Virtual Gourmet

September 19, 2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

                                                                            Still Life by Francisco Zurbaràn



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GOOD NEWS! now has a new food section  called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA.


In This Issue

WHAT'S NEW IN BOSTON?  by John Mariani


MAN ABOUT TOWN: Le Sorelle Cucina Ups the Ante for Fine Food at Mount Airy Casino in the Poconos by Christopher Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Vietti the Visionary by Brian Freedman


by John Mariani


354 Congress Street

   Named for a small village on the French Riviera, Menton is Barbara Lynch's newest and finest venue in Boston, this one located in the Fort Point neighborhood. Over the last decade, Lynch has been a dynamo of the city's culinary scene, first with No. 9 Park, then  B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop, and Sportello.   Now comes her most upscale effort yet, five years  in the planning, a cool, minimalist study of a lounge, dining room and open kitchen in black, gray and silver.  Tables are set with  soft French linens, German porcelain,  and exquisite Murano glass.  There is also a chef's table set outside the glassed-in kitchen (above).
     Nuance is the word I'd use to describe everything about Menton, including the style of cooking Lynch does, along with exec chef Colin Lynch (no relation to his boss). They break no classic rules here, instead giving personality to dishes that always have a culinary logic behind them, from a wonderfully simple salad of asparagus and fresh hearts of palm to a dessert of strawberry shortcake with basil glace, vanilla, and lime.  In between, she lets all the ingredients speak for themselves: briney soft-shell crabs that are truly meaty, with green tomato and Green Goddess dressing; a lovely English pea velouté with baby vegetables, curry-scented yogurt and woodsy chanterelles; plumped-up lobster salad is heightened with white sturgeon caviar, artichokes, and the sweet aromatic herbal hint of tarragon.
     Lynch wraps langoustines in kataifi lace then adds a touch of pumpkin seed oil and the sprightly tang of pickled rhubarb, while plump Vermont quail takes on levels of flavor and texture from pistachios, figs, and a porcini marmalade.  Beautiful Elysian Field Farm lamb comes rosy pink and has Mediterranean undertones of black garlic and olives.  To a chocolate crèmeux she adds peanut ice cream, the crunch of popcorn, and a little bit of peppermint.
     Cat Silirie's winelist is finely selected but way too many bottles rise posted above the $100 mark, some way above. More labels under $50 would be a nice gesture.
     In the past I have occasionally questioned the high prices of Lynch's restaurants, but Menton is almost a bargain, certainly for the kind of haute cuisine.  The four-course fixed price $95 menu is very generous with amuses and mignardises,  and the seven-course tasting menu, at $145, is certainly more than justified for a big splurge evening ($105 more with wine pairings).
     Lynch, one of many renowned women chefs in Boston, is doing her best work at Menton, not showing off as much as showing what real cuisine can be when conceived in good taste rather than by mere flourish.

Menton is open nightly for dinner.


253 Shawmut Avenue

A polar opposite in style but every bit as much a personal statement as Menton, the tiny corner bistro named Coppa, named after the Italian salume, is a very casual, rather cramped spot in a residential neighborhood of quirky streets.  Ken Oringer, who's behind several other Boston restaurants, and Jamie Bissonette, of KO Prime, have nailed together a winning idea and the place is always full--not that hard actually when you only have about 20 seats inside and a few tables outside.  But it's packed with people who you can tell are really enjoying themselves to the hilt and who don't want to spend a lot of money. Courtney Bissonette is behind the well-chosen, fairly tariffed winelist and cocktail program.
     I was at Coppa in mid-summer and sat outside on a warm night (the a/c had been having problems), which was fine for our party, and I pretty much told the chefs to send out anything they wished. This resulted in a panoply of good, gutsy small plates and pastas, a good deal of finger food, all with a lot of Italian-Mediterranean spiciness and gusto.  The small Italian bar snacks called stuzzichini ($5) are the way to go with a party--creamy chicken liver crostini; hot, cheese-centered, fried arancini risotto balls; garlicky, smoky, salty baccalà puree; oil-brushed bruschetta of white beans flavored with  sage;  terrific pig's ear terrine, and much more.
    You can also choose from an array of salumi ($9) and then there are the cold antipasti like rabbit roasted porchetta style with parsnip agrodolce, and wood-roasted octopus with tangy salsa verde and preserved lemon. You're going to want to try the pizza too ($15), especially the one with foraged mushrooms and roasted tomatoes; then, what the heck, have a few pastas--not least the rich spaghetti alla carbonara with egg and bacon, and the strozzapretti with pesto--both sensational. All the pastas are well cooked to the al dente firmness you always find in Italy but almost never in the USA.

     If you're still sitting upright, why not splurge further on wonderful $12 plates of skirt steak with baby onions or the savory baked tripe with tomato sauce and mozzarella?
     Everything comes out just as it is finished back in the tiny kitchen, but you need not be patient--two or three items arrive at one time, and by the time you polish them off, there'll be more coming. Coppa is the antidote to culinary pretension and hypercreativity.  It is all about the grub, and the fast-paced service is part of the tempo of a delightful dinner.  You can go home without denting the credit card too much, but it's a whole lot more fun to go with three or more friends and go a little crazy eating and drinking too much once in a while. 

Coppa is open daily for lunch and dinner.  The restaurant does not take reservations. 



   The Commonwealth Hotel, near Fenway Park, has incorporated an enchanting fantasy idea for sports fans within its accommodations--The Baseball Suite, which is done up to bring out or back the kid in any one who ever collected baseball cards or compared stats for Red Sox hitters and pitchers. It's a two-room suite crammed with rare collectibles that depict baseball greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, photos and paintings of Fenway Park, and vintage-style furniture from the 1930s and 1940s.  It looks like a place Ted Williams might live in had he any talent for interior design.        There is a steamer trunk, commodious leather wingback chairs and antique brass floor lamps. A DVD library holds more than 40 classic baseball films (including Abbott and Costello's hilarious "Who's on First?" skit) and there's a 50-inch plasma TV on which to screen them. There's also a 1967 World Series program (the St. Louis Cardinals won in seven games--but you knew that),  and a collection of TOPPS Heritage baseball cards, Cracker Jacks, Baby Ruth candy bars, retro glass bottles of Coca-Cola, a signed copy of Bill Chuck’s Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs: Baseball's Grand (and Not-So-Grand) Finales, and other baseball-inspired items. The hotel concierge can also arrange for guests to tour Fenway Park and secure game day tickets.       It's a ball (no pun intended) to stay here, especially since you are a fly ball from Fenway itself.  Even the nightly rate is pegged at $755, which, of course, was the career home run record set by Hank Aaron.


1338 Boylston Street

    The Fenway Park neighborhood is thronged with sports bars, all jammed at game time with people chowing down on Sam Adams Ale, Buffalo chicken wings, and Boston brats. But for a far more interesting meal--and one that may set more lightly on the stomach during the game--I recommend Basho, Boston's "first Japanese brasserie," according to the press clips. It's certainly big enough at 300 seats, with 190 in the dining room itself (below, left), to qualify as a brasserie, with communal tables, sushi bar, outdoor patio with retractable awnings, and a wraparound liquor bar (left). The colors are minimal, black, brown, and celadon, with decorative bamboo sticks throughout.
    Omnipresent owner Jack Huang wants anybody and everybody just to have a great time and eat what you like from Chef
  Youji Iwakura and sushi chef  Hai-San's menu, which includes an array of signature dishes like the flavored sushi (below) seared toro with yakiniku sauce, fresh wasabi, and truffle oil;  Kanpachi carpaccio with shiso yuzu-kosho dressing and chardonnay gelée; "Foie Gras New-Style Sushi" with Fuji apple, sweet potato, coconut and wine teriyaki soy; and the Basho roll of fried snow crab, lettuce, shiitake, asparagus, pickles and jalapeño aïoli, wrapped with cucumber and soy paper.  All of them are novel and delicious, the portions generous, the complexity fascinating, and the textures contrasting--crunchy, soft, meaty, even gooey.
     Basho also has a glass-enclosed robata grill that uses charcoal to cook
meat like Kobe beef, seafood like wild prawns, and vegetables, all on bamboo skewers.  The key here is to order according to the amount of time you have to spend, so you might start off with cocktails or consult the sommelier as to the 30 bottlings of wine (15 by the glass) and 30-plus sakes, some served warm, others chilled.  As I said, Basho aims to please everyone, and if not every item of more than a dozen I tasted was much different than what other Boston Japanese restaurants serve, there are way more than enough exciting and unique dishes here to allow for  exploration.
     And if you are going to a game at the stadium, the sushi bar is ideal for a pre-game meal.  Come to think of it, unless the game goes into late extra innings,  Basho is a great place to go after it ends, either to celebrate a Sox win or nurse the wounds of a loss. At the moment, it looks like it may be the former, with less than a month to go in the season.


Basho is open daily for lunch and dinner;   Starters  run  $4.95-$25,  Entrees  $16.50-$35,  rolls  $8.75-$23.75, Sushi/Sashimi  $9.75-$Market Price.




337 East 10th Street (Near Avenue B)

      Gnocco can legitimately claim that when it opened a decade ago, it did so bravely in an East Village neighborhood then quite dicey, druggy, and wholly ungentrified. Owners Gian Luca Giovanetti and Pier Luigi Palazzo, from Modena in Emilia Romagna, had to be either brave or crazy to open near Tompkins Square Park, which back then was not a place you would have seen many baby strollers.  Now, the area teems with young people, new arrivals, cafés and restaurants, and Gnocco has remained one of the most popular, not least for its signature item--the puffy fried morsel called an gnocco (below, left), which is seriously addictive, even after you see the wonderful pizzas they do here, crafted by master pizzaiolo Federico Crociani, whom you'll see when pushing through through the door.  The pizzas (below, right) are light and crackling but not ultra-thin, which would rob them of their texture. There is the traditional Margherita style, as well as pizzas with Speck bacon and truffles.

     General Manager Stefano Biaggioni is a family guy, so he affably treats his guests like friends of his own, and regulars pack the place, both in the rustic front from and the much sought-out patio (above), which just about now, with cooler weather wafting in, is prime real estate in the East Village.  Chef Raffaele Miele, originally here, then at Osteria del Circo for a while, presents the gnocco balls with silky prosciutto, aged two years and sliced so thin  as to be nearly translucent, along with various other salume. Roman-style fried baby artichokes are done just to a tender turn, and one of the other wonderful antipasti here is the carpaccio di polpo, a paper-thin rendering of octopus held together with its own natural gelatin, served with pink peppercorns and a lemon vinaigrette.

       My guests and I were really gorging on the starters, including creamy burrata cheese and the carpino tiedo (warm goat's cheese) with honey and golden raisins along with toasted country breads and glasses of Barbera d'Asti red wine.  It was a warm evening, the openness of the patio was refreshing inside, and the warmth of the people was palpable.  True, the interior dining room looks a bit worn around the edges and they dim the lights after eight o'clock; next time I'll try to sit outside.
      We wanted to order every pasta but made do with three or four, including maccheroni with prosciutto and arugula, whose individual textures (all the pastas are housemade and have a fine, pliable texture) added measurably to the enjoyment. Fusilli gets a punchy mix of roasted tomatoes, eggplant, sweet peppers, and guanciale  bacon, while gnocchi come in various guides, napped with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil, or with a topping of the evening.  Tagliatelle is treated to a blanket of rich beef-veal ragù and green peas.
      And now, dear reader, I must confess to a roadblock in the way of my enjoying the main courses that night: We so greedily and with such relish ate all the gnocci and cheeses and salumi and pizza and antipasti and pastas--always with a gulp of good wine--we found ourselves sated before we could order main courses. This in itself is not the worst situation in a good Italian restaurant, where a three-course meal precedes dessert.  But we seemed to have made a five-course meal out of first courses and could eat no more.
     I cannot, therefore, report on the savor of what followed those irresistible primi and secondi, and the only way for me to remedy that is to return sometime to Gnocco, be a little more abstemious--which will be very hard--and go on to dishes like grilled branzino simply dressed with olive oil and lemon or the small lamb chops called scottaditi--"finger burners." 

     We did manage to end our meal with a taste or two or three of good tiramisù and a delightful chocolate torta and good espresso made by Stefano himself.
I will go back, happily, but if you make it there before I do, pace yourself, have the entrees, and you can report back to me.

Gnocco is  open for dinner daily, with brunch and lunch  on weekends only. Antipasti at dinner run $10.95-$14.45, pastas $13.95 to $16.45. Entrees $19.95-$25.45.



by Christopher Mariani

Le Sorelle Cucina Ups the Ante for Fine Food at
Mount Airy Casino in the Poconos

     A decade ago, Las Vegas finally began investing in its restaurants, realizing that a high demand for quality food and fine fare would be an attraction every bit as strong as gambling and big time shows, a trend soon replicated by casinos in the South and Northeast, where the Gulf casinos and Atlantic City finally came to grasp the importance of offering its customers food options beyond the usual boring buffets and sub-par restaurants.  A recent visit to the Mount Airy Casino in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, a 90-minute drive from Manhattan, proved to me that even the smaller, not so well-known casinos, have made food an important draw for more upscale customers.
Le Sorelle Cucina is the  Casino’s best restaurant, serving traditional northern Italian cuisine, cooked by chef Sal Fasano, who was born in Naples, Italy. 
The interior of the restaurant is of a fairly typical Italian design, with bent wood chairs, red leather banquettes, glass chandeliers, some tile wainscoting, and white tablecloths.  The service staff is friendly and well versed on the menu's dishes. The winelist, however, could use bolstering.
         No stranger to working in casinos, Fasano previously cooked at Atlantic City’s Medici, among others.  One of Fasano’s best qualities is his dedication to making everything himself, every morning,  breads and pastas,  a time-consuming but crucial way to achieve real excellence, and it definitely shows.
         I started my dinner with a highlight, some wonderful antipasti. The fritto di pesce misto rivera was a generous portion of fried shrimp, calamari and scallops served with a spicy fra diavolo tomato sauce. The mozzarella alla caprese owes its marvelous flavor and texture  to the fact that the cheese is made fresh every morning; it is brought to room temperature before being plated, an extra detail of control many restaurants idly overlook.  For the zuppa I tried the lobster bisque, as good as I have had at some of NYC’s best steakhouses, creamy and rich, with whole chunks of lobster tail.
Le Sorelle Cucina also has some great pasta dishes, large enough to order as an entrée for those not looking to loosen their belt after also ordering a meat course.  The risotto pescatore, mixed with mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp, was perfectly al dente to my liking but probably a bit too much for others.  Another notable pasta dish is the fettuccine bolognese, a very rich Emilia-Romagna-style meat sauce, served with shaved pecorino cheese, a pleasant substitute for the traditionally used Parmigiano cheese, which has a bit less bite.
For my main course, I ordered the veal chop special served with broccoli  di rabe sautéed in garlic and olive oil,  and for dessert, the strawberries zabaglione, a wonderful way of ending the evening, consisting of sweet strawberries, a rich egg custard, and topped with an aged balsamic vinegar that adds  sweetness and  acidity to the dish.
  I give high praises to a chef who cooks  food he truly loves, as opposed to those who try to create something  overly fancy but lacking in taste and harmony.  You will not find dishes on the menu at Le Sorelle Cucina you haven’t seen on other Italian American restaurants' menus before, but each dish Chef Fasano serves tastes the way it was intended to taste.

Le Sorelle Cucina is open for dinner only. Wed.-Sun.  Antipasti $7-$20, $13-$24, entrees $20-$42.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to christopher@johnmariani.



Vietti the Visionary
by Brian Freedman

         In the world of wine, there are certain people whose influence is so great that it’s just not possible to overstate their importance. Winemakers and visionaries like Didier Dagueneau, Henri Jayer, Angelo Gaja, and Robert Mondavi, for example, have impacted the wine world to such a significant extent that their names are now synonymous with the regions in which they made--or, in Mr. Gaja’s case, make--their mark.
         Vietti’s Alfredo Currado  has been a member of this elite fraternity for decades, too. With his passing this past May, however, this seems like the appropriate time to take a fresh look at his work and invaluable contributions to the wines of his beloved Piedmont.
         I recently spoke with his son Luca Currado (below), the current proprietor of the estate and a winemaker of serious renown himself, and it became apparent, as it does so often, that the Piedmont consumers know and love today would be a very different place were it not for the contributions of Alfredo Currado.
         “He was the first, in 1961, or I’d say one of the first, to make the first single vineyard cru vinification in Barolo,” Currado told me during a recent phone interview, “because the tradition of Barolo was not to make single vineyard cru, but to blend together all the crus from all the Barolo region. My father  understood that the value of the land [was the] taste of terroir, the taste of the soil.”
         This conviction--that single-vineyard vinifications of Barolo could result in wines that were even more full of character than the more traditional wines produced from blends of several vineyards’ fruit--would ultimately come to influence the way the world saw the wines of this already legendary appellation.   It would also affect the producers’ own understanding of the land with which they were working: The bottlings themselves became the vocal chords through which these individual great vineyards in Barolo could finally speak clearly and with a wholly unique voice, from, as the Vietti web site notes, the traditionalism of Rocche to the more polished modernism of Lazzarito and the astounding complexity of Brunate.
         “We try to let the terroir of the single vineyards, the terroir of the crus, to come up in the best way possible,” Currado said. “So we have many different styles of vinification, many different styles of aging. It’s like for a chef to have different types of meat: the cow, the veal, the pork, the filet, and cooking each the same way. You know, it’s impossible, you cannot cook all these types of meat at the same temperature, in the same way. You’re going to destroy [them]. So it’s much more important to be as close as possible to the soil. So this is our style: The terroir.” And the winemaking for each bottling--no matter what its particular pedigree--is geared toward allowing that terroir to shine through clearly.
         Vietti’s impact, of course, has not been limited to Barolo. In 1967, for example, Alfredo Currado made the first dry vinification of Arneis, and Vietti’s Roero Arneis is consistently among the most expressive, flat-out delicious bottlings in the region. The 2009 showed a nutty, slightly waxy nose that reminded me a bit of candy corn without the sugar. There was a hint of orange blossom fluttering around in there, too, as well as a gentle spice component in the background. The palate was bright and structured, with lemon, mineral, and subtly implied herb flavors, the entirety speaking of top-notch fruit and careful winemaking.
         Barbera, too, is a calling card for Vietti, from its consistently excellent “Tre Vigne” bottlings to the single-vineyard offerings that show this grape variety a respect and attention to detail it too often failed to receive before the Currados.
         The 2007 Barbera d’Asti “Tre Vigne” is typically the more feminine, and this vintage is no different, with dark cranberries, cherries, and a touch of spice on the nose that, with some air, also developed expressive vanilla and floral aromas. The wine was perfectly balanced on the palate, its moderately high acid lifting the bright red berry fruit, all of it kept in check by an edge of creaminess to the texture.
         As expected, the 2007 Barbera d’Alba “Tre Vigne” was more brooding, and defined more by its darker, more muscular macerated blackberry and blueberry flavors, as well as an undercurrent of forest floor, wild mushroom, tobacco, and the minerality of fresh soil.
         At the top of the chain of Vietti Barberas I tasted was the single-vineyard 2006 Barbera d’Alba “Scarrone.” What set this wine apart was simply the level of detail, an almost Burgundian high-toned spice, cherry, blackberry, and truffle notes. It possessed all the muscle you’d expect from Alba, but the finesse and pedigree of this bottling were astounding. This is a Barbera that, as good as it is right now, will only continue to improve over the next 7+ years: It’s practically dripping with character.
         These wines, typical of Vietti, are made to the most exacting standards. This is the case with all of their bottlings, from the complex, floral and cranberry-bright 2009 Dolcetto d’Alba to their excellent Barbaresco to the most sought-after single-cru Barolos.
         And despite all the accolades for those vineyard-designated bottlings, even the Barolo Castiglione--produced from fruit sourced from vineyards in Barolo, Monforte, Novello, and Castiglione Falletto--is a standout from the appellation with its heady, ethereal nose of truffles, flowers, lavender, and brown spice that leads to a palate that finds the perfect middle ground between power and delicacy, muscle and detail. This is a haunting wine, its truffles and earth and dark cherry fruit an almost Proustian evocation of this most exceptional part of the wine world--one that, without the vision, work, and dedication of the Currado family, and especially its late patriarch Alfredo, would be a very different, and far less interesting, place.
         “His life,” Luca said, “was for the wine.”
         As a result of all that he accomplished, his personal place in the pantheon of wine greats is both assured and thoroughly justified, and the trailblazing work he did throughout his career is present even in the bottles with which he had no direct hand in creating.
         That, it seems, is the truest test of a legacy.

Brian Freedman is a food, wine, and travel writer, wine consultant, and speaker. He writes the blog for Wine Chateau, is  restaurant critic for Philadelphia Weekly, South Jersey Magazine, and Suburban Life Magazine, wine columnist for Affluent Magazine, and contributes to a number of other publications, including Philadelphia Style Magazine.



"We attacked the meaty bones with our chopsticks to the point where, as they say, a kitty would ignore it."
"Kasai" by Douglas Trattner, Cleveland Scene.


In East Hampton Village, NY,  police went searching for Amy Paul of Rye, NY, after she showed up for a 9:30 p.m. Saturday at The Palm restaurant at 9:55 p.m. with four extra people. When told by the maitre d' there would be a wait, Paul (said police) "became irate and ripped pages out of the reservation book and then removed her shoes (heels) and went outside and began breaking the landscape lighting with her shoes until family/party members stopped her and removed her from the property." Staffers took down the license plate of her 2008 Mercedes. Paul called police and said she planned to make restitution.


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 Sept.  24 at The Peninsula Beverly Hills in Beverly Hills, CA, Spectrum Wine Auctions will host its first auction of the fall 2010 season. Open to the public and free of charge. Small bites and various wines will be served.  Catalogs  available through the website at or call 949-748-4845.

On Sept. 24, Larkspur Restaurant in Vail, CO will host a Harvest Dinner with chef/owner Thomas Salamunovich. 4 courses for $55pp. Optional wine pairings $22 pp. Salamunovich is one of 8 featured chefs in Colorado Organic cookbook which will be available at the dinner for $29.95, signed by chef and author Jennifer Olson. Call 970-754-8050.

*   On Sept. 24-26, Bon Appétit Presents Chicago Gourmet will take place in Chicago’s Millennium Park, with more than 100 chefs, 300 wineries and 65 beer and spirits brands. Programming incl.  interactive seminars on wine and food, celebrity chef demos from Cat Cora, Art Smith, Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard, and tastings from the city’s top restaurants. $150pp for 1-day ticket; $250pp for weekend ticket. A burger competition on Sept. 24 kicks off the weekend. $75pp. Visit

On Sept. 25 in Clayton, GA, Persimmon Creek Vineyards presents an evening of fine Southern fare prepared by Chef Rebecca Lang. Author Cassandra King will be reading from her best selling novels. $85 pp. Call 706-212-7380.

* On Sept. 26 in NYC Henry's will kick off Eat/Drink Local Week with Chef Mark and owner Henry Rinehart welcoming local farmers, cheesemongers, jam makers and winemakers for a three-course tasting dinner featuring ingredients from the local Greenmarket and wine pairings from Red Tail Ridge Vineyards., to benefitThe Greenmarket's Youth Education Program. $65 pp. Call 212-866-0600 or

* On Sept. 27, in NYC, the 17th Annual Autumn Harvest Dinner returns to Gramercy Tavern. Each of the five courses of the dinner will be prepared by a different chef, with wines chosen by renowned sommeliers. Tix start at $500, with proceeds benefitting Share Our Strength. Visit

* On Sept. 28, The Lanesborough, London, UK is partnering with Laurent-Perrier, famed champagne house, to host a unique Master Class.  David Hesketh, Managing Director of Laurent-Perrier UK will lead attendees through an 8-course menu designed by Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck of The Lanesborough’s, Apsleys – A Heinz Beck Restaurant. £250 pp.  Call +44 (0) 20 7259 5599 or visit .

* On Sept. 30 in NYC, Starch 'N' Brew presents "NYC Brewer's Choice," with over fifteen of the country’s top brewers  presenting rare, select small-batch beers alongside their own favorite food pairings. Greg Hall of Goose Island will be the Keynote Speake, with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, Kelly Taylor of Kelso of Brooklyn, Phil Markowski of Southampton, Shane Welch of Sixpoint Craft Ales, and many more. $90 pp. Call 917-368-8357.

* From Sept. 30–Oct. 3, in Missoula, Montana, The Resort at Paws Up will host the annual "Montana Master Chefs" event with former BRAVO-TV "Top Chef" competitors and world-class vitners. All-inclusive package rates start from $4,323.00/couple (4 days/3 nights–based on 2 adults/home). Call 800-473-0601.

* On  Oct. 1, in Washington DC, The Willard InterContinental and Café du Parc celebrate DC's "Third Annual Vendanges," the autumnal wine harvest festival as enjoyed throughout France, incl. regional wines, beers, authentic French festival dishes, live music, dancing and grape-stomping. Call 202-942-7000.  $20 pp.

* On Oct. 1 in Palm Beach, FL, The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach presents Pumpkin Palooza, a 31-day Pumpkin Picnic.  Eau Spa by Cornelia introduces a seasonal indulgence, Pumpkin Perfecting Facial - $220 pp. Kids can enjoy a Cupcake Tea and Costume Party on Oct. 23.  Adults $45 pp/Children $30pp. Call 561-540-4810.

* On Oct. 2 & 3 in NYC,  The French Culinary Institute CEO and Founder, Dorothy Cann Hamilton, and Gillian Duffy, New York Magazine culinary editor, co-host the 3rd annual New York Culinary Experience,  an opp. to cook hands-on with  chefs incl. Johnny Iuzzini, Alain Ducasse, Morimoto, David Bouley, Laurent Tourondel, Jacques Torres, and Anita Lo. $1,595 pp, $1,495 +2 or more. or call 646-314-4413.

* On Oct. 2 in Paso Robles, CA six  top chefs, a local gourmet cheese proprietor and more than 25 vintners will showcase at the city’s first-ever “Paso Glow” dinner,  held as part of Sunset Magazine’s “SAVOR the Central Coast”; Tix at for $125 pp.

* On Oct. 3 in Houston, TX, My Table magazine and Sysco present the 2010 Houston Culinary Awards, 3-course wine dinner and awards ceremony. $150 pp. Call 713-529-5500;

* On Oct. 3 in Trussville, AL, Garden & Gun presents “Harvest Feast”, a Southern supper that pays homage to the rich culinary tradition of Alabama.  Notable chefs include Chris and Idie Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club.  $75 pp. Call 201-445-6677 or visit

From Oct. 3-8 and Oct. 10-15, in Los Angeles, American Express & LA INC. present dineLA Restaurant Week. 250 + restaurants  will offer 3-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. Lunch ranges from $16-$28 and dinner from $26-$44 pp. Visit

* On Oct. 5, Shiraz on the Water in Bloomingdale, IL, will host a Maison Joseph Drouhin wine dinner. Laurent Drouhin will lead guests through each selection of wine paired with a 5-course menu by Executive Chef Carol Buckantz. $90pp. Call  630-671-5013.


* On Oct. 6 in Winnetka, IL, chef/owner Michael Lachowicz celebrates the 5th anniversary of Restaurant Michael with a six-course dinner prepared with the help of local  chefs  Roland Liccioni of Le Francais, Patrick Chabert, longtime sous chef of Jean Banchet, and more.  Proceeds  to nonprofit PAWS Chicago. $175 pp plus tax and gratuity. 847-441-3100 or visit


On Oct. 6, in Provence, Wine Lovers Tours will start one of 2 tours to Southern France featuring VIP cultural and wine visits as well as a truffle farm in the height of harvest time. Each tour $3,399, with a $100 discount for taking both.  Call 800-256-0141;


*On Oct. 6 in NYC, The Mario Batali Foundation presents Magic, Martinis and Mario hosted by Mario Batali and Mixologist Tony Abou Ganim and Comedian/Magician Billy Harris. $700 pp. Tix at

* From Oct. 7-10 in New Orleans, LA, Cafe Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar in conjunction with Loew's New Orleans Hotel present their first Culinary Weekend, incl. a cocktail reception with Executive Chef Chris Lusk, Ti Martin & Lally Brennan of the Commander's Palace Family of Restaurants and guest chefs' Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace and James Beard Award Winner, John Currence of City Grocery; Farmer's Market and cooking class with Chef Chris Lusk.  Dinner at Cafe Adelaide and Sunday Brunch at Commander's Palace.  $1450 per couple.  Call Diane Riche at 504-595-5310; .

* From Oct. 7-10 in New Orleans, LA, Café Adelaide features an “Eating, Drinking, and Carrying On” Culinary Weekend Package, with Chef Chris Lusk, Bar Chef Lu Brow and guest chef John Currence. $1,450 per couple based on double occupancy at the Loews New Orleans Hotel. Call 504-595-5310 or visit .

* On Oct. 7 at 55 locations nationwide, Morton's the Steakhouse and three generations of the Mondavi Family -- will host an interactive four-course wine dinner with wines from Charles Krug Winery, Folio Fine Wine Partners and Continuum Estate and charity auction to benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation. The main dinner at the Carriage House at Charles Krug winery will broadcast simultaneously to 54 other Morton's private dining rooms. 175 pp. Visit .  

* On Oct. 8  in Johannesburg, South Africa,  Mantis’ Monarch Hotel will host a food and wine dinner presided over by Mike Ratcliffe, Managing Director of family winery Warwick Estate and winery, Vilafonté.  These renowned wines will be  paired with a five-course tasting menu prepared by Monarch’s  chef Keith Frisley and rounded off with a cheese platter.  US$63 pp. Call Jane Eedes +21-530-3308 or email

* From Oct. 9-10, in San Diego, CAThe Gourmet Experience will be held.  $25 for a single day and $45 for a weekend pass.  Visit or call 858-578-9463.

On Oct. 7 at 55 locations nationwide, Morton's the Steakhouse and three generations of the Mondavi Family -- coming together for the first time ever -- will host an interactive four-course wine dinner with wines from Charles Krug Winery, Folio Fine Wine Partners and Continuum Estate and charity auction to benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation. The main dinner at the Carriage House at Charles Krug winery will broadcast simultaneously to 54 other Morton's private dining rooms, making it possible for 2,400 guests to dine alongside Mondavi family members.  $175pp. Visit  

* On  Oct.  9, Serpas True Food in Atlanta, GA, will host the second annual Fashion Plates featuring a four-course brunch with endless Champagne cocktails. The event will showcase the must-have fall and winter fashions from local boutiques to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. $45 pp.  Call 404-888-9348.



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: BIKING TO GIVERNEY


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: Christopher Mariani, 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