Virtual Gourmet

March 14, 2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

     "Irish Stew," Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer for The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews (2010)

                           HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!


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The Casa Italiana-Zerilli Marimo (New York University) and Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani are proud to present on Wednesday evening, March 24, John Mariani as the second guest lecturer for the "Genuinely Italian" educational lecture series. Mr. Mariani will present the fascinating history and development of Italian cuisine in New York City. He will then be joined in a lively discussion on the topic by one of the nation's most respected restaurateurs, Tony May, owner of SD26 Restaurant & Wine Bar and Chairman of Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani. Call  646-624-2885 ext. 117. Visit

 . . . and

   On March 26, at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival (March 24-28) "A FIRESIDE CHAT WITH JOHN MARIANI," who will give the scoop on the latest national restaurant trends. Here's a chance to ask an expert one of those foodie questions you've been keeping on the backburner. Windsor Court Hotel, 300 Gravier Street, (Limited Seating), $35. Sponsored by Windsor Court Hotel. For tickets and more information, visit


In This Issue


42 by John Mariani

Notes from the Wine Cellar: Earthquake Causes Widespread Damage
but Chilean Wines Are Still Best Bets for the Future by John Mariani



by John Mariani

Bistro Niko
3344 Peachtree Road Northwest

     Pano Karatassos and his Buckhead Life Restaurant Group (BLRG) have given Atlanta more wonderful restaurants than any similar company has done for any other city. There have been vanguard places like the Buckhead Diner and downhome places like the Atlanta Fish Market, a beautiful Greek place called Kyma, and a great steakhouse in Chops. Now, after researching French bistros for more than a year, he has brought the city its first significant French restaurant since Brasserie Lecoze closed several years ago.  With Executive Chef Gary Donlick, Karatassos has crafted as winning an homage to the revered traditions of cuisine bourgeois as any in the U.S., all with a splash of American hospitality, for which BLRG is famous.  The bistro is named after Karatassos’ youngest son Niko Karatassos, Director of Operations for the Group.
        This is a big place, bright and convivial, jammed in every room, beginning at the hallway of white tiles you pass through as you watch the cooks in their well-lighted open kitchen with hanging  charcuterie.  The main dining room is done up with vintage scones, Venetian glass mirrors, and a painted mural of famous landmarks in Paris.  Beyond is a zinc bar where you can enjoy more than 60 international bottled beers and more on tap, with 70 wines, 30 offered by the glass, their prices all very reasonable.  There is also a patio that just about now should be flocked with more guests. Last, there is The Salon, a private dining room that seats up to 80, with  vintage French posters and painted tiles.
       The menu is way too long, forcing the kitchen to keep up with everything from rillettes of salmon to baba au rhum, with scores of items in between.  Nevertheless, most of what I had was done with exceptional finesse and authority, starting with the array of charcuterie.  Get a basket of the cheesy good gougères, those rillettes of salmon with crème fraîche, or, for old times' sake, the escargots en croûte with garlic butter, a touch of Pernod, and puff pastry.  Râclette--the melted cheese Swiss wintry classic you rarely see on these shores--is done expertly here, with pickled mushrooms.  But don't miss the tartes at Bistro Niko (the menu calls them French pizzas)--flaky, gooey miracles of richness, especially the tarte flambé with onion, crisp bacon lardons and fromage blanc. I could eat this with a glass of Sancerre and be blissful for the afternoon.
      The entrees here are as notable for their range as for their number.  I only scratched the surface, rewarded with a fine paillard of chicken sautéed on a plancha and served with endive, asparagus, tomatoes, and chicken jus (just make sure those asparagus and tomatoes are in season).  Boeuf bourguignon is made with Kobe beef, the cheeks braised in burgundy red wine, with macaroni, baby carrots, and onions on the side--a great dish at this time of the year.  And of course there is steak frites and  a luscious coq au vin done the right way, winey, with sweet onions and bacon.
       Bistro Niko offers a great deal more I didn't have a chance to sample--this time--including "Les Sandwiches" like Croque Monsieur and Madame, which come with French fries, along with cheeses, and salads, and caviar with brioche croutons, and rafters of oysters galore.
       Then there are the delicious desserts, including that boozy baba au rhum.
       BLRG has always run restaurants that are fun to be in, and this new bistro reeks of Gallic charm and joie de vivre of a kind Atlanta has lacked for a long time now.  This is the way to do it right.

Bistro Niko serves lunch Mon.-Sat. and dinner nightly. Brunch on Sun. Appetizers at dinner run $6-$16, entrees $14-$18. There is a 2-course meal at $22 and a 3-course meal at $28 offered each night.

Q&A with Pano Karatassos
by Suzanne Wright
Portrait by Rise Delmar Ochsner

SW: Atlantans haven’t embraced French restaurants. Why French, and why now?
PK: Atlanta has been good to Buckhead Life Restaurant Group and the anticipation for Bistro Niko was enormous. We were ready for the avalanche of guests that would come, and the team impressed them beyond expectations. From the authentic and tasteful interior to the well-tested, comfort French menu selections moderately priced, along with a well-thought out French wine menu, again very affordably priced at $35 to $55 per bottle. We also feature more than 60 carefully selected popular European and American beers by the tap and bottle. Finally, we had the luxury of recruiting and training well-groomed, intelligent and passionate servers. A seasoned kitchen brigade, led by Executive Chef Gary Donlick, a long-time French trained chef of BLRG, led to flawless execution of the menu, assisted by Pano Karatassos, corporate chef and my son. My other son, Niko, assisted the well-seasoned staff and managers of Bistro Niko.
SW: How is the dining scene different from when you started in 1979. What can you do now you couldn’t do then and vice versa?
PK: Guests could smoke at the table while dining, so our service staff was always prepared with lighters and conscious of changing the ashtray when one cigarette butt appeared.
      More people used to drink cocktails with dinner than now.
    Men and women used to dress up a lot more. In an upscale restaurant 20 years ago, it was rare to see a gentleman without a coat and tie. Now it’s rare to see either. We used to see a lot more business entertaining. It seemed that businessmen had a lot more freedom and latitude to spend how they wanted on the most expensive food, wine, cocktails and after-dinner drinks.
Champagne was just for special occasions (and hardly ever served by the glass) and now it’s just another cocktail. All classic cocktails (like Moscow Mule, Manhattan, etc.) were common, now they’ve resurged and are “vintage” or to some, a new cocktail. Guests would never dine at the bar.
     Back then, we didn’t have computers on which to take orders and reservations.
    You used to see a lot of “Continental” fare. Now, most restaurants of that type designate themselves as American or Regional, and there are even more ethnic restaurants than in the past years.
SW: What are three ways that Buckhead Life Group has impacted dining in Atlanta?
PK: We’ve had a lot of the now-prominent Atlanta chefs in our kitchens, working under our executive chefs. Gerry Klaskala, Kevin Rathbun, Richard Ullio, Scott Serpas, and others, including managers like Sia Mosk, Richard Clark and Michael Arnet, have worked in our company and have gone on to own their own very successful restaurants in Atlanta. The dining landscape in Buckhead would certainly be different without us—we have 10 restaurants within a 1-mile radius of the center of Buckhead. It has been commonly stated throughout the years that BLRG has set the standards for others to follow.


1170 Howell Mill Road
Photos: Lauren Rubenstein

     On a similar scale to Bistro Niko and with just as much impact, Abattoir would be an exciting restaurant anywhere. Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison's Star Provisions have already seriously elevated the status of Atlanta  as an exciting restaurant town with Bacchanalia, Floataway Café, and Star Provisions, and Abattoir is their latest and, perhaps, their finest achievement.
     The space used to be a storehouse and it has a sleek industrial look toned down with rustic touches of old wood, water pipes, polished concrete, white wooden tables, barn accouterments, tufted banquettes, and country plates, bowls, and napkins.

      The menu, under chef/partner Joshua Hopkins,  is up to the size of the restaurant, offering a great deal but not too many dishes.  You can begin with "snacks" like oysters, a soft pretzel with grain mustard, even beef jerky. Or nibble on French fries (excellent ones) or those addictive puff pastry cheese-and-ham-rich gougères that will either stir your appetite or sate you before you begin. "Salted/Cured" is the section for charcuterie, from wood-grilled bratwurst with mustard and sweet onions to terrines of pork, pig's foot, and rabbit.  Then there's "Food in a Jar," the best of which is the potted chicken livers and foie gras--an honorable marriage of the humble and the exalted liver. "Local Produce" includes a fine confit of mushrooms with grilled sourdough bread and red wine, and a butternut squash duck confit.
      With these kinds of dishes you can certainly go with a nice bottle of wine from a list oddly heavy in non-French bottlings, but there's a beer selection that's even better for these foods, including something called Mama's Little Yellow Pils Draught I highly recommend.
        "From the Wood Grill" comes a succulent lamb loin with farro salad, but the "Offal" section is my favorite part--delicious tripe stew with pork belly and a poached egg, and tasty lamb liver fritters with tomato relish--Food & Wine Magazine called this one of the best dishes of 2009. There is also a good chicken schnitzel, evenly browned, crisp and buttery, and a plate of glazed duck meatballs with tatsoi parsnips.
      Everything at Abattoir has richness, deep flavor, hearty honesty, the kind of food that Americans increasingly take to with the same gusto Europeans always have.  Yet, this is a very American twist in its décor, amiable service, generous portions, and price, with nothing on the menu over $20.
      The same virtue of simple goodness extend to the sweets, which include desserts with unexpected ingredients in them, like maple bacon beignets I found a bit of a stretch, and gold rice pudding with vanilla milk. Chocolate pot de crème is more traditional and very very good.
       I applaud Quatrano, Harrison, and Hopkins for hitting the nail so squarely on the head at a time when this kind of food and these kinds of prices are what everyone with good taste wants right now.  Abattoir is genuine, from every inch of its rustic décor to its honest-to-goodness cooking.

Abattoir is open
Tues. through Sat. for dinner.

Q&A with Anne Quatrano
by Suzanne Wright
photo: Our Labor of Love

SW: Abattoir feels like “affordable Annie” with wallet friendly pricing.  Why?
AQ: Since we first developed the ‘meatcentric’ idea, we have made it our goal to create an affordable menu that enables new guests to experience our cuisine. Abattoir’s price point is very accessible in this economy, enticing a wider range of casual diners from guests with an adventurous palate to those who simply wish to experience fresh, quality produce and ingredients.
SW: You’ve been a fixture on the Atlanta dining scene for close to 20 years.  What has changed?
AQ: Over the past few years, as we developed our charcuterie program at Star Provisions, we began to see Atlanta’s culinary and dining communities become increasingly more receptive to our offerings that could best be described as ‘whole animal cuisine.’ We were confident that Atlanta’s sophisticated dining community would embrace the ‘meatcentric’ concept and we continue to see a more adventurous and curious culinary scene in Atlanta.
SW: We are entering a new decade.  What’s your crystal ball say about dining trends over the next 10 years?
AQ: We are proud to see the dining community make a more widespread commitment to sourcing fresh, quality ingredients, produce, meats and seafood. Focusing on quality, local ingredients is not a task – it’s just the right thing to do. The dining environment is also becoming a more integral part of the guest experience. With Abattoir, we wanted to create a casual, rustic and comfortable environment that complemented the culinary concept and encouraged shared dining. We also were able to offer outdoor seating and an outdoor fireplace for the first time. In addition, Abattoir is receiving positive guest feedback that proves to us that Atlanta is ready to welcome more innovative and adventurous restaurant concepts in the future.


by John Mariani

Ritz-Carlton Hotel
1 Renaissance Square
White Plains, NY
(914) 761-4242

      A bit over a year ago White Plains acquired a restaurant of daunting dimensions and ambitions, set atop the Ritz-Carlton Hotel downtown, with a panoramic view that puts you in sight on the Hudson Valley, Westchester County, Lower Connecticut, and the New York skyline.  The restaurant sprawls from space to space, wrapping around the building from lounge to dining room to banquet rooms, with its own elevator that takes you up to a hallway past the kitchen where Chef/partner Anthony Goncalves works with his crew in a brightly lit, state of the art kitchen.
        Goncalves, self-taught as a chef and previously owner of a fine restaurant nearby named Trotters (now a tapas place called Peniche), and his investor spared no expense to make 42 a spectacle and much was expected of such a multi-million enterprise.  Sadly, upon opening the food didn't live up to the view. The plate presentations seemed to trump the actual flavor of the cooking, which was fancy for the sake of being fancy.
        Several chefs de cuisine later, with Goncalves (right) now nightly in the kitchen, 42 has emerged as a restaurant well worthy of its aerie and becomes one of the best dining experiences in the region, certainly well worth a dive up from Manhattan (and you can stay over at the Ritz).
          The menu has been trimmed and focused more in the style of Goncalves' true bent--heartier, more flavorful and robust.  Thus, my recent meal began with tender Portuguese octopus with quinoa, mango, citrus and a verjus, all texturally  complementary.  Beets came in an array--roasted, pickled, smoked, and as carpaccio, with walnuts, balsamico, and chèvre cheese--a nice turn on a ubiquitous item. "Torched" shrimp had a sprightly roasted pequillo pepper puree with piri piri and a gentle dose of garlic.  Agnolotti, a bit overcooked the evening, came with a tomato-duck confit ragoût that worked well, although housemade pork sausage with sauerkraut and mustard, while tasty, seemed better fit for the lounge than the swank dining room.  Very fine indeed was foie gras with apple butter and apple chutney--not too sweet--with the crunchy surprise of pecan brittle and five-spice gingerbread, which would have worked just as well after the main course as before it.
      Of the two seafood dishes sampled, branzino of very fine quality, meaty and juicy, with olives, winter vegetables, and a chickpea puree that shows off Goncalves' proud Portuguese heritage; wild Alaskan halibut was good if a little overwhelmed by mushroom-dusted, black truffle risotto with truffle jus and roasted mushrooms.
        Goncalves lists his ingredients' sources and you can bank on their being the finest, like the Jamison Farm rack of lamb with potato croquettes and a mint salad, and Good Earth Farms Pastured pork tenderloin with sweet dates, pea shoots and verjus.
        The kitchen has fun with its desserts, from a chocolate lover's gorge on milk chocolate semi-freddo, grapefruit brûlée, and flourless white chocolate cake, and a luscious bread pudding with apple and cinnamon, Calvados crème anglaise, struesel, and vanilla ice cream. Goncalves has fallen momentarily under the spell of avant-garde molecular cuisine, but you can forgive him the drama of beating dry ice and ice cream together to make a witty kind of Creamsicle.
          The winelist at 42 is among the best in the county these days, with some pricey numbers but also a good range for the current economic budgetary concerns.
          I'm delighted to see that 42 has not just turned around but shifted to what it always should have been--a fine dining restaurant with a spectacular view to match rather than the other way around.

42 is open Tues.-Sat. for dinner; Lunch  Tues.-Fri.  Brunch is served Sunday; traditional afternoon tea service is offered on Sun, and a happy hour is offered in the bar every night from 5:00-6:30, featuring $1 oysters and $7 specialty cocktails.

Also: When Chef Anthony Goncalves introduced his new “Chef’s Tasting Menu” last fall, he also announced that a $10 donation would be made to Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla for each tasting menu served. The popular promotion has already raised nearly $3,500 for the hospital and Chef Goncalves has announced he will continue the “Chef’s Tasting Menu” and the $10 donation to Blythedale. Guests can also enjoy a market special four-course menu, priced at $42; The five-course “Chef’s Tasting Menu” is $65 per person, and a wine pairing  an extra $30. The seven-course menu is $85 per person, with a wine pairing  $42.


Earthquake Causes Widespread Damage
but Chilean Wines Are Still Best Bets for the Future

by John Mariani

      While last week’s massive 8.8 earthquake in Chile caused widespread damage to the country’s wineries, the current supply of Chilean wines should guarantee little disruption in export their sales, which last year totaled 670 million liters valued at $1.36 billion. The 2010 harvest is just beginning in the country’s wineries, so production of wines for that vintage will be largely unaffected.
      The real damage has been to stocks of already finished or bottled wines. According to Rene Merino Blanco, President of Vinas de Chile, an association that represents more than 90 percent of the country’s wineries, losses may reach about $250 million based on the estimate of 125 million liters lost in the earthquake, about 12.9 percent of 2009’s total production.
       One of the most hard hit wineries is its largest producer, Concha y Toro, with three out of eleven facilities damaged are now back up and running; only one is still not functioning. heavily damaged.
       At Miguel Torres Chile, a spokesperson reported, “The losses are significant at the winery (below): around 300 casks smashed, one stainless steel vat with a capacity of 100,000 liters has been cracked, losing all the wine, thousands of bottles destroyed. Luckily the main structure of the buildings has withstood the quake.” The company, headquartered in Curico, which suffered extensive damage, is sending 50,000 Euros to the city council “to help alleviate the difficulties faced by those most in need.” Insurance should cover the losses.
      Yet despite the dimensions of the catastrophe, I believe that Chilean wines will continue to have a major impact on the global wine market because of high, consistent quality and moderate prices that consumers now demand. In those regards, Miguel Torres Chile, whose vineyards in Spain date back 300 years, is the most innovative. The family-owned company bought land in Maquehua, Curicó, near the Andes Mountains in 1979 and has been the country’s bellwether winery ever since. It was the first winery in Chile to introduce stainless steel cold fermentation tanks and French oak barrels for aging red wine.
      From 2004 to 2008 Miguel Torres Chile’s sales have gone from 8.38 to 11.24 million Euros, making it the second largest segment of the company, with sales of 3.9 million bottles (about 325,000 cases) in 2008, 82% of which are exported to more than 80 markets.
    The company’s mission has been to find the most productive  soils for individual varietals and is in the forefront of organic viticulture with its Las Mulas line. Tradition and heritage may be the backbone of winemaking, but it is youth that drives its future.  In the case of Miguel Torres Chile, the appointment of fifth generation scion Miguel Torres Maczassek, 35, as executive president, has given the winery much of its current vigor. (His sister Mireia, 39, is Technical Director of Miguel Torres Chile & Spain.)
      Torres (below), who previously was the company’s marketing director in Spain, studied business at Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill, NC, received his MBA from ESADE Business School in Barcelona, and studied oenology at the Universitat Rovira I Virgili in Tarragona. Speaking six languages, including Japanese, Torres obviously has world conquest on his mind.
     I met with him just three days before the earthquake struck while he was on a business trip to New York. We had dinner at New York’s La Fonda del Sol restaurant, where chef Josh De Chellis matched his highly imaginative cuisine to 12 wines—-bay scallops with tomato and saffron; tuna tacos with avocado, jalapeño, and pickled onion; and beef cooked on a barrel stave soaked in red wine and Scotch.
      One of the real surprises was a sparkling Espumante made from Chile’s workhorse grape pais (also called mission). It was a bright, brisk bubbly I would gladly drink as an aperitif. “This wine is an experiment,” said Torres. “We wanted to see if this old, widely planted varietal could work as a fine wine, and if it succeeds, it will enable us to pay the workers more money to harvest it.” Plans are to release it in a year or so, at $12-$15.
      I also tasted the fresh, grassy 2009 La Mulas Sauvignon Blanc and a mediocre, sweet 2009 rosé made from cabernet sauvignon. I moved on to a series of reds, beginning with the 2008 Las Mulas 100 percent cabernet, whose youth was actually a bonus in a wine of medium body and ready to drink. The Las Mulas wines retail for $11.
      Three other cabernets showed how their wines change with vintage and age: with ideal weather in 2006, the Manso de Velasco ($37) was macerated on the skins for an entire month, its tannins still tight and way up front, so that it will be better judged in two to five years.  The 2003 ($37) was much more aromatic and its tamed tannins gave way to a full-fruited intensity and complexity. The tough-to-find 1997 was the driest vintage in the winery’s history, and it proved the old adage that grapes must suffer to produce great wines. This was a superb cabernet, rich in minerals and spice, mellowed by age, and balanced throughout.
     As I noted, Mr. Torres is excited by innovation, so he also makes a big, smoky, tannic 2007 Santa Digna Carmenère ($11); 2007 Cordillera Cariñena ($27), a complex, somewhat plummy blend of 66 percent carignane, 16 percent shiraz, and 18 percent merlot; and 2004 Conde de Superunda ($55), a marvelous mix of 54 percent tempranillo, 24 percent cabernet sauvignon, 12 percent monastrell, and 10 percent carmenère that mimics the fine tempranillo out of Spain but shows off the effect of Chile’s brilliant sunshine in producing a fleshier, more voluptuous wine.
     The final wine, to be released next year (no price yet), was Torres’ new showpiece—2009 Empedrado, a 100 percent merlot made on difficult to harvest terraced, slate based soils called `piedra laja.’ It’s a massive wine at the moment, very rich, and, like the best out of California, demonstrates the power of merlot.  Torres also believes these vineyards (right) in Constitucion are prime terroir for pinot noir, which they have also planted.
     These wines are impressive not just for their soundness and varietal expressiveness but for their reasonable alcohol levels—none above 14 percent—and the prices Torres sells them for in the market. They are in the sweet spot right now, and if they can manage to keep ego in check, they should be there for a long time to come.

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.



NYC Chef Daniel Angerer of Klee Brasserie is now cooking with "Mommy's Milk," which he obtains from his wife who has been busy nursing their new daughter. "We are fortunate to have plenty of pumped mommy’s milk on hand and we even freeze a good amount of it – my spouse actually thinks of donating some to an infant milk bank which could help little babies in Haiti and such, but for the meantime (the milk bank requires check-ups, which takes a little while) our small freezer ran out of space.  To throw it out would be like wasting gold."  He is now making cheese from the milk and offers a recipe on his site


"Irksomely named puddings raised the artistry a notch, particularly `The Girl From Ipanema,' which showcased pineapple in all its myriad glories. Yet for all the presentational magnificence, the highlight didn't come until I asked for the bill. `You don't want to ­sample the infusion trolley?' asked the waiter, and it felt callous to ­decline. A trolley overflowing with foliage duly arrived, and a line was spoken that will, like the fifth of ­November, never be forgot. "We have Miombo honey," he said, "from the ­forests of Zambia!"-- Matthew Norman, "Restaurant: Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester," The Guardian (2/6/10).



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

* On Mar. 15, in NYC, Eleven Madison Park has joined with The Rare Wine Co. and Roberto Conterno for an evening of rare Giacomo Conterno Barolos, paired with Chef Daniel Humm’s cuisine with proceeds going towards rebuilding efforts in Haiti. Chef Humm will prepare a  multi-course menu and the wines will feature seven pairs of Barolo and Barolo Monfortino going back to 1958, capped by the very rare 1937 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva. Roberto will be present at the dinner to talk about his grandfather’s and father’s legacy as the greatest of all Barolo producers.  $995. Call 646-747-2583.
On Mar. 16 in NYC, Executive Chef Pham of Le Colonial will create a special meal for Street Soccer USA’s homeless soccer players. At this benefit event guests can meet the players and sample free hors d’oeuvres inspired by the meal. Proceeds  will support the organization. Call Alexandra Tatrallyay at 212-217-9065 or email

* On Mar 19 in Arlington Hts., IL, Le Titi De Paris will host the American Wine Dinner, "Pinot Noir From Around the World." with Sommelier James Crooker.  Chef/Owner Michael Maddox has created an amazing six-course menu to compliment these delicious and complex wines. $85 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Call 847-506-0222.

* On March 21, in Atlanta, RA Sushi will host a “Maki Madness” sushi eating contest to benefit Bert’s Big Adventure.  Contest winners will receive RA Sushi gift certificates, and guests will also enjoy drink specials and a discounted price on the restaurant’s popular Tootsy Maki.   Entry fee is $10 pp.   Call 404-267-0114.

* On March 21 in NYCCochon 555 holds the only heritage pig and chef competition in the U.S.,: 5 Chefs, 5 Pigs and 5 Winemakers working to raise awareness for heritage breeds. The chefs incl. Mark Ladner, Corwin Kave, Marco Canora, Adam Kaye, and Gavin Kaysen; winemakers incl. Elk Cove Vineyards, Gamble Family Vineyards, Wind Gap Wines, K Vintners and Buty Winery. In the VIP, sip reserve wines from Domaine Serene along with local favorite Shinn Estate Vineyards while watching Tom Mylan breakdown a pig. Ryan Farr will perform a whole pig breakdown during the main event. To be held at Pier Sixty. Visit

* On March 22, a Grappa Tasting will be held at Tulio Ristorante in Seattle.   $30 pp.  Call 206-624-5500, to view grappa menu:

* On Mar. 22 in Los Angeles, CA, Philippe Chow will be hosting a special three-course menu for $50 with 20 percent going towards March for Meals.  Call 323-951-1100.

* On Mar. 22-28, Love By The Glass, the first-ever Virginia Wine Week takes place at 200 participating restaurants and wine shops statewide.  Enjoy varietals from nearly 160 Virginia wineries will dining on local cuisine in historic downtowns and city centers.  Visit Call 1-800-VISITVA for participating locations.

* On Mar. 23 in Charlotte, NC, Upstream and Executive Chef Scott Wallen will present a special 5-course wine dinner featuring the award-winning wines of Davis Family Vineyards. Guests will have the opportunity to learn first-hand about the vineyard's wines from founder, CEO and winemaker, Guy Davis. $75 per person. Call 704-556-7730.

* Mar. 23 in Beachwood, OH, Melange’s chefs Adam Bostwick and Matt Creighton will create their first annual “Bar Dinner,” a 6-course mélange of  bar-food courses paired with special spirits, beers, and an occasional wine. $45 pp. $80 per couple. Call Jennifer at 216-378-9755.

* On March 23, Ray’s on the River in Atlanta will host a Peirson Meyer and L’Angevin Wine Dinner with Chef Tom McEachern's 4-course menu  paired with  wines.   $125 pp. Call 770-955-1187. Visit

On Mar. 23, in Charlotte, NC, Zink. American Kitchen will offer a 5-course beer dinner featuring the lagers and ales of Louisiana's Abita Brewing Company.  The dinner, as part of Charlotte’s Inaugural Craft Beer Week (March 18-28), will be hosted by special guests Ralph Nicotera and Greg Kirbabas.  $48 pp.  Call 704-444-9001.

* From March 25-27 in Atlanta, GA, the High Museum of Art Wine Auction kicks off its 18th year, celebrating “The Allure of Wine: Uncork a Journey.”  Call 404-733-5335 or

On March 26, the New Orleans Roadfood Festival kicks off at the historic Boucvalt House with an open bar and regional specialties from across America. $75 pp. The French Quarter street festival runs March 27 and March 28, offering Cajun, Creole, and all-American dishes. Admission is free; pay as you eat. Saturday night's highlight is a Crawfish Boil and cochon de lait in bayou country.  $95 pp. Call 504-293-2657 or visit

* On March 29 and March 30 in NYC, Capsouto Freres ( will continue its 23-year old tradition of hosting special Sephardic (non-Kosher) Seders for Passover, conducted by a Cantor with a reading of the Haggadah. Communal table seating; $150 pp.  payable in advance by check to the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and mailed to Capsouto Freres (451 Washington Street, at Watts Street, New York, NY 10013).  Call 212.966.4900.

* On May 31 in Los Angeles, the first annual City of Angels Wine Fest will take place downtown at the Music Center Plaza, hosted by the Rotary Club of Los Angeles and benefiting the Volunteers of America Los Angeles’  Rotary House, and will feature wines from 30  California wineries and food by several of Patina Restaurant Group’s downtown restaurants including Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse, Café Pinot, Kendall’s Brasserie, Zucca Ristorante and ‘Tina Tacos. $65 in advance and $75 at the door.

* Available from April through June,  the Draycott Hotel in London is offering the Royal British Isles Package. In 6 nights, with a golf excursion in the coastal Scottish town of Carnoustie, and a retreat into the Highlands at the Alladale Wilderness Lodge and Reserve. $4,572 (GBP 2,802). Call (01144) 2077 306466 or email

* On April 2 & 3, Hawaii's most renowned artisans, musicians, practitioners and educators will converge at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui for the its annual Celebration of the Arts.  Complimentary hands-on art and cultural activities are offered for the entire family. The finest luau foods and entertainment can be enjoyed at The Celebration Pa'ina & Show.  Call 808-669-6200 for tickets and information.

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: BORN TO SHOP: ONE PERFECT DAY IN HANOI.


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). THIS WEEK: 2010 Hall of Fame Inductees Announced.

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 2010