Virtual Gourmet

October 3,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER



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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.
 THIS WEEK: Six Things America Still Does Better Than Europe


In This Issue

A Bison & Game Dining Adventure in Alberta by Carey Sweet

Perbacco by Christopher Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN: Is EATALY Up to Its Hype?  by Christopher Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Very Old California Wineries Turning Out Very Good Wines by John Mariani



A Bison & Game Dining Adventure in Alberta

By Carey Sweet


    Bison have deeply soulful eyes that melt into your heart like chocolate. The big animals also taste really good as spiced pepperoni.

    That may seem like a somewhat cruel comment, but it was hard not to draw the conclusion after I 'd spent more than a week traversing the good restaurants of Alberta, Canada. My first stop, in fact, straight from the Edmonton airport, was dinner at the popular Skinny Legs & Cowgirls, where the meal included smoky bison ribs and bison ribeye. Like nearly all of the ingredients at the chic, quirky brothel-esque décor restaurant on the edge of downtown, the meat was organic and sourced locally.

     For lunch the next day, enjoyed at Eco Café in the village of Pigeon Lake about an hour-and-a-half south of the city, I tucked into a bison dip – local, roasted meat on fresh baked bread dunked in savory jus. Back in Edmonton, dinner at the established favorite Wild Tangerine (left) featured Siang Hseng wine slow-cooked Rimbey bison short ribs with gnocchi (or I could have had Ardrossan bison short ribs over sesame-sushi rice).

     Game is a big deal in the Rocky Mountain region, for good reason. It’s all part of a raging trend toward localized cuisine, catering to diners craving a sense of place through their palate. Game has its advantages, I heard over and over like a culinary chant throughout my conversations with chefs all through Canmore, Banff and Calgary: low cholesterol, calories and fat, high protein, iron and flavor.  In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 3.5-ounce serving of bison has 145 calories versus 211 for beef, and two grams of fat versus 9.3 grams. Even better, it tastes good when farm raised (as most game now is) and properly prepared; it doesn’t have that gamey flavor that has turned many consumers off. Good game is rich, toothsome, and actually a bit sweet under its robust first impression.

     If game meat used to be linked with lonely cowboys and, yes, backwoods gourmets, it’s taken on a new shine. Not surprisingly, more than one restaurant owner and game purveyor told me that their target was the young, rich, trend-driven consumer. Skinny Legs also serves boar bacon bits in its spinach salad, while Eco offers a decadent game pie brimming with locally raised elk, duck and pork; or elk stroganoff studded with apple cured bacon and mushrooms in red wine sauce. Wild Tangerine sometimes offers Leduc Amber Lane elk prepared two ways, as Lion Head-style meatballs stuffed with Sylvan Star Gouda, and as pan-seared tenderloin ladled in Saskatoon berry compote.

      In Calgary, I discovered Janice Beaton Fine Cheese, a small charcuterie shop displaying what seemed like hundreds of meats and cheeses, including wild hog salami, duck terrine and cured rabbit loin. It was served a charming, tiny restaurant next door, called The Farm (right), showcasing local boutique farmers and purveyors for dishes like Alberta bison strip loin in a Cabernet demi-glace with roasted garlic,  Poplar Bluff mashed potatoes and green beans. Even a stop-in at the Sylvan Star Cheese Factory in Red Deer, between Edmonton and Calgary, found game a-plenty, the refrigerated cases packed with seasoned elk patties and blueberry pork sausage among the enormous wheels of signature Grizzly cheese, an extra-aged Gouda with a fierce bite.

    For all the game in Canada, I kept waiting to see wild bison roaming the plains (actually, grassy fields and towering forested mountains), but I never saw a one. The closest sighting was of some deer at the side of a highway. While literally millions of the majestic animals used to roam Canada in the 1800s, now, small herds are fenced in and protected at Alberta’s national parks. It wasn’t until we arrived at Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch game farm just southwest of Calgary that I finally got up-close and personal with a majestic woolly beast.

     CRMR also raises elk on its 540-acres of rolling hills; indeed, as I pulled up for my tour, a staffer was outside the office, measuring and weighing massive piles of antlers. The racks were still bloody at the base from where they had been humanely trimmed from the animals’ heads. The severing, I learned, does little damage to the elk other than cause surprise, should he see his reflection in a pond. The smooth plush that covers growing antlers, I was told, inspired the name of one of CRMR’s game-centric restaurants, Velvet, in Calgary.

     But it was the bison that really made my knees buckle. The experience almost turned me vegetarian, as a 1,100 pound girl named Tara huffed and blew warm, wet kisses on my outstretched hand, her ridiculously deep, dark-lashed eyes like mirrors reflecting my gluttony. A baby bison (bisonette?), all soft and plush in mocha-colored downy fur, hid behind its mother in an adjacent pen.

     Except then I thought back on the previous evening’s dinner at The Bison, a boisterous, always-packed destination in Banff. With its dramatic open, coppered kitchen anchored by a wood-burning oven plus stunning mountain views from the patio, the ambiance is eclipsed by a lengthy, playful, protein-rich menu. The restaurant (left) showcases strictly locally grown, organic and sustainably farmed products, and, lest a guest has questions, the menu reads like screenplay of “Locavore: The Movie,” complete with character-rich histories on all the regional purveyors. A meal might start with seared venison carpaccio, the thin, slightly chewy meat edged in a Dijon herb crust then drizzled in balsamic and truffle oil alongside a bit of intensely fragrant Bella Lodi cheese. For an entrée, it could be pan-roasted bison tenderloin decorated in prosciutto alongside organic roasted potato and arugula salad in grainy house mustard vinaigrette.

     When my waiter suggested dessert, I opted instead for classic cheese fondue, and I was rewarded with an extravagant presentation of gooey hot Emmental, Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois cheeses, dunked with white cornichons, and bites of air dried beef and smoked bison.

     The final sway back into my carnivorous soul came when the ranch’s resident veterinarian and manager Dr. Terry Church took me to his favorite area restaurant, conveniently enough called The Ranche (below), and part of the CRMR empire. The historic house, at more than 100 years old, looks like a Grimm’s Fairy Tales chalet dropped in the middle of Fish Creek Provincial Park, an oasis just 20 minutes from downtown Calgary. But it specializes in game prepared in all kinds of delicious ways, like a charcuterie platter (below) so opulent I gave up trying to remember the literally dozens of meats and cheeses my server explained. (Bison pastrami? Elk pâté? All delightful.) The Ranche’s crispy bison short rib ravioli, however, is unforgettable, the melt-in-your mouth nubbins swathed in sweet potato buttermilk puree with a tangy kiss of pancetta herb vinaigrette. Elk flank steak was equally remarkable, bathed in an invigorating marinade of Wild Rose Ale before it was moistened in game reduction and plated with organic Gouda and spinach gnocchi alongside baby sunburst squash.

     A following evening found me at the Fairmont Banff Springs, which towers over the town from its mountainside setting, in an opulent Tudor-style mansion design that looks like it might have been the set for the film “The Shining.” It wasn’t. But it is home to Bow Valley Grill, and a menu teeming with game, such as a charcuterie plate of cured smoked bison, venison salami and smoked duck breast accented with aged Gouda, Port-caramelized onion and Saskatoon berry relish; or Carmen Creek bison medallions over earthy wild mushroom barley risotto in Okanagan Merlot jus and a dab of zingy red currant-Granny Smith hollandaise.

    The Fairmont chefs enjoy demonstrating how to work with Alberta ingredients, some plucked from the hotel’s garden and prepared in the full kitchen that is the centerpiece to the hotel’s wine shop. In my demo, the chef was Cory LeDrew of the hotel’s renowned Banffshire Club (below, right). He introduced me to pepper leaves, edible from the Bell pepper plant, and made into an intricate red pepper soup dotted with pepper leaf flan, potato chorizo, goat cheese, sherry vinegar gel and Parmesan cracker. There was no bison in the blend, but it’s pretty sure that the soup would go well with the meat, yes?

     Of Alberta’s many extraordinary destinations for game meat, each has its charms and challenges. Skinny Legs relocated to new space last December and deserves a stop-in just for its décor. Gauzy black and burgundy velvet drapes frame burnt orange walls lit by glittering chandeliers and flickering candles, and one of the proprietors, Amy Kellock, dresses like a tattooed 50’s pin-up girl. Except it’s really a destination for groups, since portions and prices are for sharing ($90 for a mixed grill, $25 for the spinach salad). But by all means, get the papas con leche (“potatoes that hug you,” purred Amy), for a gooey bliss of local potatoes sautéed with onions, peanuts, chiles and feta finished in oceans of cream.

     Eco Café is a nice day-trip out of Edmonton into a tiny, tourist-rich town of boutiques and convenience stores. The wide ranging menu showcases local ingredients across a health-oriented platform, for Asian, Mediterranean, country farm and Moroccan recipes, plus there is an on-site bakery for delicious breads and desserts. Yet this was my first discovery that Canadians eat their meat well-done, which for a medium-rare girl like me rendered my bison somewhat tasteless. It’s an odd predilection, this well-done thing, considering that game, as a lean, dark red meat with virtually no marbling, really needs to be seared either quickly on high heat, or cooked slow and low. Fair warning, too: reservations are accepted for only parties of six or more, and smaller groups can plan on very long waits.

     Besides The Bison restaurant, another must-not-miss is the new Charcut (left) in Calgary’s deliciously hip Hotel Le Germain (it opened in February). Stylish and sophisticated in the manner of contemporary butcher-friendly cuisine, servers think nothing of describing meats like mortadella as “a whole pig head stuffed and slow cooked until it melts like butter.” Oh, it’s divine, devastatingly creamy and bursting with earthy pork flavor studded with pistachios and truffles. The talents behind this high-style business cure their own meats and always have something spinning on the roaster; “char” is for the rotisserie and “cut” is for the vintage-style slicer and charcuterie bar. Canada culinary types will recognize John Jackson and Connie DeSousa as the chefs-owners. Pretty much the entire menu is meat – the Canadian classic poutine is updated with a deep fry in duck fat, and even a dessert of coconut and Mauritian vanilla bean crème brûlée comes (so cute) with animal crackers.

     In Canada, visitors can even stay at a wild game-centric ranch; CRMR owns the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts group, for a collection of mountain lodges across Banff and Yoho National Parks including Buffalo Mountain, Deer and Emerald Lake Lodges and Painted Boat Resort & Marina.

    As for those chocolate-y eyes, well, Church put it matter-of-factly, even as he stroked Tara’s giant snout with obvious affection. Bulls get harvested at 24 to 30 months; heifers at 30 to 36 months. Beyond that, they toughen, and are good only for ground meats. Bison are beautiful, he agreed. But mainly, in today’s locavore-loving Canada, bison are for eating.

Carey Sweet is a California-based travel and food author writes for the Arizona Republic, The San Francisco Chronicle, Phoenix Magazine, and Inside Sonoma.



by Christopher Mariani


234 East Fourth Street (near Avenue A)

      Largely, the restaurants of the Lower East Side are small. Perbacco is one of them.
      The entrance places you directly into the middle of the dining room where youthful yet food savvy diners eat within the restaurant’s rustic interior of brick walls, dim lighting, and dark wood furniture. 
I dined at Perbacco on a weekday and was happy to see the restaurant filled with young families, children actually eating an array of different foods including vegetables and fish, a table of ten women in their early thirties, talking a bit too loud, but still adding to Perbacco’s vibrant atmosphere, and young couples in love who filled the three or four sidewalk tables enjoying the cool summer breeze over wine and pasta.
The restaurant was opened seven years ago by restaurateurs Gianluca Giovanetti and Pierluigi Palazzo, who are also the owners of Gnocco, located in the East Village. Executive chef Simone Bonelli runs the kitchen and puts together a  unique Italian menu, altering some of Italy’s classic dishes, creating hearty pasta courses with loads of cheese and truffles, and even deconstructs some traditional cucina alla’italiana items.
         I left the ordering in the hands of general manager Francesco Lucitelli, who will be found throughout the evening stopping by tables and educating his guests on exactly what they are eating, where the ingredients come from, and the history behind each dish.  One quality I appreciated about Francesco, who is also responsible for the restaurant’s vast Italian label wine list, is that throughout my many courses that evening, I was served vini rossi with all of them, opposed to the frustrating selection of glass after glass of white wine  so many sommeliers love to pair with dishes.  I thanked him at the end of the meal for choosing terrific wine pairings, and he simply replied, “I am Italian,  so when I eat good Italian food, I must enjoy it with a glass of red wine.”
         One of Perbacco’s signature appetizers is the crème brûlée di parmigiano reggiano, a warm parmesan custard topped with a thin crunchy layer of flamed parmesan cheese and drizzled with 12-year old balsamic vinegar, the consistency of syrup.  I also recommend the antipasto emiliano, a generous selection of Italian cheeses, thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma, deep fried gnocco bread, and olive oil.  Do not miss out on chef Bonelli’s pasta dishes, especially my favorite, the rosette alla Speck e bufala, made with Emilian pasta rolled together with imported Italian buffalo mozzarella and surrounded by a rich zabaione truffle sauce.  The pasta was cooked al dente, the aroma of the truffled zabaione filled the entire dining room and turned every guest's head in my direction; best of all, the buffalo mozzarella was slightly tangy, a flavor that overly creamy domestic buffalo mozzarellas never capture.  The lasagna alla Bolognese was another rich pasta dish that tasted exactly the way my mother’s meat lasagna tasted when I was growing up, and that is a rare compliment.  Since  my belt had already been loosened, I asked Francesco for just one meat dish, the vitello tonnato, seared veal and tuna steak served with salsa tonnata and anchovies, capers, and a lemon peel pesto.

      For dessert pastry chef Luca Balboni tricked me by sending out what appeared to be a  hamburger slider and french fries, quickly realizing that the burger was chocolate and vanilla mouse topped with caramelized apples, the fries were julienned sliced pears, the bun was similar to a muffin, and the ketchup was a strawberry puree.
Perbacco offers a great experience for its guests to dine in a casual setting, taste traditional Italian ingredients, learn about the history of the cuisine, and also walk out after a multiple course meal spending far less than you would for the same food at a much more
upscale Italian restaurant.

Perbacco is open for dinner Monday-Friday, lunch and dinner both Saturday and Sunday.  Appetizers $9-$15, pastas $15-$21, and main course $21-$25.  Perbacco also offers a three course $40 tasting menu Sunday-Wednesday .   


Very Old California Wineries Turning Out Very Good Wines
by John Mariani

    Although the rate of multi-million dollar winery openings may have slowed during the recession, the reputation and glamor of Napa Valley is still too often more about razzle-dazzle than good wine.  Well-financed estates aim at winning awards for big, fleshy, high-alcohol fruit bombs while more austere, traditional wines from older wineries don’t get the press they deserve.
     Two cases in point are old California veterans--Concannon, not in Napa but in Livermore Valley,  and Clos du Val—which today are turning out some of the most impressive, well-balanced red wines in California. Their quality is based on long knowledge of the soil and terroir and the sense enough to know that fads in wine come and go, while hard work and experience endure.
     Concannon is one of California’s oldest, planted by Irish immigrant James Concannon in Livermore Valley in 1883. He was also the first to plant petite sirah in America and third-generation Jim Concannon made the state’s first wines from that varietal in 1961 (released in 1964). The family also developed some of the most widely adopted cabernet sauvignon clones, numbers 7, 8, and 9, now standard in many of Napa’s finest cabs.
      Fourth generation vintner John Concannon, whose birth in 1961 was commemorated with the planting of that first petite sirah, now runs the company, after 22 years as sales manager for medical device manufacturers. I recently had lunch with him an Italian restaurant named Capri in McLean, VA, where he poured some of his Conservancy line of wines. The name comes from the Conservancy of California winegrowers who have placed their land in a legal trust to protect against development forever.

I thoroughly enjoyed his 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, a brawny but balanced big red that, at just 13.5 percent alcohol, had hints of oak and plenty of dark fruit without the cloying sweetness and blast of higher alcohol examples.  And at $15 a bottle, it’s a stellar buy.                                             Barrel cellar at Concannon

      But I had to admit Concannon’s 2007 Petite Sirah ($15) and Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah ($30) reminded me of the creamy richness this varietal delivers when made with care. The former is silky, with a good range of plum and cherry flavors within a light oaky framework; it was delicious with gnocchi pasta with tomato and mozzarella. The latter, named after second-generation Joe, who served in the First Cavalry, is culled from Concannon’s best lots, then given a small amount of syrah (a different grape from petite sirah) for structure.  At 14.5 percent alcohol, it’s a very muscular wine, which went well with our entrée of veal scaloppine with a brandy cream sauce, and would be ideal for Thanksgiving dinner.
Clos du Val (below), founded in 1972 by John Goelet and Bordeaux winemaker Bernard Portet (now retired), was the first Napa vineyard I ever visited, back in 1977, and I recall Portet’s passionate prediction that there was great potential in the Valley’s vineyards. A year before Clos du Val was one of the cabernets selected for the now legendary 1976 Paris tasting matched blind against First Growth Bordeaux; it came in eighth out of ten wines; in a rematch ten years later Clos du Val took first place.
Portet and successive Clos du Val winemakers (Kristy Melton, formerly of Saintsbury winery, just too over in August) have always hewed to a classic Bordeaux style determined primarily by the terroir not by the winery. I’ve always found Clos du Val’s wines among the most elegantly structured in the Valley, never oaky, never hot, never sweet, never cloying, with sensible alcohol levels.  Back when many Napa vintners scoffed at adding merlot to their cabs, Portet knew from the start how softened the tannins, as has been traditional in Bordeaux.
I opened a bottle of the new release of their flagship wine, Stags Leap District 2005, the other night with a sirloin steak and was reminded all over again what a glorious match great American beef and fine cabernet sauvignon is. Rounded out with 14 percent merlot, velvety, restrained at first then blossoming slowly with the fat of the beef on the palate, the wine is a paragon of how French tradition and California terroir can so honorably merge into excellence.

The function of all good wine is to please the drinker, but in the case of Concannon and Clos du Val, they also just make me very happy.

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.


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by Christopher Mariani

200 Fifth Avenue


     Is all the hype about Eataly real?
     After I literally tasted items from every food station in the enormous space,
I say, yes. The market is the first of its kind. Lidia Bastianich and son Joe, along with chef Mario Batali, have created something very special for New Yorkers.  Besides Arthur Avenue’s Mike’s Deli, which in no way resembles Manhattan’s Eataly but does pay a very similar attention to detail when it comes to using the best Italian ingredients and the authentic, traditional preparations for cooked food, there is not a market in Manhattan than can compete with Eataly’s quality.  It is also Eataly’s knowledgeable, well-versed and passionate staff, who are willing to educate all customers, offering a chance for New Yorkers to expand their wisdom of Italian cuisine.

     The vast market is filled with every conceivable Italian item, including endless selections of terrific imported cheeses like pecorino and parmigiano, along with homemade mozzarellas, ricottas and burratas that go wonderfully with Eataly’s prosciuttos, mortadellas, sopressatas, and pancettas.  The selection does not stop there, there are homemade pastas made daily; ravioli, pappardelle, and capellini, placed beside the bread station that offers selections of foccacia and ciabatta bread that fill half the market with one of the most pleasant aromas the I’ve ever inhaled.

     There's even an Ipad application to keep track of what's seasonal and special that day. The rooms jut off from one another, left and right, gaily decorated with Italian art and posters and photos.  The floors are like brushed tile, the music is a slew of Italian-American crooners. A first-time visitor may be dazzled by it all, and the opening weeks have clearly been just shy of pandemonium, but the staff seems already quite in control and very friendly.  So you should sample several areas, bring home some bread, and save the steakhouse for another day.
      Not that I can  imagine  anyone neglecting to pass by the pizzeria station, but make sure to stop by and order one of Eataly’s thin crust pies simply topped with plump, sweet, tangy tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese.  Afterwards, go to the gelato station, conveniently located by the exit. Nocciola and fig are my two favorite flavors, while sitting at the Lavazza café and enjoying a short espresso.  I give lots of credit to those who are willing to attempt something never done before and on such a grand scale, but I must also say that Lidia, Joe, and Mario have picked the right city in which to experiment

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to



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"I don’t mind friends phoning me up for restaurant advice, I really don’t. I’m flattered they think I have the sort of wide-ranging knowledge and instant recall that could be of use to a person frantically hunting for a great meal at short notice. But I haven’t. A thankless life, it truly is. And the worst of all is when people ask me to recommend somewhere `fun'. What do they mean? Whoever said restaurants were meant to be fun? Playing football in the park on a Sunday afternoon in May is fun. Throwing tangerine segments at people out of the window and then ducking down below the sill is fun. Ironing all your pants and T-shirts on a rainy Wednesday afternoon while listening to Radio 2 is fun. But restaurants?"--Giles Coren, "Aqua Kyoto," London Times.


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


In Chicago, IL and Lincolnshire, IL, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is now offering a 3-course Prix Fixe Menu inspired by the vibrant flavors of the season. The menu is available through January 3. $39.95 pp. Visit

* During the month of Oct. in NYC, Capsouto Freres will offer a 3-course menu for $30 pp. in honor of its 30th Anniversary. On Oct. 16, Capsouto Freres' actual anniversary date, guests will receive a complimentary glass of Champagne and celebratory Anniversary cake with dinner and enjoy live entertainment. Call 212-966-4900 or visit

* From Oct. 1 – 10, Shake Shack (various locations in NYC & Miami Beach) will host its annual Shacktoberfest celebration. In addition to its regular menu, Shake Shack will offer a selection of specials inspired by the Bavarian festival Visit

* On Oct. 1-31, Alize at the Top of the Palms in Las Vegas will host National Vegetarian Month.  To increase awareness of the variety of delicious meat-free options, Alizé at the Top of the Palms is offering a special, six-course vegetarian tasting menu.  $55pp.  Call 702-951-7000 or visit

*From Oct. 1-  31 in NYC David Burke will host WineFest at David Burke Townhouse, Fishtail and David Burke at Bloomingdale's and make great wines accessible to restaurant guests. Activities incl. "Spin the Bottle" where guests spin a wine wheel for prizes , specially priced wine lists, no corkage fee Mondays and wine dinners at each restaurant throughout the mont, Visit  or call 212-813-2121; or call 212-754-1300; or call 212-705-3800 that day.

* On Oct. 5 in La Grange, IL, Bella Bacinos hosts a wine event with Australian winemaker John Duval, from the famous Barossa Valley with six wines and light fare with artisanal cheeses. $39 pp. Call 708-420-9600.

* 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.  $175 pp. Visit

* On Oct. 9 in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Musuem will host Kid Chef Eliana de Las Casas as part of the New Orleans con sabor Latino exhibit and demonstration series. Eliana will prepare her own Cajun Cuban Sandwich and signing copies of her book Eliana Cooks! Recipes for Creative Kids. $10 pp, Children under 12 free. On Oct. 11, celebrate Southern Food Heritage Day with SoFAB by making a southern dinner and sharing your favorite southern recipes. Call 504-569-0405 or visit

* On Oct.  11 in Chicago, join Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano and Chef di Cucina Meg Colleran Sahs as they host the inaugural "Farm to Fork Fest" walk-around event with tasting dishes prepared by Terzo Piano and other local chefs, incl. Rob & Allison Leavitt of Mado, Josh Adams of June and Jason Hammel & Amalea Tshilds of Lula Café.  $125 pp and a portion will benefit Feeding America. Call 312.443.8650.

* From now until Oct. 15,  to celebrate Chile's 200th birthday, the Wines of Chile Experience is sending one lucky wine enthusiast and a friend on a dream trip to the wine regions of Chile. Applicants to "Tweet, Tweet, Chile" will be asked to create their ideal seven-day itinerary for their own Chilean adventure and describe how they would use Twitter to share their thoughts and experiences with the world. The top five itineraries will be put to public vote--but only one can win. Visit


* On Oct. 17, the annual Harvest Celebration benefitting Chicago's Green City Market takes place at Mettawa Manor, the country estate of Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra. Explore the gardens of this exquisite estate while enjoying Harvest-inspired cuisine from some of Chicago's top chefs, sip seasonal cocktails and local wines and bid on live and silent auction items. Tickets (tax-deductible) $250 pp and up; call 773-880-1266.

* From Oct. 19 - 26, Douglas Katz of fire food and drink in Cleveland will lead a group of "Slow Food" aficionados to Turin and Milan to the Salone del Gusto, the public forum of Terra Madre, incl. a private visit to the "Last Supper" by DaVinci, great restaurants in Milan and Turin, 3 days in the Piedmont to learn risotto making, to taste the best barolos and grappa - plus cooking classes throughout - and a balloon ride over the vineyards.  Visit

* On Oct.  21 at Two Spear Street in Nyack, NY, invites patrons to enjoy a German wine and food sampling with some of the finest German wines from the Rhine region. The evening begins at 6:30 pm with a five course tasting menu prepared by Executive Chef Kyle Rubino.  $39.95 pp. Call 845-353-7733;

* On Oct. 23 and Oct. 24 in Conwy, Wales, UK – The Conwy Food Festival incl. free admission to Conwy Castle. Call (+ 44) (0) 1492 593874.

* On Oct. 27, in Cary, NC, Herons’ executive chef Scott Crawford and chef de cuisine Steven D. Greene will celebrate the restaurant’s Sept. reopening by hosting Curtis Duffy, chef de cuisine of Avenues at The Peninsula Chicago, and Claudio Aprile, chef of Colborne Lane in Toronto, for an evening of culinary excellence. $145 pp. Call 919-447-4050 or visit

* On Oct. 29 in Manchester Village, VT, Equinox Resort presents the Farmers Dinner Series in partnerships with Taylor Farms and Vermont Fresh Network with Equinox’s  Chef Jeffrey Russell.  $50 pp. Call 802-362-4700.

* On Oct. 30, Lawry’s the Prime Rib in Chicago, IL, will host their annual Halloween dinner, including a prix fixe menu of signature dishes with spook-inspired twists and haunting tours of the historical 1890s McCormick Mansion. $48pp. 312-787-5000.

* On Oct. 30 in Napa Valley, CA, Auberge du Soleil and Swanson Vineyards celebrate their 25th anniversaries with joint intimate event. W. Clarke and Elizabeth Pipes Swanson host for a five-course dinner by Executive Chef Robert Curry and wine pairings.  $250 pp.  Call 707/967-3147 or email:

* On Oct. 31,  chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison will bring together the South’s culinary icons for Sunday Supper South, a gourmet, family style Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner to be held at Westside Provisions District in Atlanta. Chefs incl. Hugh Acheson, Sean Brock, John Currence, Chris Hastings, Linton Hopkins, Mike Lata, Frank Lee and Bill Smith, et al. $150 for JBF members and $175 for non-members. Call 404-365-0410, ext. 22 or visit

* From  Oct. 31-Dec. 2, in Yosemite National Park, CA, The Ahwahnee will host its annual Vintners’ Holidays event, bringing together 32 of California’s best winemakers.  In a series of eight sessions, Vintners’ Holidays incl.  winetastings, educational seminars,  reception and a grand finale 5-course gala dinner held in The Ahwahnee’s Dining Room,  by Executive Chef Percy Whatley.  Two- and three-night packages start at $744.  Call 801-559-4903 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: 10 Affordable Fall Foliage Towns; A Slow Walk in Devon.


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.

 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