

     The best way to see any island is by boat.  Marine Time Charters not only provided water transfer from airport to hotel--if you can afford it, do it-- but also took us on a half-day outing to two nearby islands, on their ScoobiCat, a 36 foot catamaran with two powerful outboard motors.
    Around the northern tip of St Martin is the uninhabited island of Tintamarre. Day-trippers arrive by boats for a day of sun, sand, and surf, pretty much as Mother Nature intended. There are no services on the island or “ferries“ to it. Visitors must bring in all supplies. Which, of course, is the whole point. We stopped to snorkel around its rocky western tip, but the fish weren’t showing very well that day.
     Next we anchored in the shallow water off Pinel Island (below): at first sight, nothing more than a sand spit anchored by a stand of tall coconut palms, a scattering of  palm-fringed huts amidst the trees, and behind, a low, shrub-covered hill. A favorite with locals and tourists alike --a 5- to 10-minute ride on a small “ferry” (really, an over-sized row-boat) from Orient beach -- the island’s main beach is lined with 3 beach-bar/restaurants, Yellow Beach, Le Karibuni, and, the newcomer, Up on the Key, as well as the Paradiso gift shop.
    Housed in tiki-hut style structures, Yellow Beach beckoned, especially its cool, shady interior. When we sat down, I realized our money was on the boat. “No matter,” we were told, the oh-so-welcome fruit punches were on the house.  The Paradiso boutique, in a grove of sea grape, feels like an intriguing mini-casbah under its canvas cover. The shade gets noticeably cooler as you venture towards its center, where you’ll find the remarkable gentleman who runs the place, whose gracious smile, cordial welcome, and super-casual demeanor are part of what makes the island special.
    Despite its popularity, and busy shoreline, Pinel is still “a little bit of Paradise,” only with all the amenities, and close-by. Besides, if you need to get even further “away from it all,” a short hike takes you to the other side of the island, and two all but deserted beaches.

Edward Brivio is a freelance writer living in New York.



by John Mariani

Crabtree's Kittle House & Inn
11 Kittle Road

     Westchester County, where I've been a resident forever, has always had a remarkable number of sprawling mansions turned restaurants, not least a few I've written about here with enthusiasm, including the Bedford Post Inn in Bedford and Le Château in South Salem, among others I haven't been back to for awhile, like La Cremaillière in Banksville and La Panetière in Rye.  A recent return to Crabtree's Kittle House in Chappaqua was overdue, especially since the premises have been well renovated to make the once stodgy dining room brighter and more modern without compromising the historic lineaments of the 18th century carriage house once owned by farmer John Kittle. That structure was considerably expanded over the centuries, as the photo above shows, and the Crabtree family has owned it since 1981.
      Its large windows overlook the fine expanse of Hudson Valley greenery that has served as the backdrop for countless weddings and celebrations at the Kittle House, which has several private dining rooms and a wine cellar option, along with a
Tap Room with a bar originally found in a Bronx speakeasy. There are also 12 guest rooms for overnight stays, ranging from a very reasonable $147-$167 per night. By the way, that wine cellar is overseen by managing partner and wine director Glenn Vogt (right), whom many, including myself, consider one of the finest, most knowledgeable, and most genteel hosts in the business.  Vogt maintains a superb collection (with a Wine Spectator Grand Award since 1994) of 5,000 selections and 60,000 bottles, with rare, large format and signed bottles from throughout the past century; more than a thousand bottles are priced under $75.
       Over the 30 years or so I've dined at the Kittle House several chefs, some very fine, some thoroughly mediocre, have passed through the kitchen, which once seemed more intent on getting hundreds of banquet meals out than pay attention to the public dining room.  But that was long ago, and now a new chef is onboard--Bradford McDonald (left), a Mississippian who graduated from
Per Se and Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in NYC, who is very dedicated to rigorously seasonal menus--the à la carte dinner menu is strikingly improved to show off his individual talents.
        We began dinner with a luscious amuse of smoked bone marrow custard topped with very fine California osetra caviar, a little cupful that was just enough to perk the appetite. Pan-seared
sea scallops (below), just past translucence, took on the wintry complement of  green apple and golden chanterelles with a verbena puree.  Gnudi--like gnocchi--were made from ricotta, nicely firm, not too soft, served with sweet tomatoes, basil, and a "Niçoise crumble" of herbs.  Red beets were laced into farrotto grain, which the Roman legions once traveled on, but I suspect they didn't have the luxury of added duck prosciutto or a hazelnut praline sauce. Spaghetti squash carbonara was a light and lovely idea, with a hen's egg whipped into a sabayon, with smoked bacon and a parmesan foam--not the heft of spaghetti carbonara but it was a smart take on the old Roman classic.
      There was a heavy hand with salt that night in the kitchen, and it marred the flavor of roasted chicken with
black trumpet mushrooms, radishes, butternut squash puree, and a sauce perigourdine, as well as  a fine white Chatham codfish fillet  with kale, toasted garlic, and bottarga emulsion, this last providing its own shot of saltiness. The Colorado loin of lamb  was of excellent quality, served with red bliss potatoes, braised swiss chard, thyme oil, and a lamb jus.  Drawing on the region's larder, McDonalds serves a Hudson Valley Moulard duck breast with vanilla-scented parsnips, sour cherries, nebrodini mushrooms, and duck jus--a balance of the classic, the modern, and the personal.
    There is a selection of cheeses available and a good array of desserts, from a dark chocolate cremeaux tarte with raspberry dust and pistachio gelato, to an enticingly smooth and rich Alsatian cheesecake with raspberry coulis.
      McDonald and Vogt bring to the Kittle House not what it has long lacked so much as an upgrade in everything across the board, so that everything from a la cartye dining to a wedding feast are now in admirable synch in a place that has never been lovelier, at any time of year.

Crabtree's Kittle House is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner, nightly; for brunch Sun. Appetizers run $12-$16, entrees $28-$36. There is also a $35 fixed price menu and a $60 tasting menu, with wines, $90.


Ferragamo's Latest Line Is Eminently Drinkable
by John Mariani
    Don’t bother going to a wine store and asking for the new line of Ferragamo wines. The brand adorning $1,600 leather boots isn't on the bottles because the family, being extremely genteel, thinks it in poor taste.

    Instead they use names like Il Borro, a Tuscan estate spread over 175 acres, with 40 dedicated to vineyards. Salvatore Ferragamo (right), 37, the tall, blue-eyed grandson of the company’s late founder, Neapolitan-born Salvatore, recently introduced the wines to the trade and media at a tasting on the patio of the Ferragamo showroom on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
    “The estate dates back to 1760 in the noble Medici-Tornaquinci family,” Salvatore said at the tasting, “My father Ferruccio used to hunt with Duke Amedeo D’Aosta, who owned the property until 1993, when we bought it and brought it back from almost complete decay.”
    The Ferragamos restored the grand villa and country houses on the estate and turned it into a winery and a resort (below), which Salvatore now manages. Daily rates, now in low season, run from 200 euros ($302) to 1,500 euros per night, with a 3-night minimum.
      Wines have always been made on the estate and the Ferragamos hired enologist Niccolo D'Afflitto in 1999 to improve the quality. The winery opened in 2007, with four labels under the IGT (indication of geography typical of the region) appellation decreed by Italian wine laws.
    With D’Afflitto and enologist Cecilia Leoneschi, Ferragamo also makes wines on estates around Montalcino such as the 4,500-acre Castiglion del Bosco.
     Eight wines were presented at the New York tasting, along with platters of prosciutto, Parmigiano cheese, focaccia, and Tuscan crostini toast slathered with chicken liver paste -- the kind of food whose fat content enhances the wines on the palate. To begin, there was Il Borro Lamelle Chardonnay 2006 ($24), which spends 8-10 days in both oak and stainless steel, then two months in oak, followed finally by two months in the bottle before release. At 12.5 percent alcohol, its structure is much closer to the finesse of French Burgundies than the powerful, over-oaked Californian style. It is ideal with simple seafood and pastas in cream and butter sauces.
    Il Borro Pian di Nova 2006 ($24) is made from an unusual blend, for Tuscany, of 75 percent syrah and 25 percent sangiovese. At a reasonable 13 percent alcohol, you don’t get that syrah burn or too much ripeness out of the fruit. It’s a big, thick, chewy wine, however, with the ballast of sangiovese tannins that make it a good match with game dishes.
    Castiglion del Bosco Dainero 2004 ($15) is 90 percent merlot with 10 percent sangiovese that gives a bit more character to the merlot than northern Italian examples usually show. There isn’t much complexity here, but at $15, it's pretty wonderful.    Castiglion del Bosco Rosso di Montalcino 2005 ($21) is a more traditional wine of the region, made with 100 percent sangiovese at 13.5 percent alcohol. More and more I am impressed with rosso di montalcino, the illustrious brunello di montalcino’s lesser brother, because I find it easy to drink at a younger age. 
hile not having the same body and complexity as brunellos, rosso di montalcinos are excellent Tuscan wines on their own.  Ferragamo’s had a brilliant ruby color and a gorgeous bouquet. It's still tannic, but within the next year, should emerge as a very fine example of this increasingly delightful red.

    Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2003 ($50), by law 100 percent sangiovese grosso, with 14 percent alcohol, was swirled in the glass with a slightly musty aroma that dissipated to reveal abundant fruit and a remarkably forward development for a young brunello. You could take great pleasure in it now with a peppered bistecca alla fiorentina, but wait a year or two and I think you’ll really be amazed at its power and refinement.
    Castiglion del Bosco Campo del Drago 2003 ($80), also a brunello, is a bigger, very tannic wine now, with a powerful nose that bursts from the glass and a blanketing richness as it falls over the palate. This may take a little time to mature fully, but the wait will be worth it.
    For the most part, prices for these wines are amazingly reasonable -- the rosso di montalcino is a steal at $21 -- and just the thing to drink while wearing your $790 tassel loafers.

John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.



Shoppers in a Wisconsin grocery store spotted a black bear weighing about 123 pounds and standing five feet tall in the aisles making a bee-line for the Hamm's beer shelf. He spent an hour in the store before being tranquilized and removed back to the wild.  Locals pointed out that Hamm's uses a bear on its logo.


“`Oh, isn’t it wonnnnnnderful! I think he’s going to make a speech!' exclaimed Loulou Van Damme, a spry, sixtysomething hotelier and interior designer of Belgian descent, done up like Auntie Mame-Sahib in a flowing kurta and knuckle-dusting rings. We were enraptured by a beige, golf ball–size frog poised regally on the showerhead in one of the vast en suite bathrooms at Panchavatti, Van Damme’s guesthouse on North Goa’s Mapusa River."--Alexandra Marshall, "Exploring Goa's Glamour," Travel & Leisure (October 2009)



Guidelines for submissions:  QUICK BYTES publishes 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

IMPORTANT NOTE: Owing to the number of Christmas holiday and New Year's announcements received, QUICK BYTES can only list the most unusual.

* From Dec. 11-30 in San Francisco, Ozumo offers Dom Perignon champagne for the celebratory price of $35 a glass and $179 per bottle (regular price is $295.00). Call 415-882-1333.

* From Dec. 13-Feb. 28, in NYC, Executive Chef & Owner Ralf Kuettel of Trestle on Tenth presents “Traditional Swiss Fondue Sundays,"  served with traditional accoutrements including: bread cubes for dunking, bündnerfleisch, speck, steamed potatoes, and cornichons. $24 pp. Call 212-645-5659 or visit

On Dec. 17 in San Mateo, CA, Acqua Pazza owners, Enzo, Tullio and Valerio Rosano will host a dinner with Slow Food San Francisco Founder, Lorenzo Scarpone to benefit the Galano Dairy Farm in Fossa, Abruzzo. with 50% of the proceeds to  used to help build a temporary shelter for the Galano's cows before the harsh winter snow and wind set in.  The 4-course dinner is $75 pp. Call 650-375-0903;
* On Dec. 24  in Brooklyn, NY, SAUL Restaurant, will be celebrating The Feast of the Seven Fishes with a special six-course menu.  $80 pp. call 718-935-9844.


NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with four 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,  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: Stockholm: Design Chic with Dragon Tatto; Lincoln in New York; The 9-Point Packing Plan for the Carry-On Skier


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 Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts OnlineA 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).

Family Travel Forum: The 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.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;


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.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Bloomberg News, and Diversion.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. It was a beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

© copyright John Mariani 2009