Virtual Gourmet

September 26,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

    "Triglie at La Vucciria, Palermo" by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery (2008)



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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

Timbers Resorts by Christopher Mariani

La Masseria by John Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN: Fin by Christopher Mariani

SPIRITS LOCKER: The Daiquiri Makes a Comeback by Misha Mariani



Timbers Resorts, Napa Valley
by Christopher Mariani

 Artesa Napa Valley Vineyards

         From its golden hills, endless rows of grapevines, and close-to-perfect climate, Napa Valley offers one of the most stunning scenery America has to offer.  The people are laid back, welcoming, and best of all, willing to have a glass of wine at just about any point of the day.  Me, too.
         A few weeks ago I was  in Carneros, a section of Napa Valley known for producing some of the West's best  pinot noir and chardonnay, owing to the typically cool temperatures.  I checked into The Orchard at the Carneros Inn, a Timbers Resorts residence club, nestled in between Napa’s gorgeous wine vineyards.  The Orchard’s property is filled with private cottages, small trees, quaint little walkways, and spectacular views of America’s wine country.  Before checking in, I ate lunch outside at the resort’s poolside restaurant, Hilltop (below), where I relaxed with a nice glass of Cade  Sauvignon Blanc and an order of the beer-battered halibut fish tacos served in warm corn tortillas, and topped with chipotle cole slaw and salsa verde, the perfect dish to enjoy while unwinding and just looking out at the horizon.
    Finally settled, I checked into a 1,800 square foot cottage done in contemporary décor, with high ceilings, Brazilian cherry wood floors, multiple flat screen TV’s, two bedrooms with full bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, an outside patio with a fireplace, and of course, this being California,  a hot tub and outside shower.
nder a fractional ownership program, the cottages are typically shared by ten owners, who can stay  throughout the year with unlimited access, along with 21 days of guaranteed vacation stay.  The idea is for an owner to have full access to the property yet never have to worry about maintenance, cleaning up, changing the sheets, closing up the house, and so on.  It’s a vacation house without the responsibility.  Another perk I found impressive is that Timbers' individual owners may participate in the reciprocity program, allowing the exchange of one full week of vacation stay with any owner from the other Timbers properties, which include Snowmass,  Scottsdale,   Steamboat Springs,  Rancho Santa Fe, Vail,  Doonbeg, Ireland, Tuscany, Italy, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  So if you need a little change of scenery and Napa just isn’t cutting it, head off to another Timbers resort, maybe go skiing for the week in Snowmass or grape picking in Tuscany.
     Prior to dinner that evening at the resort’s restaurant, Farm (left), overseen by executive chef Steven Tevere, I got involved in a very competitive game of bocce with some resort members and must painfully admit that my partner and I lost.  The two clay courts sit right outside of the restaurant, so I had a constant reminder of my miserable defeat throughout the evening.
Farm is the fanciest of the Orchard’s three restaurants yet it still abides by the casual Napa Valley dress code of slacks and a collared shirt for men.  Ladies, I am sorry, I have no recommendations for dressing, but do bring a sweater, because the temperature drops significantly at night.  The interior of Farm has cathedral ceilings, dark wood floors, beige drapes hung along the windows and white colonial doorways, low-hanging amber lights, and white tablecloths. The menu is structured around local agriculture, meat purveyors, and wineries, hence the name Farm.  Some notable appetizers are the heirloom tomato salad with avocado, burrata cheese, radish, basil, balsamic reduction, and a diver's scallops starter served over corn risotto mixed with tarragon and topped with shaved black truffles.  For my entree, I had fantastic suckling pig  prepared with a pork cheek confit,  sweet corn, ripe black Mission figs, peppery arugula and truffle pork jus.  Another classic dish  was the roasted Rocky Jr. chicken, succulent white and dark meat covered by crispy skin, sided by sautéed fingerling potatoes, frisée, Dijon mousseline and a delicate jus.  For dessert, I had the delicate homemade strawberry-honey panna cotta served with a vanilla sauce and sprinkled with pistachios.  The evening ended outside at Farm’s outside lounge as I huddled around the fire pit and drank a glass or two of Italian grappa with some newly acquired friends.

The following day I woke up early and visited the Artesa Vineyards and Winery (right) a beautiful property, where I toured their own art exhibit of glass sculptures created by artist Gordon Huether. The winery itself is shaped like a pyramid, with only the top level exposed to outside view.  I sat in the outside sculpture garden and tasted some wonderful red wines, my two favorite being a 2006 Tempranillo  Reserve and the single vineyard 2006 Block 91D Pinot Noir from Carneros.  After a few glasses, I ventured down into the base of the winery where the aging takes place and inhaled the oaky aroma of hundreds of barrels of wine, a memorable smell never to be forgotten.

         That evening I attended the grand opening party for Napa Valley’s annual Festival del Sole, held at Napa’s  Far Niente Winery.  The event kicked off with open tours of their caves, followed by wine and food tastings prepared by twenty of Napa’s finest restaurants, including Angèle,  Auberge du Soleil, Bistro Don Giovanni, Bottega, Bouchon, Mustards Grill, Redd, Rutherford Grill, and Tra Vigne.

     As the evening progressed and the light became low, all partygoers congregated around the main stage, where we watched the performance of trumpeter Chris Botti and violinist Joshua Bell.  The concert was lovely and the celebration continued long into the night with dancing, wine, and more wine.  The entire evening was all part of one of Timbers Resorts' 2010 signature trip, but the following day would showcase the true adventure.
          The Timbers signature trip, which changes yearly and is offered to all guests, is  hosted by Backroads  bike riding tours.  Our bike journey began along the Pacific coastline as we cycled ten miles on a perfect sunny day looking out over the 200-foot cliffs that border the ocean.  The ride was filled with rolling hills and views of massive black rocks that sat on the ocean’s beaches.  The tour then turned inland as we biked along the Russian River Valley before hitting the town of Dunans Mills.  Not only was I experiencing the lay of the land visually, but there is also such a distinct aroma of flowers, fruit, and soil and sounds of birds and water in the valley that can only be captured by cycling through it.
      Our next stop was at the 25th mile of our journey, the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, where we set up a picnic and were awed at the sight of the massive redwood trees  standing hundreds of feet tall.  The redwoods are extremely thick trees that shoot up in a pin-straight line to show foliage only near the very top.  The bases of most of these trees are so large it would take about 15 people holding hands to wrap around the trunk; some examples are far wider, capable of creating a tunnel for cars and large trucks to drive through.  There we had a tasty selection of sliced meats, fresh vegetables, and smoked salmon accompanied by a well-deserved glass of champagne.  Day one was complete and we were shuttled to the artistic town of Healdsburg where we checked into the Healdsburg Hotel.
         That afternoon I ventured into Healdsburg, a little town filled with boutique wine shops that offer three tastings for $5. (Get to know the owners and bartenders and the three-glass limit goes out the window.)  I had a great time that afternoon,  stopping by many shops,  trying local wines, and learning a bit about each region within Napa Valley as I listened to the jazz concert held in the two-square-block grass piazza. My favorite wine shop of the day was hosting wines from Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, located just west of Dry Creek. I had a very well-balanced 2008 Reserve Chardonnay, not typical in Napa where you tend to find overpowering flavors of oak and fruitiness.
         That night I dined at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen (below) where I had the chance to meet with Executive Chef Dustin Valette, who  places an enormous emphasis on local ingredients to create an extensive à la carte menu and multiple tasting menus with wine pairings. The restaurant focuses around an open kitchen separated by a glass window where Valette and his team work,  sided by a lively bar where many guests seem to find their way  after dinner.  I started my meal with the creamy, sweet white corn soup  surrounded by a black truffle flan topped with scallion emulsion and chopped crispy Speck ham.  The sweetness from the corn brought back memories of the wonderful flavor from roadside corn stands in Long Island, NY.  For my entrée I ate the peppercorn-crusted Prime New York strip steak, a really great cut of meat, served with a white corn tomato fondue, smoked beef bacon, and garlic confit.  For dessert I had a very rich chocolate and peanut butter bar made of dark chocolate marquise, thick peanut butter mousse, and a light chocolate sorbet.
         The following morning I walked outside for a stretch before my 36-mile bike ride, finding the air brisk and the morning fog thick.  Within one hour, as guaranteed by my two friendly Backroads tour guides,
Dan Shaw and John Zentner, the fog burned off as the sun heated the temperature to 80 degrees, with clear skies.  We began cycling through Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, eventually making our way to the Delorimier Winery   where I tried a few glasses of great cabernet sauvignon.  The scenery was spectacular as we weaved in and out of vineyards, up and down winding roads, finally stopping for a light lunch and few more glasses of wine that seemed somehow to  keep the group going.  The long day ended back in Healdsburg where a well-needed dip in the pool was a nice way to limber up.
         That evening my appetite and body raged for a wholesome meal, so I went to Bear Republic  for a burger as I watched the LA Dodgers play the SF Giants on TV, with the locals rooting heavily for the Giants with every crack of the bat.  I started with some fried calamari, spicy Buffalo wings, and a nice cold Red Rocket Ale (6.8% alcohol) made by the Bear Republic Brewery.  Then I ordered the Jamaican Jerk burger topped with grilled sweet pineapples and smoked bacon. 
The final day of the tour was a mere 19 miles, as we stopped at the Robert Young Winery  for a taste of their 2007 and 2008 Chardonnay that had hints of oak and a very smooth, buttery finish.  Surprisingly, my favorite wine of the tasting was the '06 Merlot, which had a slightly spicy aroma and taste because of the 5% Petit Verdot blend.
         Next, it was off to the Napa Valley Reserve Winery (left), owned by Bill Harlan and partners. (Harlan is also the producer of the famous wines Screaming Eagle and Bond.The property was stunning, every blade of grass  groomed, the vineyards impeccably spruced, and the caves,  still under construction, beautiful.  Over a nice lunch of grilled chicken panini and homemade chocolate chip cookies, I learned about the membership program to the winery, which is very similar to a country club.  Wine enthusiasts have the opportunity to become a Napa Valley Reserve member for a substantial amount of money, and in turn have the chance to own a number of grape vine rows and to play an active role in the production of their very own wines.  The idea is to involve the club member in the overall process of creating wine, from the growing of the grapes to choosing the blends, even creating the wine label.  Each member is guaranteed one barrel, 25 cases, of their  signature wine at the end of each year.  According to one of the property managers, many club members tend to embrace a short-lived infatuation with picking the grapes and grooming the vines under the hot sun, quickly routing their energy to the creation of the actual wine label, the majority replicating paintings produced by their children. Regardless of the club’s trends, the elite winery is a learning experience that is one of a kind.
That evening, we shuttled back to the Orchard at Carneros Inn where I stopped by the resort’s spa  for a delightful, well-deserved massage. Afterwards, I had the pleasure of participating in a cooking demo hosted by chef Tevere.  He created a sweet corn soup (that I snuck two portions of) and also taught us how to make fresh mozzarella out of the curd.  We then sat down for a wonderful dinner followed by an outdoors concert of the music from the Russian National Orchestra’s Four Strings (right).  The evening was serene, a perfect ending to such a grand physically exhausting trip that every day brought renewal and a truly lush adventure in Napa Valley.


by John Mariani

235 W 48th Street (near Eighth Avenue)

       I'm often asked what I do on my nights off from visiting restaurants professionally, and my answer varies according to the night. Overwhelmingly I choose to stay home and eat, but if it's a celebratory occasion, I might well book a romantic restaurant for my wife's birthday, but with my own birthday I like the night to be wholly familial, with my wife, sons and their girlfriends.  I want the restaurant to have terrific food and be very convivial.  So this year I chose a favorite, where I am  friendly with the owners, who are among the nicest people I've met in the industry and whose dedication to excellence in food and wine is unstinting.  Their interest in  making every one of their guests--old or new--very happy is just as unwavering.

       La Masseria has emerged as one of New York's very finest ristoranti. Opened five years ago in the Theater District, it's always packed from 5:30 till the exodus at 7:30, then fills up again after 8 PM.  Owners Giuseppe "Peppe" Iuele and Enzo Ruggiero and chef-partner Giuseppe "Pino" Coladonato are always there (unless one of them is in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, where they've opened a branch of La Masseria--every bit as good--that I will be reporting on shortly.)

      La Masseria (which means "the farmhouse") is a beautiful two-tiered dining room and bar done in a winning combination of  arched ceilings, farm utensils, photos and artwork, aged wood, and the modernity of iron sconces, stonework, and wine bins, all designed by Libby Langdon (shown with Peppe, Pino, and Enzo  right).  Windows overlook the street, which is set with tables in good weather, and the main dining room (above) leads to a smaller party room.    The noise level is entirely civilized for good conversation., the service staff professional and friendly, knowledgeable and always helpful, never intrusive but always there at a nod, led with affable spirit by Peppe and Enzo, boyhood friends from Capri.  The winelist gets stronger every year but is not top-loaded with impossibly priced rarities (though they have some); instead there is plenty of good wine under $50 a bottle.

      The best way to begin here is to share a plate of antipasti--oozing buffalo mozzarella, slices of salumi, and sliced cheeses, all at the right temperature--and the best fried strips of zucchini in town, a big mound of greaseless, thin slivers you pop in your mouth. Other signature dishes include freshly made meatballs with tomato sauce, (which they were doing long before it became faddish in NYC), and granotto (left)--a Pugliese grain cooked till tender like risotto and sharing the plate with a lush seafood sauce, mussels, and white beans.
But on that birthday night, I just put my family's appetite in the hands of Peppe, Enzo, and Pino, asking them to give us different items in each category. The antipasti therefore began with grilled fresh porcini mushrooms, lightly toasty and of sheer velvety succulence.
Meaty, buttery sea scallops in their shells were baked with aromatics herbs and breadcrumbs, and a salad of stone crabs came with tender artichoke hearts and a tangy mustard sauce.

      We shared three pastas: tagliolini with fresh sea urchins and a Champagne sauce, a nice balancing act of the briny and the delicate, without the pungency sea urchins can sometimes have. Freshly made fettuccine came in a creamy chanterelle mushrooms sauce, and the ear-shaped orecchiette pasta with broccoli di rabe with the delightful addition of crunchy toasted almonds.  I love monkfish tail, though it can easily become chewy if cooked just a few moments past its ideal texture; Pino does them just to a turn, grilled nice and juicy, accompanied by big equally juicy Nigerian prawns.

      In a town like NYC where veal chops and racks of lamb are both ubiquitous and highly competitive items on Italian menus, La Masseria's are among the best.  The former was grilled and served with a light but richly flavorful black truffle sauce; the lamb, done pink, was perfumed with herbs.
      Dessert was a napoleon (or millefoglie, if you like) of paper thin pastry and cream custard, along with impeccably rendered espresso.
      For me it was an enchanting night, both with my family and via those cherished friends who cooked for and served me with such aplomb and bonhomie.  It was all I could wish for and what I always get when I dine at La Masseria

La Masseria is open daily for lunch and dinner, and it's a great choice for pre-theater dinner. At dinner antipasti run $8.50-$18.50, pastas (full portions) $15-$28.50, and main courses $17.50-$38.50.




The Daiquiri Makes a Comeback
by Misha Mariani


         As the fashion industry semi-annually insists, styles come and go, hot one minute and not the next;  classics define themselves by entrenching their presence, then die down for a while and inevitably make their return with a vengeance. The same, its seems,  goes for cocktails, especially in  a city like New York, where we are flooded with an abundance of chic cocktail lounges, bartenders who call themselves “mixologists,” and restaurants with specialty cocktail lists in an attempt to stand apart from all the rest, so that we are inevitably going to come across some great new cocktail creations as well as some very strange concoctions.

        But what you’ll also now see at some of these same establishments of recent years is the comeback of classic cocktails, either made according to an original or traditional recipe or with a little spin and flair from your barkeep, just as would a chef do a turn on, say,  a classic coq au vin. Not only are you getting these classics back but the bars and lounges bringing them back are going even farther by  opening in the style of a “speakeasy.” Some notable places to grab a great cocktail are PDT, which means "Please Don’t Tell," the Flatiron Lounge  and Milk & Honey.

         Of all the classics nudging their way back, like the Manhattan, Sidecar, Gin Rickey, Negroni, and Old Fashioned, the one that I am most happy to see is the Daiquiri. And let’s not get it confused with  a slushy, blender-made, fruity, syrup drink. I’m speaking of  the wonderfully simple, refreshing classic. A  three-ingredient cocktail made of rum, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup.

          So let me give a brief history of the prime ingredient--rum, an alcohol made from the molasses byproduct of sugar cane, one of history’s most prized commodities, brought to the New World by  Columbus.    Rum, which was at first called “kill-devil” in English,    may have gotten its name from a derivation of the Latin word saccharum, for sugar. By the seventeenth century rum was being distilled in Barbados, and by 1664  the first rum distillery in New York was set up on Staten Island,  quickly followed by one in Boston, which would soon have the largest distillery location in the States.

      As rum became more and more popular, its value made it acceptable as a form of currency alongside gold, and when the Sugar Act of 1764 was implemented by Great Britain, it was believed that the disruption of trade helped fuel the fire of the American Revolution.  It was part of the Triangular Trade of shipping African slaves to work the sugar plantation where sugar was shipped north to be made  into molasses and rum.    Some of history’s most highly recognized figures have put their stamp on it. George Washington gave a double ration of it on the Fourth of July to all his soldiers.

     So from this passionately loved spirit came the Daiquiri, a cocktail created in 1896 by an American engineer named Jennings Cox, then  working the mines in Daiquiri, Cuba, a small village south of Santiago. One story goes that  he had run out of gin while entertaining some American guests. He scurried through his quarters, found some rum along with some sugar and limes abundant on the island, and there the daiquiri was born and named after the village wherein he resided. Another story says he invented it at the local Olympia Hotel, where the miners drank on weekends. JFK sipped it while watching the election returns; and James Beard said “of all the spirits in your home, it is the most romantic.” Hemingway loved rum but didn't like sweet drinks, so his "Papa Dobles" contained no sugar but a dash of maraschino; he'd knock back half a dozen of these doubles in an evening at Havana's La Florida bar, pictured above and in the photo below, showing from right to left, owner-bartender Constantino Ribailagua, Mary Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway, Spencer Tracy, and friends.

 Originally, and classically, the Daiquiri has been made from white rum, but the use of golden rum, which I adore just as much, is more than an acceptable substitution and, I predict, will ultimately become your own call. Daiquiris made of white rum tend to be a more subtly flavored cocktail—depending on the quality of the rum—while golden or amber varieties lend their  rich flavor notes of vanilla, caramel, nuts, and citrus to enhance and add much more depth and complexity to the drink.  Again, it very much depends on the quality and strength of the rum, not least its alcohol proof, and I find dark rums too intense for a delicate balance in a daiquiri.

         One of my recently acquired preferences has been for Tommy Bahama rum, to which I was introduced last month at a sky box at Yankee Stadium. (The Yanks won handily.)  Tommy Bahama bottles two types of rum, White Sand and Golden Sun. At the 2010 RumXP International Tasting competition, the Golden Sun took Best in Class gold medal and double gold in the 2010 San Francisco Spirits Competition, while White Sand took home a gold.

         In rum making, there are two methods used in the distilling process: in the traditional method, most small batch artisanal rums are made from what is called a pot still  using copper vessels; large batch distillation is done in tall column stills. Tommy Bahama still uses the more controlled pot still method, a sign of care and craftsmanship, but combines it with the more modern method column still. Both their rums are then aged in small, once-used 210 -liter bourbon barrels made of white oak. After two years the White Sand rum is  filtered using a three-step charcoal process to remove any color absorbed from the barrels, while the Golden Sun is aged for a minimum of three years and comprises at least half of the blend with rums aged up to 10 yrs. Both rums are exceptional specimens and  ideal for a well-made Daiquiri.

The Golden Sun lends flavors or rich caramel, a pineapple tart sweetness and a slight oakiness from the barrels. Daiquiris made with golden will show the flavors of the rum first and foremost, with the lime and sweetness following.  White Sand creates a quite different Daiquiri, but not one subservient in the least, just a different style. White Sand is, however, more complex than the usual  white rums, displaying notes of vanilla, fruit, and freshness yet still having a depth of character from the oak, proving to be superb white rum.

So there we have my favorite daiquiri variations, as good for sitting out on a veranda in the cool summer breeze among friends and family or the one you love, beachside with the sun setting over the ocean, or just simply sipped as you prepare dinner at home.




-2oz of either Tommy Bahama White Sand or Golden Sun

-Juice of 1 lime

-2 tsp. Simple Syrup


Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake cold and strain straight up in a martini glass.




by Christopher Mariani

Tropicana Casino
2831 Boardwalk
Atlantic City, New Jersey


     Before booking a weekend with the guys down in Atlantic City, I ask myself the same two questions every time, “How much am I willing to lose?” and “Which steakhouse will we be dining at?”  With such an abundance of steakhouses there like Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris, Bobby Flay Steak, and many more, it seems they are the only dining option.  A few weeks ago, I headed to Atlantic City for the weekend with a beautiful date and was pleased to find a change of cuisine at Fin, a seafood restaurant inside the Tropicana.

     The interior is grand, layered with shades of light and dark blue, shiny glass aqua tiles that cover the restaurant’s columns, marine murals that hang from the walls, cobalt colored floors, and a terrific view of the ocean’s beach front.  The kitchen is run by a Jersey Shore native, Executive Chef Demetrios Haronis, who prides himself on using local fish purveyors and markets.  Fin’s wine list,  “50 under $50,” also supports local businesses by featuring thirteen labels from New Jersey wineries, all very good wines.

     I started with a beautifully presented selection of sushi including the restaurant’s almond-crusted tempura roll filled with crispy crab, masago, tomago, and cucumber.  We then had the fried calamari that chef Haronis gets from Judith Point, seasoned with roasted garlic black pepper and sided by a sweet chili tamarind sauce and Cajun remoulade.  We also shared the blue crab and lobster roll appetizer that was better than I’ve ever had in Montauk, the lobster roll capital of the northeast.  For our mid-course, we had the lobster bisque that was very hearty, full of flavor and filled with large chunks of lobster tail.

For entrées, stick to the “with fins” section, as opposed to the “without fins” items and you will be very pleased with the seafood.  I ordered the Chilean sea bass francaise, a large cut of fish with lots of flavor, roasted, keeping the fish moist, and sided by a chardonnay peppercorn cream sauce.  For sides,  I highly recommend the white cheddar truffle Fin fries, the blue crab macaroni and cheese, and the creamed spinach and artichokes topped with shaved parmesan cheese.  For dessert, I had a rich lemon cheesecake and the chocolate hazelnut mascarpone pyramid, both made in house.

   Not only was the food fantastic and a delightful change from the repetitive steakhouses Atlantic City has to offer, but the dining experience was extremely pleasurable, mostly due to the friendly and knowledgeable wait staff.  There is an enthusiasm among the servers that one would not expect from an Atlantic City restaurant, as was their attention to detail that made my dinner so great. For those looking to stray from the norm, try out Fin, the first seafood restaurant of its kind in AC.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to




In La Crosse, Wisconsin, a pregnant and drunk 38-year-old woman named Julie Bailey (right) threatened the cashier at a Taco John's with a hammer and shouted, "I want a soft shell and this is a stickup. Give me all your money." But the woman could not manage to get the hammer out of her pocket and minutes later the police arrested the would-be crook who told them that her roommate threatened to evict her if she didn't come up with money to buy crack cocaine. . . . Meanwhile in Atlanta,  Police arrested a man wearing a ski mask who robbed a Wendy's restaurant with a gun and was so mad about the amount of money handed over that he called back twice to complain, telling the manager,  "next time there better be more than $56." . . . And over in Toledo, Ohio, a woman was caught on video camera punching two restaurant employees and smashing a drive-thru window because she couldn't get Chicken McNuggets.  Police said the woman, Melodi Dushane, was angry that McNuggets weren't being served during breakfast time. Video:


"Smaller cuts of tuna and salmon lay on shiso or lemon slices in the shade of a banana leaf standing upright like a spiked surfboard. California rolls (crab, avocado and cucumber) and spicy tuna rolls (mildly spiced minced tuna with crunchy tempura flakes) curled up like napping pets near puddles of wasabi and pickled ginger."--Nicole Aksamit, "Hiro 88,"  The World-Herald .


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

* From now until  Dec. 21, Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT will host its Indian Summer Package. that incl.  overnight stay at Mohegan Sun, 2 complementary drinks at Leffingwells Martini Bar, $50 coupon  to Jasper White’s Summer Shack, and a $25 coupon to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Starts at $125 pp, tax included. Call 888-777-7922 and mention code PTIND, or visit

* From now until Dec. 30, Kellari Restaurants in NYC will provide a complimentary bottle of champagne to theater patrons with a ticket stub from the Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet," valid at Kellari Parea Bistro before or after show. Call 212-777-8448 or visit After show only at Kellari Taverna. Call 212-221-0144 or visit

* On Oct. 1, in NYC, Ommegang Brewery hosts an evening of new beers with steak pairings at Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C. with brewmaster Phil Leinhart and Chef Michael Vignola.  $75 pp.  Call 212-655-2300.

* Through  Oct. 3, Klee Brasserie in NYC kicks off Oktoberfest by participating in "Craft Beer Week, "for which Executive Chef Daniel Angerer will offer a 3-course dinner menu with beer pairing recommendations.  $40p p. . . . . From Sept. 29 through October., Klee Brasserie celebrates Oktoberfest with a Schnitzel Fest, which features four types of Schnitzel preparations.   Call 212-633-8033.

* On Oct. 5, in Livingston, NJ, Strip House presents an American Whiskeys dinner pairing seasonal steakhouse cuisine with a selection of bourbons.  Master Whiskey Ambassador Kevin Loser hosts.  $95 pp.  Call 973-548-0050.

* On Sept. 25 - 26, The 2010 Saint Louis Wine Festival in Saint Louis, MO, is partnering with Schnuck Markets, Inc. for a premier wine and culinary experience. Guests will enjoy live entertainment, wine and beer tastings, samplings of food from several restaurants and cooking demos from nationally recognized chefs including our Stella Artois Beer Ambassador, Bart Vandaele. $35pp. Call  877-772-5425 or visit

* On Sept. 28 in NYC, Action Against Hunger will hold their 6th annual Great Gathering of Chefs, bringing together more than 150 chefs.  Founder Alan Battman Batt will unveil his Pasta and Pudding photography books.  In addition, 20+ leading NYC restaurants will provide a  tasting. $100 pp, $250 pp. For tickets please visit

On Oct 1, Pensiero Ristorante in Evanston, IL will present a kick-off party for their month-long effort to raise money for The Breast Cancer Network of Strength by highlighting Historic Cocktails inspired by, named for, or created by famous women. During the entire month of Oct, $1 from each drink will go to the BCN. 847-475-7779 or visit

* On Oct. 6 in Charlotte, NC, Upstream
will host its Second Annual Oyster Bash.  The event will feature 10 unique varieties of fresh water oysters perfectly paired with 10 wines and sparklers.  Proceeds to Urban Ministry Center.  $95 pp, inclusive.  704-556-7730 or visit

* On Oct. 7, in NYC, Wines from Spain will host its 17th annual Great Match ‘Vivacious Varietals, Tantalizing Tastes,’ featuring more than 160 Spanish wines paired with tapas prepared by 10 of New York’s most notable chefs. $50pp.   The event will be replicated in Miami on Oct. 13.  $45. Call 888-772-4694 or visit

* On Oct.  7 in Cleveland, Ohio, Moxie, the Restaurant hosts a five course Nickel & Nickel Wine Dinner prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan Bennett. $99 pp.  Call 216-831-5599 or visit

*On Oct. 7, Social Resto Café Bar in Atlanta, GA, will host its second anniversary party – a fundraiser for C.A.R.T. which builds schools in Uganda. Complimentary appetizers and birthday cake will be served. Guests are asked to bring one or more gently-used children’s books, suitable for young people between 6 and 16, as well as school supplies. There is no charge to attend the party. Call 404-525-2246 or visit


* On Oct. 8 in Scottsdale, AZ, the Arizona Taco Festival will pit 30 southwest restaurants against each other in a Top Taco competition, awarding $7,500 in cash. The event will also feature a 30-brand Boutique Tequila Expo, Kid’s Fun Zone, live music, and over 100 types of tacos for $10/entry and $2/food sample.

* On Oct 8, Nana Restaurant at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, TX will host Friday Night Flight featuring the award winning wines of Michael David Winery. A hand-selected food and wine trio is $20 per person. Call 214-761-7470 ;

* On Oct. 11, Loire Valley Wine dinner in Alexandria, VA, Bastille restaurant presents a 5-course menu by Executive Chefs Christophe & Michelle Poteaux. $54pp. + $30 with opt. wine pairing. Call  703-519-3776 or visit


* On Oct. 15, in NYC, the Ultimate Cocktails, Spirits & Wine Blast will be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, Times Square. This event will feature a walk-around tasting of the world’s finest cocktails, spirits and wines, educational seminars and mingle with  book authors at the night’s multiple book signings. $95( VIP) $75(Gen'l) before 9/30. $110 (VIP) $90; (Gen'l) after 9/30.

* On Oct. 16 in Kenwood, CA, Landmark Vineyards hosts a “Day on the Farm,” incl. meet and greets with Landmark’s proprietors, winemakers and production crew; live jazz, library wine tasting, hands-on vineyard activities and tours; horse-drawn wagon rides; a catered harvest lunch paired with Landmark’s current release wines; bocce and various lawn games.  Children are welcome.  $50 pp.  Call 707-833-0226.

* On Oct. 16 & 17 in Norfolk, VA, the 23rd Annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival will showcase more than 30 Virginia wineries, featuring gourmet local fare, live music and special boater packages. $15 pp. Call 757-441-2345.

* On Oct. 16 in Nantucket, MA, the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce is hosting its Annual Chowder Contest on Main Street in Nantucket Town.  Taste and vote for your favorite chowder, all-you-can-eat.  $7 pp.  Call 508-228-1700.

* On Oct. 16 - 22,  starting in Albuquerque, NM Jane Butel's Southwest Cooking School is conducting a week long culinary tour of Northern NM, focusing on fine food,wines and cultural sites.  $2800 pp.  Visit  or call 505-243-2622.

* Oct. 21-24. Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, NY hosts a Gastronomic Getaway weekend featuring NY State products with The Modern's Sandro Romano and Gramercy Tavern's Christopher Buckley each preparing a three-course dinner and offering cooking lessons. Jean-Luc Du from Le Du's Wines will conduct wine tastings and pairings. Package incl.  three nights lodging, breakfast, cooking lessons, all activities, wine and spirits pairings and multi-course dinners. $2,995 per couple. A daily package of $150pp includes activities and a multi-course dinner with wine pairing. Call 877-523-2700 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: TEN REASONS TO VISIT SHANGHAI NOW


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go

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


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: 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 food and travel columnist for Esquire and wine columnist for Bloomberg News. 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