Virtual Gourmet

October 17,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas  at `21' Club, NYC, in "Wall Street" (1987)



➔ ARCHIVE:  Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on

➔ SUBSCRIBE AND UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish to this newsletter--free of charge--by clicking here.

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: Sparring with the Most Sensitive Important Michelin Man in Food; The Endorsement: Cooking with Anchovies


In This Issue

by John Mariani

esquire's best new restaurants of 2010 by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER DÉVI by Christopher Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN: Esquire Celebrates Best New Restaurants at NYC Party
by Christopher Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Fresh Wind from Pantelleria by Mort Hochstein



by John Mariani

      I am not by nature a person who loves cruising, especially since cruise ships have gotten larger and larger and come to resemble a floating Las Vegas where the food venues are more feed halls than venues.  When I do choose to cruise it is principally because of the ports of call,  which lets out all those dreary Caribbean landings where you are greeted by hawkers and hustlers and there's nothing to see except Duty Free shops.  But give me an itinerary that includes ports I've never been to or yearn to see again, and I get very interested.  Since most ships dock for only a day in any one port,  I regard a cruise as a way to find out if there is any reason to spend more than ten hours in a port city.  Sometimes three hours is more than enough. Other ports are so fascinating that I know I will come back for further enrichment.
       I also demand that the food and restaurants be at least at the standard of a good restaurant in a major city.  How often have I dined onboard and found distressing signs of brown vegetables, malodorous seafood, and meat way past its prime, if it ever had one. 
   Thus, an invitation to join an Eastern Mediterranean cruise on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner  came as a good way to indulge my wife and myself with visits to new lands and to see if Regent's food and service live up to their high reputation among high-end travelers.
       Along with competitors like Crystal, Gauguin, Seabourne, and Silver Seas in the deluxe market, Regent is trying to win passengers for whom money may or may not be an object, even in this economy, so  one of the principle  distinctions among the lines has to be in food and service.  I found Regent's service nonpareil--with 445 European and international crew--from the reception in those first confusing moments of getting onboard to the highly efficient passage of guests to ports of call, by tender or simply alighting at the dock.  What with the various security issues in each individual country, the handling of passports and entry went flawlessly, not least in Israel, known for its high alert security.  Cruise Director Jamie Logan proved indefatigable and unflappable in keeping us informed hourly and aiding passengers in every way. Our suitekeeper, a charming girl from Indonesia, could not have been more amieable; the concierge was always willing to help in any way, never at a loss for information and usually personally familiar with the destinations. And when a snafu occurred, as when
a bus driver at Haifa that said he would leave at 12:15 to return to the ship decided to leave at noon instead, stranding us  for the next hour, the ship's manager leapt to deal with the incident upon my report.
       The restaurant waitstaff, from food & beverage director Paolo Milordo to the suave Spanish bartender Miguel, from maître d's to waiters, quite literally rush to get whatever a guests requires, often anticipating that request by delivering a fresh napkin or more butter or wine.  If anything, they can be a little too intrusive, with someone asking every two minutes if everything is all right, and we were drowning under incessant offers to refill glasses with more and more ice water.
      By the way, all gratuities are included in the price of passage, a very welcome amenity that more deluxe cruise lines have now adapted.
       The Mariner itself, 709 feet in length, is a beautiful, sleek ship, not one of those behemoths looking like a bloated harmonica.  The Mariner takes only 700 guests, so we never felt overwhelmed by crowds  or lost in the labyrinths of the leviathans taking thousands of passengers.
     Cruisewear is the norm, with no requirements for jackets and ties (on cruises less than two weeks, there are no black tie nights), although probably about half the gentlemen onboard wore jackets in the restaurants at dinnertime.
      Our suite (below), commodious and, like all others on the Mariner,
with a private balcony facing the sea,  was quite handsome, the bed of fine quality,  a walk-in closet, an impeccable bathroom of good size with a spacious shower with amazing water pressure and almost instant heaed water. Rooms are decked out with guests' favorite liquors (all liquor, wine and cocktails are included in the passage price).  Flat screen TVs get a decent number of channels, though more would be better (and that infernal CNN International still only seems to change its programming about once every ten days, with more sports than news).  My time onboard  was greatly enhanced by also having a DVD player and a very good list of movies to borrow.  Last but not least, wireless service was remarkably good, interrupted only in occasional dead spots but overall available at sea and on land.  I daresay my Blackberry had fewer problems than I've had standing on a corner of NYC. 
      Other amenities include a beauty salon and spa, an art gallery (with an auction is held at the end of the trip), a boutique and card room, a small casino I assiduously avoided,  and a very well-stocked library, from which I borrowed and read  four books in ten days while plying the waters to the next destination.  Newspapers come in the international condensed form in the morning and about half dozen, including the Wall Street Journal and The International Herald Tribune, are available in complete form in the lounge.
     There are four dining areas on the Mariner, and one outdoor grill by the pool.  The Compass Rose  (below) is the largest, requiring no reservations, and there is none of that outdated sit-with-the-same-people-every-night ordeal.  Most nights my wife and I had, as requested, a table of our own.  Picture windows allow for a view of the sea for everyone. The food at The Compass Rose is in the international style, the tables luxuriously set (all the restaurants use Riedel stemware), the waitstaff set to a well-honed tempo.
     Menus change daily, with selections of wines I found overall of top quality, while the winelist itself, overseen by sommelier Stefano Ferrari, has breadth and depth, and, much to my surprise, prices that are startlingly moderate; indeed, there are wines on Mariner's list you would pay considerably more for in a restaurant in the U.S. or Europe. 
(Canyon Ranch Spa Cuisine is also offered, along with no salt items.) I can only hint at the variety and quality of the cooking at The Compass Rose, from a pasta of the day like fettuccine with veal ragù and porcini to roast quail stuffed with a mousseline of foie gras, with barley risotto, Port reduction, sugar snap peas and Vichy carrots.  On another night it would be soft-shell crabs with a sauce rouille or Wiener Schnitzel with a potato and cucumber salad. Each evening there is also a menu dégustation--no extra charge--by Chef Cornel Ruhland, and throughout the cruise provender and seafood are picked up from the local markets.  This alone is a distinguishing mark for Regent, because so many large cruise lines merely stock their larders in a single port and serve it until they get new, basic supplies.  The chef apologized to us one night because a shipment of fresh fish arrived too late to load onboard. 
          Signatures (left) is a smaller dining venue, requiring reservations, somewhat more posh, with menus crafted in association with Le Cordon Bleu's Academie d'Art Culinaire, under the supervision of Chef Oleksandr Pundyev.  This, of course, means it is resolutely French, though the décor is modern French, with candlelight, not unlike what you might find in a contemporary fine dining room in Paris, albeit without the view of the wine dark sea outside your window.  There were some excellent dishes the night we dined here,  including a lobster salad with a colorful mango fondue; a silky terrine of foie gras with prune quenelles; a very good pistou--the Provençal soup so often watery, here chunky with vegetables and fragrant with fine olive oil; a crustacean bisque was a little thin but it was full of avocado, crabmeat and tomato garnishes.
      A seabass fillet was perfectly cooked, with pistachio oil, spinach and marinated tomatoes, though it might have used a little more fat in the bargain.  Rack of lamb was served with a small quiche of blue cheese and herbed yogurt sauce.  Such dishes do in fact show how even the highly conservative repertoire of Le Cordon Bleu menus have adapted to and adopted global influences, and that is all to the good.  By the way, the wine served that evening with the meat course was fabulous--a Châteauneuf-du-Pape Serabel 2008.  Desserts included baba au rhum, but I could not resist the array of perfectly ripe cheeses that included chèvre, reblochon, Roquefort and brie, along with a glass of ten-year-old Port.
      La Veranda (right) functions as a sunlighted breakfast buffet--lavish to the hilt, with daily specials--with unexpectedly good croissants and brioche; then at lunch the pizza window opens (pretty good, not outstanding) and on the last night out of port, a barbecue that surpassed any expectations for Lucullan excess from chicken and ribs to shrimp and salads, and desserts galore, together with live entertainment (of which I shall say more in a moment).  After six p.m. La Verandah turns into a no-reservations Italian restaurant, and the food is of very high quality, especially if you enlist the Italian members of the crew to give due diligence to the cooking of the pastas.
      The newest addition to the Regent ships is the Prime 7 steakhouse (below)--the pride of the fleet, for good reason. Balancing the solidly masculine with the softly feminine, the room is romantic enough for women and clubbish enough for men to take a big table and enjoy themselves.  Every cruise line serves steaks and prime rib, and many have a steakhouse onboard, but the quality of the meat on so many is mediocre.  This is not the case at Prime 7, which serves some of the best cuts I've come across on land or sea.  Open the menu and you'll see that the beef is in fact USDA Prime, the highest, best marbled grade, aged a minimum of 28 days, and it is all expertly cooked, with a good char on the outside, succulent throughout.
     You begin here with a wide assortment of appetizers--tuna tartare with olives and green beans; jumbo shrimp cocktail; lump crabmeat with southwest slaw and roasted pepper sauce; and three-steak tartare. The main event is the beef and assorted chops, including an excellent 16-ounce veal chop and Berkshire pork (the lamb is from New Zealand and not all that wonderful)  and you can choose-, or have all, the sauces, from chimichuri to classic Bearnaise. The side dishes get just as much attention as what precedes them, including gloriously rich creamed spinach, aromatic truffle fries, good onion rings, and a corn casserole.
      Almost every night, the ship offers live entertainment, which I assumed was going to a gang of toothy young hoofers on a par with a lounge act in Reno. or stage at Disneyland.  I was, then, bowled over by the intense, vibrant talent of an array of very attractive singers, dancers, and musicians whose nearly one-hour nightly shows would have bested most I've seen in Las Vegas.  On one night they sang all Broadway show tunes, on another Beatles songs, on another the classic American Songbook, all on a large, expansive stage (right).  The strength of their voices, together and solo, the tightness of their harmonies, the ever-changing costumes, and the interplay with dancers drew me every night of the cruise, including those nights with the cunningly mad Russian pianist Alexei Filimonov.
      I shall have a good deal more to say about the ports of call I visited on the cruise in upcoming weeks--Rhodes, Ephesus, Santorini, Jerusalem, and others--which were the real reason I take cruises at all.  Yet while I will never understand those passengers who rarely even get off the boat, I can say that all the time I spent onboard the Mariner was well spent, and deliciously so.  Indeed, one day, a powerful wind and choppy sea prevented the tenders from docking with the Mariner at Mykonos, so we couldn't get off at all.  I was very disappointed at first, but then the idea of spending an entire  day aboard the Mariner with nothing to do but what I wanted to do and wanted to drink and wanted to eat, finished off with fine entertainment, started looking quite good to me soon afterwards.
People have been rocked to sleep by the gentle flow of the Mediterranean for 10,000 years, but I suspect very few have done so in this level of luxury and balance.



By John Mariani


For the 26th year, I've been compiling Esquire's "Best New Restaurants of the Year," and the competition only gets better,  my narrowing down of choices tougher and tougher.  Here are this year's picks, which appear in the November issue, followed by a "Man About Town" report on the gala awards party in NYC.







Cook & Brown







Longman & Eagle

Bistro Niko

Miller Union


WP24 by Wolfgang Puck







Julian Serrano


Kalu Asian Kitchen




Alon ShayaDomenica, New Orleans.

Nick BallaNombe Restaurant, San Francisco.
Joshua Hopkins
Abattoir, Atlanta.
Michael Schulson-
-Sampan, Philadelphia.


R2L, Philadelphia
Testaccio, NYC

Ma Peche--NYC

Coppa,  Boston

The Forge--Miami Beach
Ciao Bello, Houston
Chinato, Cleveland
Cantinetta Piero —Yountville, CA

Jory—Newberg, Oregon

Sage--Las Vegas

Seasons at The Ocean House--Watch Hill, Rhode Island



by Christopher Mariani

photos by Ben Fink


8 East 18th Street (near Fifth Avenue)


     Dévi, located in Manhattan’s Flat Iron District has some fierce competition, located just blocks away from many of NYC’s best restaurants, like ABC Kitchen, A Voce, Craft,  Gramercy Tavern, and others, yet it seems Dévi is only competing with its former self, the Michelin one-star rated Dévi of 2008.  In ‘09, that Michelin star was taken away--no Indian restaurant has a star currently--and now Dévi is putting every ounce of energy and passion into getting that star back. On the basis of a recent visit, I can see the results showing.

         Chef Hement Mathur and chef Survir Saran have been running Devi’s kitchen for three years after becoming owners in October of ‘07 and have continued to produce some of NY’s most upscale Indian food.  With the addition of sommelier Jeff Bartels, a strong advocate of smaller wineries from almost every corner of the world, Dévi’s wine list has expanded and matured.  I also felt the staff was top notch, all servers well-educated on food preparations and reflected Mathur and Saran’s commitment to development and improvement.

         The interior is magical, done in shades of red, orange and yellow that blanket the floors, walls and ceilings, all softened by enormous cream colored curtains that drape the entire perimeter of the restaurant, even covering the sleek windows, creating a dim, romantic setting.  My date and I had the pleasure of dining at one of Dévi’s four more private tables toward the back of the restaurant (right) where we sat on a colorful banquette surrounded by crafted white wooden columns and archways dressed with see-through pastel textiles.

         For dinner I opted for the tasting menu, a decision that helped me avoid making tough decisions with so many tantalizing options. The first three courses, dahi batata puri, sweet corn puri, seared diver scallops with Manchurian cauliflower, and shrimp bruschetta, all had wonderful flavors of tamarind, sweet and spicy, along with crunchy textures and elegant presentations.  Next was a tandoori-grilled halibut served with butternut squash and lemon rassam soup paired with a Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel region.  It was in the meat section of the menu where I felt chef Survir really showcased his talent.  The first of two meat dishes was a lamb-stuffed chicken sided by an Asian tiger prawn served with an okra salad full of heat and chopped onions.  My favorite dish of the evening was the tandoori grilled lamb chops (left), full of flavor and balanced well with strong spices plated next to a sweet pear chutney.
      Whether or not you chose to order off the menu or go for the extensive  tasting menu at $65,  do not miss out on Dévi’s desserts, especially the pistachio kulfi and the mango cheesecake.

        I don’t rate restaurants with stars that give no real information, but I can assure diners that Dévi is successfully offering New Yorkers flavorful Indian food, terrific service, an outstanding wine list, and best of all, a romantic  dining experience that deserves very high praise.
Dinner is served nightly, Lunch Mon.-Fri.; Appetizers run  $6-12, Dinner Entrées $15-30; Chef's Tasting Menu: $65 ($110 with wine pairings); Three-Course Menu: $45 ($80 with wine pairings); Pre-Theater Three-Course Tasting: $40, incl.  a glass of wine or beer; Supper Specials: $20 (Sunday - Tuesday)



by Mort Hochstein


      Pantelleria is a windswept speck of an island off Sicily, actually closer to Tunisia on the North African Coast. Like Sicily and many of the islands along  the Mediterranean, it has been ravaged and occupied over the centuries by Romans  Phoenicians, Moors, Turks and  marauders from other European and Asian nations.

   During World War Two, Pantelleria became the first Axis-occupied territory to be captured by Allied forces.    Oddly, the struggle for Pantelleria was called Operation Corkscrew, which seems to have had no connection to wine, since , at the time, the island made only a little-known regional dessert wine called Passito.  Though surrounded by the sea, the Pantellerians are farmers, not fishermen, known for    capers and   dessert wines produced from the Zbibbo grape, known elsewhere Muscat of Alexandria, the basis for desert wines in many regions,   such as Italy’s better known  Muscato d’Alba and France’s Muscat de Beaume de Venise.

       Passito wines come from grapes that have been spread on the ground or on attic floors and exposed to sun and air until they become raisiny. They are then pressed and the liquid is left to ferment for up to a month before being transformed into a precious and expensive dessert wine.

       Growers on Pantelleria produced other wines but until recently few were exported. That  changed in 1997 when Calogero Mannino, a Sicilian born attorney and former Minister of agriculture for Italy, planted a 30- hectare vineyard  to cultivate   Nero d’Avola, the primary red of Sicily, along with the traditional Mediterranean grapes Syrah, Grenache and Carignane, and encouraged farmers to expand their horizons  beyond Zibibbo.

       Encouraged by Giacomo Tachis, Italy’s foremost wine consultant, Mannino launched a  line of  wines under the Abraxas label and brought them to a media tasting in New York at SD26, where restaurateur Tony May andf Chef Matteo Bergamini paired them with hard-to-find Italian specialties, including Menaica anchovies, red prawns and scampi from Mazzara, Sicily, calamaretti  from the Adriatic, burrata from Puglia, San Marzano tomatoes from Campania, and  Italian  cheeses, accompanied by chestnut honey and Sorrento walnuts.

      The star of the line is Passito di Pantelleria, and it lived up to advance billing as one of the great sweet wines, showing a big floral approach, almost an orange liqueur in its richness, honeyed but with good acid, delicate but not cloying on the palate. Kuddia delle Ginestre, also based on Zibibbo, was a white of medium to heavy weight,  powerful enough to plate nicely with the tart sea urchin ravioli and  the highly spiced shrimps it.

The Cantina at Abraxas

          Our first red was Kuddia di Ze, a Provençal-style  blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignane, which could easily be described as a Pantellerian Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was paired with tubular pasta known as candele and n’duja, a soft , almost creamy, chile-spiced  Calabrian sausage--not a perfect pairing for me since the rustic sausage  combo overpowered a rather gentle red wine.    I would have preferred that more elegant wine with a masterful dish of beef cheeks braised in red wine, plated with semolina gnocchi and a tangy onion marmalade. The  robust Nero d’Avola  served went better with the first meat dish, and, since I was able to mix and match, I thought the Provençal blend was  more suitable  to the beef cheeks.

       The Nero, hardier than many of its more sophisticated versions in Southern Italy, was, however at its best with a selection of Italian cheeses.  Kudos to M. Mannino for producing fine wines on that hot island, for planting indigenous grapes  and for not following the easy path of producing traditional varieties such as Chardonnay and  Cabernet Sauvignon.


Mort Hochstein writes  on wine, food and travel for Wine Spectator, Wine Business  Monthly, Saveur and other food and wine publications.



by Christopher Mariani

Esquire's Best New Restaurants
Fêted at NYC Party

Photos by Lou Manna 

This past Monday night, Esquire magazine hosted its 26th Best New Restaurants of the Year party at New York’s SD26 restaurant (left) to celebrate and give awards to many of America’s finest and most innovative chefs of 2010.  The party began with lots of champagne and cocktails made with Tito's Vodka. Highly acclaimed restaurateurs Tony May, Joe Bastianich and Danny Meyer along with master chefs Jean-George Vongerichten and Mario Batali were all in attendance, not to mention the stunning French actress Carole Bouquet, who flew in from Paris to serve her superb Sangue d'Oro Passito wine from the island of Pantelleria.  The event was hosted by Esquire's food and travel correspondent John Mariani, who visited 20 cities around the USA over the past year to come up with 20 winners (see article above). Throughout the evening’s seven-course meal, prepared by SD26’s chef Matteo Bergamini, Mariani introduced each of the 20 best new restaurants of the year and  Lifetime Achievement Award to Bastianich and Batali, followed by brief speeches from all of the chosen chefs.

                  John Mariani, Carole Bouquet, Marissa May, Mario Batali.

      Mariani stated at the beginning of the award ceremony that, “As always, the Esquire awards  are  chef-driven, and all about their contributions to American gastronomy, along with the commitment of restaurateurs and owners who believe in them.  The invitation to this Esquire party goes out to the restaurant’s chef and a guest.  If the chef would like to bring the owner as a guest, that’s fine, but the award is for the chef.”  He went on to say that as restaurants in America get better each year, his job becomes tougher but more exciting, and that "every single restaurant being awarded tonight has to be as good, in its own way, as every other, whether it's a deluxe dining venue in New York or a mom-and-pop eatery in Providence, Rhode Island.  Honesty, imagination, and dedication count far more than décor and hype."
       I sat next to the beautiful and charming Marissa May, who looked fabulous in an elegant green Dolce & Gabbana dress as she savored the fact that the Esquire event was held in her own restaurant, not to mention  that SD26 was one of the best new restaurants of 2010.  At my table also sat up-and-coming chef Victor Casanova from Culina restaurant in Los Angeles, who humbly accepted his award by stating he was completely overwhelmed  by being present in the same room as so many food and restaurant legends.  Chef Casanova told me the event was surreal and when I raised my glass to toast his award, he let me know the party was just the beginning to a long night of post-dinner celebration. The biggest debate I heard all night after receiving the framed awards was where in the restaurants they would be placed.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten and John Mariani

     Chef Bergamini's first course was a trippa all toscana paired with an '09 "Centine" bianco from Castello Banfi, which provided all the dry wines. Next was a wonderful porcini mushroom soup centered by a robiola flan, the first autumn soup I've had this year, and wholly delicious.   And of course, what kind of dinner would it be at SD26 without the legendary San Domenico "Uovo" raviolo, a large raviolo filled with a soft egg yolk that when opened oozes onto the plate mixing with truffle butter,  to be eaten with a spoon.  I must say, I have seen many chefs attempt to recreate this dish, but none has come even close to the excellence achieved by SD26 for a dish brought to America by the old San Domenico on Central Park South from its origins at the original San Domenico in Imola, outside of Bologna.  Bergamini then sent out one of my favorite SD26 meat dishes, the tender beef cheeks braised in Barolo wine and sided by a polenta, paired with a '07 Belnero from Castello Banfi.  The night ended with a terrific selection of formaggio from SD26's cheese station, accompanied by a Banfi Brunello di Montalcino and Carole Bouquet's exquisite dessert wine, and we finished with a  chocolate tortino  made by pastry chef Jerry Thornton.
     When the dinner ended, about ten, most of us were stuffed and happy. But the young visiting chefs were transcendentally happy and, of course, planned to hit another NYC restaurant or two  after leaving.
My congratulatiions to them all!

's Editor-in-Chief David Granger, Danny Meyer, Marissa May, Tony May, and Joe Bastianich.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to



A company called  ThinkGeek has come up with an Enterprise Pizza Cutter ($24.99), which describes the gadget thus: "Boldly cut pizza where no man has cut before! Space... the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new pizzas, to seek out new toppings and new cheeses, to boldly cut pizza where no man has cut before! Yes, this officially licensed Star Trek collectible is everything you hoped it would be. Laser etched stainless steel blade and solid metal construction make it perfect for battling Romulans in the neutral zone or precision pizza slicing."


"We'll overlook the bizarre testicle-resembling ornaments that my dining partner likened to 'thyroidal maracas.'"--Faiyaz Kara, "Portobello's," Orlando Weekly.



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

* During October, Italian Heritage Month, come taste the food and wine of Sicily, on menus at 5 participating restaurants on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, NY. Pick up free copies of the book Sicila Mia Bedda, while supplies last. From now thru Nov.9th: Arthur Avenue Trattoria, 718-562-0129, Emilia’s Restaurant, 718-367-5915, Gerbasi Ristorante, 718-220-5735, Giovanni’s Restaurant, 718-933-4141, Michaelangelo’s Restaurant, 718-220-8455.

* On Sun. evenings, Print. Restaurant,  in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen is now offering a prix-fixed, 3-course Sunday Supper. $45 pp.  created by Executive Chef, Charles Rodriguez and Executive Pastry Chef, Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, incorporates ingredients from New York area regional farms and local vendors sourced by PRINT.’s in-house forager, Johanna Kolodny.  Call 212-757-2224 or

* Andre’s at Monte Carlo in Las Vegas now serves the 3-Martini “Lunch" for dinner.  The menu begins with the cucumber tomato salad paired with the first martini: Hendricks Gin, muddled cucumber and V8 juice.  Next: smoked vodka martini with caviar stuffed olives (a secret signature item from Chef Andre Rochat);  “lunch” concludes with ginger creme brûlée  with the final martini – vanilla vodka, Kahlua, Canton Ginger Liquor, cream and caramelized Demerara sugar.  $22 pp. Call 702-798-7151 or visit


* Rome’s Hotel Hassler Roma has introduced its annual Tartufo Bianco menu at Imago, the hotel’s panoramic rooftop restaurant.   Chef Francesco Apreda has created a menu devoted entirely to white truffles - appetizers, first courses, main courses and desserts.  As truffle season depends somewhat on the rains, this menu will only last for a short period, est. to be through November or early December. Visit

* On Oct. 18 and continuing through the end of this year in NYC, Le Perigord will launch its first ever Game Festival, complete with seasonal vegetables and garnishes. Executive Chef Joel Benjamin will be preparing game specialties -- venison, pheasant, partridge, grouse, woodchuck, quail, elk, and squab. $65 pp.  Call 212- 755-6244 or visit

* On Oct. 18, in NYC, Fatty Crab UWS will host “Mischief Night,” with the burlesque group known as The Sophisticates putting on  a 2 hour show paired with a 5-course tasting menu from Executive Chef Corwin Kave. $85pp in the main dining room or $35pp at the bar. Call 212.496.2722 or visit

* On  Oct. 19, Picán in Oakland, CA is hosting a Pig-Nic dinner with Vision Cellars. The restaurant will serve a four-course pork-themed dinner paired with wines. $105 pp. 510-834-1000.

*From Oct. 20-30 in NYC, the Tour de France Restaurant Group will be celebrating sausage and beer with a special sausage menu  at all nine Tour de France restaurants.  Each restaurant’s chef has created a different culinary take on regional sausage items.   A variety of large format craft beers picked by Gianni Cavicchi, the group’s Beer Sommelier will be served by the glass. Visit

*  On Oct. 21 in Berkeley, CA, FIVE Bistro & Bar in the Hotel Shattuck Plaza, is bringing their Seasonal Showdown Dinner back, with Chefs Banks White and Scott Howard dueling against Chefs Dean Dupuis and Charlie Copley of Picán for a “Deep South” cook-off, with five courses of duo dishes.  Drakes Brewing will offer beer pairings. $62 pp or $70 pp with beer pairings.  Call 510-225-6055  or visit

* On Oct. 21, Grotto Italian Steakhouse in Oak Brook, IL will host a Jordan Winery Dinner.  Master Sommelier Serfin Alvarado will host as patrons enjoy 5-courses.  i$85 pp.  Call 630-571-5700 or visit

* On Oct. 24 in Menlo Park, the Rosewood Sand Hill will host the first annual “Bay for the Gulf” food and wine gala event, raising funds to support the Waterkeeper’s Alliance and their cleanup of the Gulf Coast following the BP oil disaster. Chefs, artisans and winemakers incl. Marché, Manresa, Madera, Pastry Chef Carl Swanson of Ubuntu, Aziza, Fifth Floor, Ridge, Dolce, Miner Family and more. $150 pp.

* On Oct. 24 in NYCWorld Yacht Presents Spa Week’s Beauty Brunch for the Cure to benefit the Greater NYC Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. $59 pp.  incl a $19 donation. Visit or call 212-630-8102.

* On Thurs. Oct. 28 in Denver, CO, ELWAY'S Downtown will host a 4-course pairing dinner with famed Napa Valley Wine-Maker Peter Franus. Guests will enjoy an intimate meet and greet at 6:30 pm, followed by dinner in the Private Dining Room, $100 pp . Call Sommelier Jeff Reebie at 303-312-3123.

* On Oct. 27 in Berkeley, CA, Locanda da Eva will host a Sicilian Wine Dinner with Robert Camuto, author of Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey.  Four courses designed by Chef Huw Thornton will be paired with wines from Riofavara and other wineries featured in Camuto’s book. $75 pp,  incl. wines, and $50 without wines., 510-665-9601.


* On Oct. 28, Gold Medal Wine Tour, featuring only Gold medal wines from the American Fine Wine Competition, invites you to Ortanique on the Mile, Coral Gables, FL. Reception begins at 6 PM, four-course pairing dinner by Chef Cindy Hutson, to benefit UCP- The Hope Center.  $125 pp. 561-504-8463.

* On Nov. 1 - 7, Grand Cafe Brasserie & Bar, San Francisco, CA, will launch the first of a series of regional dinners featuring the best of France, beginning with Bordeaux, as Executive Chef Sophiane Benaouda features tingredients from the region. $42 pp with an additional $20 pp for wine pairings.  Call 415-292-0101 or visit

* On Nov. 2, Point Reyes Station, CA, Osteria Stellina and Pey-Marin Vineyards host a four course wine dinner prepared by Chef Christian Caiazzo.
$80 pp. Call 415-663-9988;

* On Nov. 4,  Strip House Houston will present  "The Glenlivet Dinner" with a four-course menu by with Scotch flight,  showcasing the Glenlivet 12 as signature cocktail.  A complementary Glencairn glass  will be inlc. Call 713-659-6000 or visit

* On Nov. 6 & 7, in Sonoma, CA,  80 winery members of the Wine Road Northern Sonoma
County join for 12th annual "A Wine & Food Affair." Sample wines with recipe pairings and receive "A Tasting Along the Wine Road" cookbook. $65 pp (both days), $25 pp designated drivers, on sale online Sept. 15 to Nov. 1 at or 800-723-6336.

On Nov 6 & 7, in Sonoma Calif., 80 winery members of the Wine Road Northern Sonoma County join together for 12th annual "A Wine & Food Affair." Sample wines with recipe pairings and receive "A Tasting Along the Wine Road" cookbook. $65 pp (both days), $25 pp designated drivers.  Visit> or call 800-723-6336.

* From Nov. 6-7, the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse NY, will hold the Pride of New York Harvest Fest. Growers and producers  offer the opportunity to taste and purchase the State’s award-winning wines and beers,  food products,  cooking demos and educational seminars  by the NY Wine and Grape Foundation.  $25 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under;   Advance  tickets $20  thru; Visit or call 518-457-7229.

* On Nov. 6, Skytop Lodge Resort in Skytop, PA, will host its annual Secrets of the Harvest - Harvest Lake Stroll, with 7 food stations.  $60 pp, for each ticket purchased a $20 donation to the United Way of Monroe County. Call 877-808-9222 or visit . . .  On Nov. 12-14, Skytop Lodge Resort will host One Sweet Weekend. Pastry chef Christa Kuhar will create desserts and share her culinary secrets via performance demos. $68pp. Call 877-808-9222 or visit

* On Nov. 7 the Atlanta Chapter of Les Dame d’Escoffier International hosts the 10th annual Afternoon in the Country at Serenbe. More than 60 chefs will offer tastings that can be paired with more than 30 fine wines and premium micro-brews on the grounds of the Inn at Serenbe. $95 for adults and $35 for children ages 12 to 20. Visit

* On Nov. 7 in Los Angeles, Suzanne Goin & Caroline Styne from Lucques, A.O.C. & Tavern, along with David Lentz from The Hungry Cat, launch L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, the first West coast food event for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, bringing in chefs and winemakers for an afternoon cookout at Culver Studios.  Actress Jennifer Garner is Honorary $150 pp.,  $350 for VIP seating and After Party available for purchase at,,  or

* On Nov 8, in NYC‘21’ Club will host an  evening of cuisine paired with the wines of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.  $185pp. Call 212 5827200 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: The Essential Guide to Dining in New Orleans


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