Virtual Gourmet

April 11,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

                                                                    "Still Life" by Gustave Caillebotte


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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: There will be no issue of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet next weekend because Mariani will be traveling to Palm Beach and Miami to find out what's new down there.  The next edition will appear April 25.


In This Issue

Vienna, Part One by John Mariani

Le Caprice  by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Wine, Not Water, Flows in New Orleans  by John Mariani


Vienna, Part One
by John Mariani

People thought me a little verrückt, but before going to Vienna I had asked the Austrian Tourist Board in NYC if it would be possible to tour the city's sewers.
         I was not the first to ask apparently, because so many people around the world so love the Carol Reed film "The Third Man," whose finale takes place as fugitive criminal Harry Lime , played by Orson Welles, tries to escape through the city's sewers from British Military Police, they want to see all the locations from the film still extant.
      As it turns out, there is such a tour available also well as an entire museum devoted to the movie. I  shall say more about that in a moment, but for now let me sing the praises of a beautiful city whose Habsburg majesty seems to be on every corner, despite a  terrible pounding the city took during the war.  Today, with its broad avenues and myriad monuments, palaces, and museums, the city is wholly rebuilt and scrubbed clean, and as efficient as you might expect of Austrians.
Vienna's airport is only 12 miles from city center and easily reached by City Train in less than twenty minutes, letting you off at Wien-Mitte.  (Best bet is to buy a 72 Hours Vienna Ticket (€18.50) that allows for three days' travel on the entire Vienna public transportation system.)
      From Wien-Mitte we checked into the Hotel Sacher (right), a marvel of Old World charm, not in a prissy, quaint way but with real Austrian spirit. Founded in 1876 by
Eduard Sacher, whose father created the decadently rich chocolate-and-apricot Original Sacher-Torte (see below), the hotel was run by Eduard's young wife, who declared herself "Master in the house” and also reigned over several hundred pet dogs. Now, with a branch in Salzburg, the Sacher has since 1934 been run by the Gürtler family, and their commitment to a wholly refreshed antique look is museum quality.
      Smack in the city center, the hotel is mere blocks from just about everything you want to see in the city: it is opposite the Opera House, near  the marvelous pedestrian shopping area Kärntner Straße and  St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and a stroll from the  Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Ringstraße, which encircles most of Vienna’s major cultural sites.  For all these obvious reasons, the Sacher has been the first choice of visiting celebrities, royalty, artists, and business people, including
Indira Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, and hundreds more whose photos line the walls of the Sacher's rooms and hallways. Joseph Cotton's character Holly Martins in "The Third Man" also stayed at the Sacher.
      Such a storied background is evident in every public and private room (left),  all recently redecorated to balance period and modern styles, include every modern amenity, from flat screen international TV and High speed Internet access and wireless LAN to individually controlled air-conditioning and free use of the fitness facilities & Sacher Spa.  What is not provided in the room can be provided by Chef Concierge Wolfgang Buchmann.  (I shall have more to say about the Sacher's dining options in my report on Vienna's restaurants April 25.)

The story of the legendary Sacher Torte dates to 1832, when Franz Sacher,  a 16-year old apprentice at the court of Prince Metternich, was asked to create a special dessert for distinguished guests. It became one of the most famous cakes in the world, and its original recipe is the basis for a thousand cakes handmade each day, exported throughout the world. (I once had to send mine through the X-Ray machine twice at Munich Airport.) You can purchase the cake at the Sacher's restaurants or at  one of the four Sacher shops or at the Confiserie in Vienna, Salzburg, Graz or Innsbruck. It may also be shipped to you by going to


       Everyone has heard of the city's handsome Lipizzaner horses, which have their own museum, formerly the imperial pharmacy. Here you may also watch the equines' training session each morning, which I found interesting for the first fifteen minutes though hardly exciting, unless you are a horseman who can gauge the subtleties of dressage.
     Within a block or two are the antique auction houses, which includes the vast neo-Baroque Dorotheum (once the Dorothy Convent), which has several floors of items, many on sale to the public over the counter. A few blocks in the other direction is
Kärntner Straße, that grand shopping avenue closed off to cars and trucks, and  the stunningly beautiful Romanesque and Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral (below), dating to 1147, which successive monarchs enlarged to its present grandeur, with an ornately patterned colored tile roof and huge  belltower. Legend has it that when Beethoven looked up to see birds flying away from the tolling bells but not hearing them he realized his deafness was total.
    During World War II, the cathedral was
by Nazi directive to be "left  in just debris and ashes"  but was saved when Captain Gerhard Klinkicht refused the order.   A fire in the city did destroy some of the cathedral, its roof collapsing, its choir stalls destroyed.  By 1948, however, rebuilding had begun and the church was re-opened in full in 1952.
Kärntner Straße you will find all the international designers as well as Austrian newcomers, along with shops where you can find more traditional Austrian wear, like loden coats built to keep the cold and chill out through winter, and contemporary shoe shops like Zak Schuhmoden.   There are also chocolate shops, restaurants, confiseries, and cafés and more cafés, the very crucible of Viennese civilized culture.  The cafés are where people take a rest, plan events, argue about politics and soccer, and, over the centuries given rise to artistic movements. Nowhere does the term "Café Society" (actually coined in New York) have a deeper, broader meaning.  Just how the Viennese manage to have breakfast, a good lunch, then in the afternoon coffee or tea with a pastry--before dinner--and remain a relatively slender people is beyond me, especially since the temptation to indulge in a rich, cream-stuffed form of pastrymaking Vienna was far more famous for than Paris. Regulars at the cafés even have their own daily tables they called StammtischSome of the most famous cafés include the Sacher itself, Demel, (1848) and Grand Café, known for its breakfast cake called Gugelhopf, always apparently bustling, their pastry cases brimming with buns and cookies and chocolates.
       In terms of museums, a comprehensive tour would take more than a week, from the Angewandte Kunst (applied arts); the Imperial Palace; a Musical Instruments Collection
with pianos once played by Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann; the Silberkammer (courts silver and tableware); and within the Ringstrasse, the extraordinarily rich Naturhistorisches Museum and the Kunsthistorische Museum (left), whose collection Breughels and Rubens works is astoundingly rich.; and the Albertina, housing a great collection of Old Master drawings.  You may also visit houses where Freud, Beethoven and other Viennese personages lived.
       It is also worth a trip to the nearby Naschmarkt, the city's main outdoor market, its produce impeccable arrayed, from eastern spices to seasonal fruits and plenty of Wurst shops and eateries.

s for the "Third Man," there are two tours are available, although, as I found out, some of the sewer scenes in "The Third Man" were filmed back in England (Welles refused to go down into the dank and, malodorous Viennese sewers), but the most famous tunnel, dramatically backlighted and echoing, is actually a river tunnel,
buoyed in the film by  the eerie but cheery music played on a zither. We joined Gerhard Strassgchwandtner (definitely one of the toughest names to pronounce in Austria), whose passion for the movie and Graham Greene's novel written after he wrote the screenplay is displayed at  a two-story, 13-room Der Dritte Mann Museum.  Young and affable and never livelier than when a visitor asked an arcane question about the movie (try these: 1. Who voted the film "Best Movie of the Century"?  2. Who played the famous zither music --the museum actually exhibits the actual zither  (below)!  3. What part did Bernard Lee play and what continuing role did he have in the early James Bond  movies?)  Strassgchwandtner's enthusiasm is infectious, showing us the spot where Harry Lime emerges from the doorway shadows at Schreyvogelglasse 8, the sewer grating Lime pushes his fingers through to escape, and, at the museum itself, scores of theater posters, book jackets, 400 cover versions of the movie theme music, production photos, recordings, and a segment shown on an old projector from the 1930s.  For the avid film buff this is a must; for those whose only sense of Vienna, it is a revelation.
     The Viennese are an extremely friendly people, just about everyone speaks English, and are eager to show you how far they have come since the 1950s, proud of their Habsburg legacy, and always hungry to take you somewhere to eat well.
      Next issue (April 25) I shall treat of some of those places they might well do so to eat and drink.



by John Mariani
Le Caprice
Pierre Hotel
795 Fifth Avenue (at 61st Street)

photos by Melissa Horn/ Le Caprice

      Upon its opening in London in 1947 by Mario Gallati, a former maître d' at the equally posh Ivy, Le Caprice quickly became a society institution; it was reopened in 1981, all chic black and white, with fashion photos by then reigning celeb photog  David Bailey and again appealed to a new generation of London's swells. It's the kind of place where, if you Google images of the place, you get more snapshots of Victoria Beckham than of the restaurant itself.
      Today,  along with The Ivy and Annabel's, Le Caprice is part of
Richard Caring’s Group, which last fall installed a branch in NYC's Pierre Hotel (which did a $100 million makeover) on Fifth Avenue--easily as smart an address as the original's in St. James's.  Though not the same configuration, the new place's décor much resembles the sleekness of the original, complete with black-and white photos of models like Jean Shrimpton.  The menu, too, echoes several of the dishes from London, and some of its personnel have leapt the Pond to greet those bi-continentals on a first name basis.
       And that, upon opening Le Caprice NY, caused a few problems.  Reports from the media, more than suggested that Le Caprice was playing the exclusivity card, as in, "if-we-don't-know-you-we-won't-seat-you." And some of those they didn't seat--refusing to take a reservation when the place was half empty or refusing to seat them except at the bar, even if the room was still half empty--were some of NYC's restaurant critics and restaurateurs, who with relish remarked upon the snobbish affronts.

       Exclusive, club-like restaurants are certainly not unknown in NYC--witness Graydon Carter's Waverly Inn and Monkey Bar, where nobodies are given the 6 PM tables and told to be out by eight. When the news of Le Caprice's effrontery reached people's, the restaurant went off speed dial in a New York minute.  Le Caprice's owners lacked the kind of clout in Manhattan it had in London, believing their long-in-the-tooth regulars would be joined by their New York colleagues just dying to be part of the zeitgeist; somehow they failed to materialize.  As the NY Times' Sam Sifton sniffed, the crowd "doesn’t run to British eccentricity and glamorous conflict. Instead, it’s just plain-Jane American wealth. There are business travelers and older residents of the Upper East Side, a few Eurobankers and the odd plastic-surgery victim. Ouch-m'gouch! Under such circumstances,  reviews of the food were actually more than respectable.

     Such reports obviously curdled Le Caprice's plans, so right after New Year's the management un-pursed lips, sucked in their egos, and decided they could not survive on people with three names or ladies who lunch while wearing clown-sized sunglasses.  Having heard that there was a new egalitarianism at the restaurant, I went to Le Caprice and was greeted very cordially and served amiably throughout the evening.  And the place did look terrific, very modern yet with refined good taste, under manager Allan Basaran. A pianist plays softly at the bar, and, mirabile dictu!, not too many Andrew Lloyd Webber songs!
      Chef Michael Hartnell had (left) worked at London's Daphne, so he's familiar with patrons whose taste run to the very simple continental style. There are no surprises here, but much of what I tasted was very well prepared from first-rate ingredients, beginning with very fine pickled salmon with cucumbers and grapefruit (below), and I was delighted to see bay scallops on the menu, though they were a bit overwhelmed by sunchoke puree and trompette mushrooms. Dressed crab with celeriac was somewhat mushy though of good quality, while a risotto nero, with cuttlefish ink was way better than the  version turned out down the block at Harry Cipriani.
      What would a Brit transplant be without first-rate fish and chips? Le Caprice does a fine job with them, the crust crisp, the minted pea puree and tartar sauce all that's necessary for this comfort dish to please.  Yellowfin tuna with a spiced lentil salsa and arugula was all right if not out of the ordinary, and the rack of lamb was of good quality, impeccably cooked as ordered, with a lovely Welsh onion cake and buttered greens.  Chicken alla milanese, pounded thin and sautéed crisp, with parsley and lemon gained by the addition of garlic sauce.  Whatever else you order--and every dish comes with vegetables--don't miss the terrific fries or mashed potatoes--two items the British do at least as well and often better than the French.
     There was little to quibble about with the desserts, like silky chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream and a fine cappuccino crème brûlée. Apple and blackberry crumble with custard heartwarming and very good.  There is also a cheeseboard with British cheeses you rarely see in service here.
Oddly enough, the prices in  NYC,  given the weak US dollar against the pound Sterling, are in many cases more expensive than at London's Le Caprice. For example, as of this morning's currency exchange, NYC's crispy duck with watercress is $19, in London only $16.50; fish and chips is $28 vs $27.50; and the veal chop $45 vs $35.  Cheeses and desserts run about the same.
      The winelist has been well chosen to offer plenty of good bottlings under $50, and even the mark-ups of those above $100 are not bad at all.
       It would seem that Le Caprice is trying very hard to be cordial and inviting these days, so even if you are not bowled over by the cuisine, you will dine well in a very posh place.  One off-putting note: in its new acceptance of anyone and everyone, all dress code has completely vanished. While 85 percent of the men in the place wore at least jackets the night I was there, bluejeans were also in evidence and  I had to avert my eyes from the next table over because of a t-shirted Simon Cowell type who insisted on leaning over his table to reveal his least appetizing feature. At such transgressions I would draw the line and bar the door.

Le Caprice is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. At dinner, appetizers run $9-$26, entrees $18-$45.



Wine, Not Water, Flows Again in New Orleans
by John Mariani

   “Ever since the Saints won the Super Bowl people have stopped asking if the streets of New Orleans are still full of water,” said Ted Brennan, whose family owns Brennan’s (below) in the French Quarter. “You can’t imagine how important that game was.  People are coming back, eating in the restaurants, and ordering good wines again."
     The last time I spoke with Ted and his brother Jimmy was after Katrina hit town and destroyed vast quantities of restaurant wine, mainly from heat spoilage after the electricity went out. On the night after Katrina blew through, Jimmy and his chef Lazone Randolph kept a vigil with loaded pistols to ward off looters intent on robbing their 30,000 bottle wine cellar of its treasures—all eventually condemned by the health department. Antoine’s lost 16,000 bottles, Emeril’s 6,000.

     “We’re back up to about 5,000 bottles now, which is $500,000 wholesale,” says Jimmy, “and prices are coming down fast. It used to be very difficult to buy 2005 and 2006 Bordeaux and Burgundy, but now there’s a lot of wine unsold because of the economy worldwide. They got to get rid of that wine.”

     Jimmy, 68, says that the older New Orleans restaurants (Brennan’s opened in 1946 and moved to Royal Street in 1955) “held our own” after Katrina and now during the recession. “Everybody’s ordering in the medium price range, with very few high notes.”  Then again, he insists, “You get a lot more bang for your buck in New Orleans than you would in New York, Boston, or other cities where they jack up the prices.”  He prides himself on low mark-ups. “If I pay $10 for a wine wholesale [about half the retail price in a winestore], I charge the guest $30; if I pay $50 or more, I just double the price. And because we have long-term relationships with the importers and distributors, we can get pretty much whatever we want.”

In making my rounds last month of old and new restaurants in town, I found full houses and a palpable post-Super Bowl bonhomie I had not felt since Katrina hit in 2005. Large groups are starting to book conventions in the city again. “We finally got the osteopaths back!” says Jimmy with jubilation. “You know, doctors tell you not to drink too much but they’re the ones sucking up the best bottles in our cellar.”

Sara Kavanaugh (below), sommelier at the Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel, agrees: “I love the osteopaths! They order big Bordeaux and Burgundies. Our average wine sale is about $100 to $120 a bottle, but the osteopaths go for $150 and up.  Many of them are members of The Wine & Spine Society”--an informal organization of wine-loving surgeons begun in the mid-1980s by Henry Bohlman, professor of orthopedics at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland. Thirty of them had a wine dinner at the Grill Room last month and drank pricey Burgundy and Côtes-du-Rhone wines.

The Windsor Court’
s wine cellar was saved during Katrina because the hotel had its own generator, and Kavanaugh, 29, has been filling in gaps on the winelist with Burgundies, Bordeaux, and Champagnes. “We have one guest who comes to New Orleans every other month and always orders Krug Clos du Mesnils like it’s water”—the Champagne is $2,200 on the list. “We also have to have the big California cabernets like Cakebread, but we just replenish them when we run out.”
I asked the Brennans and Kavanaugh what wines they think go well with Creole food, which can be very rich, largely seafood, and often spiked with Tabasco sauce. “With Creole food you need a little power,” says Jimmy Brennan. “With dishes like Eggs Sardou [with artichokes, creamed spinach and Hollandaise] you want a riesling with good acid.  With our turtle soup, which is spicy, I go with a big fat California chardonnay. And with our signature bananas Foster, Krug Champagne, man, Krug Champagne.”

With chef Drew Dzejak’s cuisine at the Grill Room, Kavanaugh also favors riesling or flinty sancerre: “With oysters I like a salty white Bordeaux like Château La Rame,” a blend of semillion and sauvignon blanc, and with desserts, she favors sparkling moscato d’Asti. “It goes with everything,” she says. “I could bathe in it.”

I agree with Brennan and Kavanaugh that the spicier or richer white wines with some mineral elements help cut through the rich seafood dishes here.  At a fine new restaurant named Le Foret, (right) on Camp Street, four of us ordered disparate dishes like crabmeat ravioli with heirloom beet salad and a lemon-horseradish sauce; blue crab in a ginger broth with spicy tortellini and herbs; and grilled rainbow trout with lobster, olives, and arugula in a shellfish sauce.
With these I chose a Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2007 ($38 on the winelist) from New York’s Finger Lakes, whose green apple fruit flavor and crisp acids complemented all the various flavors in our food.
It was a lovely spring day, the humidity was low, and no sign of rain. Life is good again in the Big Easy.

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.



In Gastonia, NC, a homeless man
named Michael Francis McLaughlin, 48, was arrested for allegedly carrying a sign reading, “I’m thinking of a cheeseburger,” near an interstate off-ramp,  was charged with violating the city begging ordinance. Crack Gastonia Police Officer J.K. Sarratt wrote on a misdemeanor criminal citation under City Ordinance  5-17 that  makes it unlawful for anyone to beg or offer to work for money or other compensation by “accosting one another or forcing oneself upon the company of another.” McLaughlin was jailed under a $500 secured bond.


"François Simon, France’s most respected and most feared restaurant critic thanks to his weekly columns in Le Figaro, approaches our corner table at Stella Maris in Paris carrying the tools of his trade. In a shoulder bag are his notebook and pen, several credit cards and a small video camera he uses to record menus and dishes when he feels he is not being watched. With his tight, three-piece black velveteen suit and white shirt slightly open at the neck with a broad black and white silk foulard, he gives the impression of a Dickensian dandy, although his thick, tousled hair gives him a puckish air. I will not describe his features in more detail as he believes, as I do, that anonymity is an essential prerequisite for our profession."--Nicholas Lander, "France's most feared restaurant critic," (2/20/10).



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 Apr. 12, Wholesome Wave founder, sustainable food pioneer and James Beard award-winning chef Michel Nischan (  will be at the Columbus Circle Borders in NYC for a brief discussion and  signing of his new cookbook, Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place, One Recipe at a Time. Event is free of charge. Call 212-255-8455. . .  On Apr. 22, Earth Day, Nischan will be at the FRESH flagship store on Broadway and 18th Street to offer tips from his new cookbook, with Mary Cleaver of Cleaver & Company catering edibles; signed copies of the book will be available for purchase ,with 100% of the proceeds going to Wholesome Wave Foundation.  Additionally, FOOD & WINE Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin and Publisher Christina Grdovic,  help celebrate the day, and local farmers, including Annie Farrell of Millstone Farms of Milton, CT.  Event is free of charge. Call 212-255-8455 and ask for Emily Boak Moylan or Alison Goldstein.

* On Apr. 13 in San Francisco, at the Jewish Community Center, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society  presents A Foodies' Mecca: Mapping San Francisco's Culinary Evolution, a culinary history of the “City by the Bay” with legendary food activist and founder of Let’s Be Frank Dogs, Larry Bain, and  photographer and food activist, Robert Dawson. Free for SFMHS Members and $5 for non-members. Call 415-537-1105 x100.

On Apr. 14 in Houston, Arturo's Uptown Italiano presents a wine dinner with Master Winemaker Marcus Notaro of Col Solare Vineyards.  His selections of Italian wines will be accompanied by the cuisine of Chef Arturo Boada.  $85 pp.  Call 713-621-1180.

*On Apr. 15 in Alexandria, VA, BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier will host a four-course wine dinner with Eric Baugher,  winemaker of Ridge Vineyards (Monte Bello). Executive Chef Robert Wiedmaier has created a spring-inspired 4-course menu, while Leah Dedmon, wine and beverage manager at BRABO has selected pairings . . $95 pp, please call 571-482-3308 or email

* On April 15 in Berkeley, CA, Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto hosts a One Fermented Evening California Wine Dinner with a five-course prix fixe menu prepared by Chef Devon Boisen. $80 pp. Call 510-845-7771;

* On April 15 in San Francisco, CA, McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant hosts Tax Relief Day with $10.40 entrée specials at the bar, drink specials and complimentary $10.40 dining certificates for future meals. Call 415-929-1730,

* On April 17 &  18th, California wine country is coming to Phoenix with the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine tour taking place at the Great Arizona Picnic  at the  Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza,  with Avram Deitch, Robert Mondavi Private Selection Brand Manager, featuring the label’s wines in tastings and food/wine pairing seminars. $10 pp. Call 480-945-7193.

* Pn Apr. 17 in Buellton, CA, The Hitching Post II presents their PINKS Private Release Party in celebration of the Santa Barbara's Vintners Festival weekend.  Tasting features newest release from 2009 vintage of Hitching Post PINKS Dry Rose, 2006, 2007 vintages and library wines from 2001.  BBQ included; $20.  Call 805-688-0676 or email to reserve.

* From April 19-24 in NYC, il Buco hosts its 3rd annual Earth Day Fundraiser to benefit the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with  a 15% discount on all lunches (20% off the late afternoon menu) and donate the equivalent amount to IUCN.   Call 212-533-1932.

On April 19 in Washington, DC, Birch & Barley hosts its inaugural beer dinner, featuring Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery. $100 pp. Tasting menu designed by Executive Chef Kyle Bailey. Call 202-567-2576.

*On Apr 21 in NYC, an Italian-American Wine Dinner at Henry's with Chef Mark Barrett. The evening will feature three courses of Chef’s greatest discoveries from his time living and working in Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Calabria,  paired with Italian varietal wines from our all-American wine list. $49 pp. $74 with wine pairing. Call 212-866-0600 or visit

* On Apr. 22 in NYC, La RosaWorks and Meridiana Restaurant present "A Evening in Sicily in Manhattan," a 5 Course Sicilian meal paired with Sicilian wines, a tasting of new products from Tutto Sicilia, a performance by Sicilian recording artist Michela Musolino and a reading by renown author Gioia Timpanelli, from her latest book, What Makes a Child Lucky.   Raffle of 2 one week stays at Case del Golfo vacation apartments on the sea near Palermo. Door prize.  Tickets must be purchased in advance. $95pp. Call  917-225-8415.

* On Apr. 24 in New Orleans, The Southern Food and Beverage Museum will host a symposium discussing the new releases of the Oxford American Food issue and Cornbread Nation 5.  Reception to follow, with a dedication to the continuing restoration of the Bruning's Restaurant 19th century bar. Free and open to the public. Call 504-569-0405 or visit

* On April 24 Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar-Bellevue is hosting a  Scotch tasting 5-course dinner with The Glenlivet brand ambassador Rick Edwards. $99 pp. inclusive.  Call 425-440-0878.

* On Apr 24. in Washington, DC,
Roof Terrace Restaurant in The Kennedy Center will host a Russian Vodka Tasting reception. In honor of the world-renowned Russian artists who graced the stages at The Kennedy Center the past two months, the tasting will feature Imperia Vodka, Snow Queen Vodka, and Russian Standard, with include hors d’oeuvres by Executive Chef Joe Gurner. $25 pp. Call 202-416-8555.

* On Apr. 25 in Chicago, Lawry's The Prime Rib offers a dinner-theatre package featuring tickets to the 10-time Tony Award-winning production "Billy Elliot the Musical" at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre, followed by a themed dinner at Lawry’s. $165 pp.   Call 312-787-5000 ext. 25.

* On Apr. 25, in Garrison, NY, Cardinal McCloskey Services will hosttheir Fifth Annual Spring Wine Tasting & Dinner at a private home with fine wines  selected by Tony Corso from his private collection and idinner by  owner of Xaviar’s Restaurant Group, Peter X. Kelly, followed by a live auction owith all proceeds benefiting CMS. $350 pp. Call 914-997-8000, ext. 114 or email

* From Apr. 28 to 30 in Aranda del Duero, Spain, the Consejo Regulador of Ribera del Duero will host a 3-day summit bringing together high-profile producers, marketers, retailers and journalists from across the globe to discuss the prospects for fine wine sales in an international marketplace shaken by economic turmoil.  Featured speakers incl. Michael Mondavi of Folio Fine Wine Partners, Pablo Alvarez from Vega Sicilia, Michael Sondag, Creative Director-Hackett UK, elBulli Sommelier Ferran Centelles, and Gerard Basset, MW.  Call 203-558-4262 or email

* On Apr. 28 in Boulder, CO, Frasca Food and Wine presents the wines of Montevertine, Tuscany, Italy at a dinner with the winemaker Martino Manetti with menu by Chef Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson. $105 pp. Call 303-442-6966.

* From April 29 – May 1, in Paso Robles, CA, the 18th annual Hospice du Rhône celebration hosts Rhône producers with 22 Rhône varieties. Event Passes range from $100 - $795. Visit or call 805-784-9543.

* On Apr. 29, in San Francisco,  chefs, wineries and bartenders from the Bay Area will gather at AT&T Park.  Guests can sample tastes from more than 40 chefs in San Francisco incl.  Staffan Terje of Perbacco, Mark Sullivan of Spruce, Traci des Jardins of Jardiniere, et al. Music,  silent auction, wine toss and other activities.  A benefit to relieve end childhood hunger in our communities.  $85 General Admission, $140 VIP Admission.  Call: 877-268-2783 or visit:

* From Apr. 29 – May 6, the premier Tasting Australia will be celebrated in South Australia.  Attracting world-class chefs, winemakers, sommeliers, brewers and restaurateurs,  incl. demos, tastings and classes. International stars such as Antonio Carluccio, Antony Worrall Thompson, Richard Fox, Neil Morrissey, Paul Rankin and Rosemary Shrager will all be there.  Visit

* From April 29 - May 2 in NYC, LUCKYRICE launches the first ever Asian food festival this month, incl.  a grand tasting at the Mandarin Oriental, an Asian-inspired opening night cocktail party at the Bowery Hotel and a Night Market hosted by Chef David Chang. Ticket prices vary for each event. Call 646-415-8661 or visit

* On April 30, in New Jersey, Crystal Springs Resort presents the 2nd Annual New Jersey Food & Wine Festival, designed to allow connoisseurs to meet and mingle with chefs, winemakers, sommeliers and fellow wine aficionados, incl. a grand tasting, charity dinner and wine auction, exclusive wine cellar dinners with vertical wine pairings, seminars with winemakers and chefs, and a celebrity chef golf tournament. Proceeds  to Share Our Strength.  Call 888-299-0585 or email

* From Apr. 30 to May 2,  on Kiawah Island, SC, Chef Patrick O'Connell of The Inn at Little Washington will headline the 2nd annual "Gourmet & Grapes" event at Kiawah Island Golf Resort benefiting the Medical University of South Carolina's Hollings Cancer Center.  Also,  Chef Todd Gray of DC's Equinox restaurant.  The resort is offering special rates at The Sanctuary Hotel and Resort Villas.  Call 800-654-2924 or visit

* From April 30 – May 2, Crystal Springs Resort in Hardyston, NJ, will host the 2nd Annual New Jersey Food & Wine Festival. On April 30, Chef Paul Liebrandt of Corton hosts a wine cellar dinner with library vintages of Dom Perignon  for $400 p.p.;  5-course dinner and Wine Auction benefiting Share Our Strength will be held with dishes by chefs from Le Cirque, Serenade, Ninety Acres, Restaurant Latour and Gramercy Tavern, $175 p.p. On May 1, events incl. a Chef & Winemaker golf tournament, a wine cellar dinner of library vintages of with Maialino chef Nick Anderer, $400 pp and The Grand Tasting featuring NYC and New Jersey chefs, 30 wineries, $125 pp. On May 2, a champagne brunch and seminars featuring Chateau Montelena, Lail Vineyards and Hess. Visit   or  call 973-827-5996 ext 3.

* On May 1, in NYC, Eleven Madison Park will be hosting their 2nd annual Kentucky Derby Celebration. The event, cohosted by Esquire magazine, will include live coverage of the race at Churchill Downs, Chef Daniel Humm’s take on Southern cuisine, Maker’s Mark mint juleps, bourbon bars and seminars, a cigar lounge by Nat Sherman, live Kentucky bluegrass music and a silent auction benefitting New York Horse Rescue. $175 pp, email

* From  May 1-Sept. 6 in NYC, Mandarin Oriental, New York will encore the "Sex and the City Celebration Package" to celebrate the movie sequel premiering May 28.  Incl. one night accommodations with American Breakfast for two, private On Location limo tour for up to five, original Sex and the City movie DVD and one round of Sex and the City-inspired cocktails in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge. Starts at $1,850 plus taxes. Call 212-805-8800, 866-801-8880 or email

 * During May  Long Island wineries will showcase 2009 rosé blends or rosé of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc in special flights or pairings with food prepared by local chefs. One dollar from the sale of all rosés during this month-long promotion will be donated to CancerCare, Supporting this promotion, local restaurants will offer wine specials and pairing menus. Additional offers associated with this promotion can be  found on

On May 1, in NYC, Eleven Madison Park will be hosting their 2nd annual Kentucky Derby Celebration. The event, cohosted by Esquire magazine, will incl. live coverage of the race at Churchill Downs, Chef Daniel Humm’s take on Southern cuisine, Maker’s Mark mint juleps, bourbon bars and seminars, a cigar lounge by Nat Sherman, live Kentucky bluegrass music and a silent auction benefitting New York Horse Rescue. $175 pp, email

* On May 1 in Washington, DC, Ceiba presents a 4-course Cinco de Mayo cooking class with guest chef Patricia Jinich and Chef de Cuisine Alfredo Solis. Wine and cocktails will be served. $75 pp. Call 202-408-0201.

  * On May 4, 11, 18 and 25 L'Espalier in Boston hosts a "Three Blind Mice Cheese Experience" led by Grand Fromager, Louis Risoli. Conversation is merged with stories of quaint trips to New England dairy farmers and specialty international cheese purveyors.  Chefs Frank McClelland and James Hackney build a 4-course menu around the various cheeses, while wine director Erik Johnson, pours matching wines.  $68. pp/ Call 617-262-3023.

* On May 5 in NYC, at Tribeca Rooftop, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board presents Austria Uncorked, A Date with the Wines of Austria and the Foods of the World, featuring wines from over 100 Austrian wineries with cuisine from  Wallsé; Gordon Ramsey’s at the London; Seasonal Restaurant; Aldea; KLEE; BLT Prime; 10 Downing Food & Wine; Salumeria Rosi; Telepan; Recette; and 15 East. $55 pp in advance; $70 at the door. Visit

* On May 6 in Washington, DC,  the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel presents the Celebrity Chef Tour featuring Executive Chef Abdellah Aguenaou and “Top Chef” alumni CJ Jacobson, Fabio Viviani, and Carla Hall. Following a Champagne reception, a 4-course meal will be served in the Chinese Ballroom. $175 pp. Call 720-201-1853 or email for tickets.

* On May 6 – 9, in Las Vegas, Vegas Uncork’d Presented by Bon Appétit offers epicureans the chance to rub elbows with some of the world’s most celebrated chefs and expert sommeliers., with 30+  events at six resorts including Bellagio, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Wynn/Encore and The Venetian/The Palazzo. Tickets priced from $50 to $295. Call 877-884-8993 or visit

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: CLOSER THAN YOU THINK--MOROCCO.


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:

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