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COUNTRY WEEKENDS by John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER:
on the Green by
MAN ABOUT TOWN by Christopher Mariani
New Wine Books Declare War Against
Wine Geeks by John Mariani
Autumn is surely here, at least in America's more temperate climates, and all that Keats wrote about an English autumn applies--with far more color--to New England and, in a different way, to northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Having had occasion to spend weekends in each of those three regions, I can easily say they are at their best in the fall, when temperatures and ripe fruit drop, leaves dry to gorgeous hues, and the chefs take a good long look at the provender available to them before making their menus. Here are three stellar resorts where the kitchens are every bit as wonderful as the rooms and the inevitable spas.
Alain 155 Alain White Road
Winvian, now almost three years old, is a reverie
in so many ways of the wholly un-typical
thing it is spread out among a main house and 18 uniquely designed,
themed cottages, including The Artist Cottage, based on a
1920s bungalow concept,
with gingerbread exterior, stained windows, and atelier; The Beaver
crafted in woodwork and stone; The huge Stone
Cottage, constructed entirely from Connecticut boulders; The
Society, a cunning nod to New England's fraternal societies
like Yale's Skull and Bones; The Golf Cottage, complete with
interior putting greens of fake grass; and, among others, the amazing
Helicopter Cottage, which encloses a fully restored 1968
Sikorsky HH37 Sea King
Pelican helicopter. There is a superb spa, bocce and horseshoe
courts, badminton, and a game room, and the Litchfield area
self-guided canoeing and kayaking, car racing up at Limerock,
clay shooting, fishing on the beautiful Housatonic River, hot air
ballooning, golf at Fairview Farm, and on a paddleboat on Bantam Lake.
2525 Allison Lane
The Willamette (pronounced Wil-LAM-ette) Valley still maintains a rusticity that was sadly long ago lost in Napa. The farmlands and wineries are not quite so manicured, the rolling hills seem to stretch for miles without a condo in sight, and the hotels are few and far between. One that respects that distance is the new Allison, set on 35 acres about 45 minutes from Portland and within striking distance of 200 wineries; you can literally peer into the vineyards of Parrett Mountain, Chehalem Mountains and Dundee Hills.
This LED certified resort has 85 rooms with 20 Suites, all with a private terrace or balcony and fireplace. Deluxe guestrooms run $295-325, grand deluxe $325-375, one-bedroom suites $450-550, two-bedroom suites $900-1100. There is a spa and indoor pool, and nearby is the new Chehalem Glenn golf course, along with options for hot air ballooning, helicopter winery tours, cycling, equestrian, heritage sites and museums, including Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (home of ‘Spruce Goose’) in nearby McMinnville.
The restaurant at The Allison is named Jory, with 100 seats, and features the stellar varietal of the Valley, pinot noir, in profusion, along with pinots from around the world. There is a Chef’s Table in the Open Kitchen that seats eight, a private dining room seating 10, and informal counter seating and terrace. The adjacent Bar offers 50 wines by-the-glass available.
Chef Sunny Jin obviously has great local bounty to draw from; right outside the kitchen door is the restaurant's own garden, which produces everything from mascara lettuce and Easter egg radishes to Oregon giant snow peas and Bloomside spinach. With these, along with meats whose provenance is identified on the menu, Jin puts a lot on the plate, sometimes a few too many ingredients, but the results are impressive, beginning with his Yukon Gold potato gnocchi with baby artichokes, porcini, favas, and shaved Parmigiano, as well as some lush basil agnolotti with English peas, carrots and pea tendrils. The simple presentation of glorious morel mushrooms (left) is everything you could ask from such a regional cornucopia. There seems a slight tendency to overcook meats here, so note the degree of doneness you want. Very good indeed was Atherton lamb loin with merguez sausage, peppery harissa-flavored chickpeas, red peppers, cilantro, and eggplant, while seared Alaskan halibut came with braised endive, roasted fingerlings, apricot coulis and pistachios for crunch. My favorite dessert was a chocolate hazelnut jaconde cake with vanilla ice cream and sour cream caramel.
Sitting overlooking that golden land at dusk, a glass of Oregon Late Harvest Riesling in hand--whether it's from Jory or your room--is one of the loveliest and newest pleasures in the Willamette Valley, which until now has had nothing that comes close to this level of luxury.
6774 Washington Street
The town of Yountville has acquired a legitimate claim to being the smallest place on earth to have the most illustrious restaurants, first off, Thomas Keller's French Laundry; in addition, there are Bouchon, Bottega, Domaine Chandon, and Bistro Jeanty, all among the best in Napa Valley.
The newest implant is the Hotel Luca, an Italian-style villa with 20 rooms done up in Italian linens and large California bathrooms. Its quiet is one of the most pleasant of its appeals, the rooms tucked away from a never-busy main street. It is run by the Mirabel Hotel & restaurant Group of Carmel, which also runs the Cantinetta Luca and L'Auberge de Carmel, all small, all intimate. The new Yountville property has all the amenities of a Napa Valley resort, including spacious rooms and the wonderful California-size bathrooms, with heated floors. The walls are set with fine photographic artwork, and the enclosed patios, some with fireplaces, are extremely relaxing.
The 80-seat restaurant is called Cantinetta Piero, said to feature the foods of Tuscany, though the menu rolls all over the Italian map. The night I dined there Chef Craig DiFonzo was away, but his staff delivered a good meal based on very well-selected ingredients. It's a handsome, casual and rustic setting, with a 15-foot vaulted ceiling set with rafters, a pizza bar and open kitchen, and wide glass doors open to a patio dining area with olive trees. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Best way to begin here is with the Italian charcuterie and country bread glossed with olive oil--a range of salumi including soppressata, finocchiona, Speck, wild boar, and housemade nostrano. A generous selection of eight is $24. Grilled octopus makes for another fine antipasto. The pizza also ranks with some of the best in the Valley.
The pastas are the real stars at Cantinetta Piero, like the bucatini all'amatriciana rich with pancetta and spiked with chili; ravioli are plumped with pumpkin and amaretti cookies--a traditional holiday pasta--with ricotta and brown butter, chanterelles, almonds, and Brussels sprouts (which is not) traditional). A fine bolognese sauce dresses the pappardelle and risotto is a delicate dish with sweet Dungeness crab and preserved lemon and peas.
For an entree, the 24-ounce bistecca all fiorentina is a stand-out, good to share with two friends, and the roast chicken is juicy and crispy, scented with lemon and rosemary.
Desserts follow a lovable Italian line, with vanilla panna cotta and scrumptious chocolate-butterscotch budino.
After dinner, a stroll through Yountville is in order, peeking through the windows of the other restaurants, smelling the herbs from The French Laundry's garden, and meeting nice people from near and far in this magical, easygoing small California town.
Dinner antipasti run $8-$12, pastas $16-$19, main courses $26-$56.
NEW YORK CORNER
You can see it
from the Cross Island
Parkway, set just an exit away from the Throgs Neck Bridge, and
although it does not look like the 1920s
mansion you might expect as a former
residence of silent movie star Rudolph Valentino, it has a spacious,
spread-out look of a Long Island mansion.
Well-regarded NYC chef Don Pintabona, formerly at Dani and TriBeCa
Grill, and partner Giorgia Kolaj took the premises
over in September, and after extensive rehab have fashioned
them to be a
gregarious, multi-room restaurant and celebration venue, with
the Valentino Room seating 60, the Vigneto seating 20, the Fiorello 70,
and the upstairs banquet room 220.
The downstairs dining rooms (below) are extremely
comfortable, with lots of varnished wood, commodious chairs and
banquettes, and upstairs there are bright new banquet rooms.
run $7-$14, full-portion pastas $16-$23, entrees $20-$49.
catching some rays at the famous
Boca Raton Resort. I dined at almost
every restaurant on
the property and will be reporting on them and my entire stay within
the month, but I can’t resist sharing with you one
lunch that stood out as the highlight of my weekend. The
restaurant, 501 East, (left) featuring
burgers, ribs, short ribs, and steaks, real “Man Food.” The restaurant opened in early June, replacing its
predecessor, the Old Homestead Steak House. The
just as masculine as
its food, with high farmhouse ceilings with giant wooden crossbeams,
yellow lamps hanging from each table’s life-size silver longhorns, and
five enormous flat
screen TVs located at the restaurant’s rectangular bar, great for
watching sports. The food and operations
are overseen by
Executive Chef Andrew Roenbeck and restaurant chef Troy Bonghi. It was not only the food that made this
dining experience so enjoyable, it was the pairing of nine different
selected by resort chef John Rudolph, one of the resort’s young
culinary talents. Here is a rundown
of the beer and food parings put together on that wonderful afternoon:
Orange Blossom Pilsner
Orange Blossom Pilsner comes from one of the few Florida-based
Thomas Creek Brewery in Orlando. This
pilsner has a honey color similar to a burnt orange
and a very white
head of foam. The aroma is very
malty and floral, followed by a strong taste of honey, orange, and
that order. The Orange Blossom
Pilsner also had terrific lacing, a term used to describe the residue
left on the interior of the beer glass once the foam has settled. Chef Rudolph explained lacing as similar
to the meaning to that of wine “legs” left on the wine glass
act of swirling.
Harvest Moon (5.7%)--Harvest
Company and is a variation of the Blue Moon Belgium White mentioned
above. The Harvest Moon has an almost
appearance with a tan colored head of foam. The
like sweet caramel, ginger and
allspice, very different from the other nine beers tested that
afternoon. The taste is quite similar to
the smell, also with hints of nutmeg and pumpkin, actually added during
brewing process. The Harvest Moon
was paired with a well-fatted order of short ribs drizzled with a rich jus
sided by an order of fried sweet potato gnocchi, possibly the best food
beer combination of the day.
Brooklyn Lager (5.2%)--The
Brooklyn Lager was my favorite beer of the
day. The lager is golden brown in
color with an off-white head of foam. The
flavors are bold, lots of hops, a pineyness and just a
sweetness, a perfect match for fried or smoky foods.
The owner of the Brooklyn Brewery, Garrett Oliver, is also
the author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the
with real food. I haven’t read
the book, but after this lunch I agree that great beer pairs
great food. Chef
flavored with brown sugar, paprika, pepper and
(5.3%)--What would be October with out a little
Octoberfest? The beer is brewed in
a Marzen style, creating its deep red amber color.
The beer itself is very sweet and nutty with slight hints
fruitiness, uncharacteristic of most lagers. Sam
beer mug to withstand the constant abuse of hard drunken glass
getting knocked over onto the ground, and being held by its glass
with five other mugs carried by a beautiful beer lady.
The beer was paired with a mini-burger
topped with smoked bacon, a Dijon dressing, and aged cheddar (below). The
501 East’s short ribs, brisket and sirloin, all hand molded before
Roque Dead Guy Ale—
(6.7%)--Moving on to the stronger and higher alcohol per
volume selections, we tried the Roque Dead Guy Ale, brewed in a German
style. The beer had a very deep
amber color and a sweet malty noise. The
taste of the beer was filled with surprising flavors
spices and even black tea. Chef
paired the beer with a crispy pierogi filled with portabello,
hen of wood mushrooms, topped by caramelized onions and sour cream. This was a dish that I could’ve eaten
the entire afternoon, skipping all its predecessors and dishes that
followed, well, maybe
not the short ribs.
Touch—Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (9%)--The Midas touch
was not my favorite beer of the
day but possibly the most interesting in terms of flavor because of
uniqueness. The flavors range from
an initial blast of sweet honey to a flavor of wine grapes and even a
spice, all brought together by a minimal amount of carbonation. The Midas Touch physically resembles a
dessert wine, an almost identical resemblance to a Sancere. This beer was tasted alone, but tastes
like it would pair great with Indian food, or anything with a little
Porter—Rouge Ales (8.2%)--The Double Mocha Porter was
presented to us in a
snifter glass that looked like it was filled with an espresso, with
when swirled. The appearance is
almost pitch black with a very brownish head of foam.
did the beer look like an espresso but also
tasted and smelled like an espresso with a strong presence of dark
chocolate. The beer has almost no
carbonation and was paired with chocolate s'mores topped with homemade
be the newest addition to a terrific list of diverse
restaurants on the Boca Raton Resort property, including the seafood
inspired Seagrille, Lucca, an Italian ristorante, Morimoto, a Japanese
sushi bar, and Cielo, on the top floor of the pink tower, but it
may be one of the best, if not the
Mariani send an email to christopher@johnmariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
New Wine Books Declare War Against
These are not massive encyclopedic tomes. The best wine writing has always been in small, personal books, like Terry Theise’s new Reading between the Wines (U. of California Press, 189 pages, $24.95), a book that can be read in an evening with a bottle of wine alongside. Theise is an importer of Champagnes and Austrian and German wines, so he knows how the market works by brandishing high-scoring wines on a 100-point scale, as if there is any difference at all between a wine scoring 92 and 95 was tasted and spit out along with 70 other wines in the same morning. His approach can be summed up in what he so sensibly prefers: “I’d far rather read the genial musings of a humane spirit mulling over the little nimbus between his soul and the wine in the glass than to see how many arcane adjectives some anal geek can strong together.”
Theise is a true wine writer, not a compiler of notes and numbers, so he can extol a wine in a way that the oenophile can truly appreciate its character and nuances. He reminds the reader that “the most successful wine isn’t always the one with the highest score, it is the one the tasters reach for to drink after the tasting. `The best wine is the first one emptied,’ is a wise proverb.”
He is as shocked as any reasonable person should be at California cult wines that bound into the market with no prior history, recalling how a wine salesman whose dream was to “make wine” went out and bought grapes, had them “custom-crushed” for him by a “hired gun” winemaker out of U.C. Davis, then offered the finished wine for $125, at which time, writes Theise, “I knew the world had gone mad.”
Theise reminds us how certain wines are inextricably linked to human emotions and memories—the day a child was born, the night a father died—and he remains staunchly catholic in his belief that, “There are no `invalid’ moments of pleasure in wine,” only higher and lower pleasures, but insisting that “it’s good to stay in touch with your inner redneck, or you risk your taste becoming precious.” Thiese is a man I’d like to drink with. Anything.
I have happily drunk wine with Matt
Kramer, whose new collection of essays fills Matt Kramer on Wine (Sterling
Epicure, 334 pages, $19.95), whose cover line calls him America’s most
Wine Writer,” and I’m good with that. Kramer is a columnist for Wine
Spectator Magazine and loves nothing more than to puncture the
pretensions of the
kind of wine writing Thiese deplores. Kramer
telling him, “This is gonna be a little difficult to explain. . . . I’m
that I’m becoming a geek” and confessing his anxieties about wondering
the right glass for various cru Beaujolais.
Responding to complaints about the noise made by eating from its SunChips biodegradable, recyclable bags, Frito-Lay is switching to the old plastic bags for most flavors. Groups on Facebook complained that "I wanted SunChips but my roommate was sleeping" and "Nothing is louder than a SunChips bag."
"If you want sushi
shaped like a serpent in
a lake of vermouth fire, take your pleather mini elsewhere."--Kevin
Pang, "Chizakaya," Chicago Tribune.
for submissions: QUICK
only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant
openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the
pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple
e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST,
* From now thru
Nov. 4, Hakubai Restaurant at
The Kitano New York Hotel
will participate in the Asian Restaurant Week, organized by the Asia
Culture Exchange Org. The restaurant will feature a 3-course meal for
$25 pp for lunch and $35 pp for dinner. Call 212-885-7111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* From Oct. 18 to Nov. 7, Jean-Louis in Greenwich, CT, offers a Prix fixe Menu at $35 pp only, in collaboration with the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Maitres Cuisiniers de France. A special wine selection by the glass featuring Alsace and Cotes du Rhone. Call 203-622-8450. restaurantjeanlouis.com. . . . On Nov. 19, Beaujolais Nopuveau luncheon featuring Laurent Drouhinand Duboeuf too. $50 pp. Call 203-622-8450.
* Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22
- Dec. 31 Two E at The Pierre in NYC will be celebrating the
hotel's 80th Anniversary with a trio of organic caviars and oyster
tasting. by Executive Chef Stephane Becht's tasting menu for $65pp with
additional wine or vodka pairings for $14pp. Call
212-940-8113 or visit twoeny.com.
Oct. 27 Quartino in Chicago will celebrate Chef John
Coletta’s cookbook 250 True Italian
Pasta Dishes at October Wine Bash. Sparkling wine,
rosé selections and
pasta samplings from the cookbook will be served. $20 pp.
312-698-5000 or visit quartinochicago.com.
* On Oct. 29,
the Cooking School at Cavallo Point
in Sausalito, CA, is
hosting two classes by Christoph and Isabell Wiesner of
the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association to teach seam butchery,
charcuterie and a cooking class, all featuring the Mangalitsa
pig. $95 pp and the cooking class and
sit-down dinner at 6 p.m. is $145pp. Call 888-651-2003 or visit cavallopoint.com.
* On Oct. 30, in Dallas, Chef Stephan Pyles will host a unique food experience celebrating the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos at his namesake restaurant, Stephan Pyles. $105 pp. Call Brandi Gray 214-999-1229 ext 112 or email email@example.com.
* On Oct. 30, Orient Express in New York, NY, will have a “Murder on the Orient Express” hallows eve, inspired à la Agatha Christie’s famed novel. Staff will be dressed like characters from the novel, Clue board games will be on hand for customers to play, and 3 Halloween themed cocktails will be available in addition to the regular menu of vintage cocktails and small plates. Call 212-691-8845.
* On Oct. 30 & 31 in Wash. D.C., Chef Robert Weland and Poste Moderne Brasserie will host a Halloween-themed ‘Ghost Roast’ at Poste featuring spit-roasted capretto in the courtyard and costume contest. 3-course dinner plus beverage pairings $48 pp. 202-783-6060 or visit www.postebrasserie.com.
* On October 30 in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will participate in a Day of the Dead Celebration with the New Orleans Office of Health Policy and AIDS funding, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and the Mexican Consulate. With readings, music, food, and Day of the Dead altars, we will welcome the Mexican and Latin American tradition to New Orleans. Free and open to the public. Visit www.southernfood.org <http://www.southernfood.org> for more information.
Nov. 2 in Point Reyes Station, CA,
Osteria Stellina will
host a wine dinner
with Pey-Marin Vineyards., incl. an hors d’oeuvre wine
reception for $35 and a 4-course wine dinner for $80 pp. The
and dinner combined is $110 pp . Call 415- 663-9988,
* On Nov. 4 in Phoenix, AZ, the Arizona Biltmore will host a “Winemaker Dinner” featuring a reception and four-course gourmet menu paired with the wines of Francis Ford Coppola Winery of Sonoma, CA. A haute couture element will be fashion and jewelry shows by Saks Fifth Avenue. $95 pp. Call 602-381-7632 or visit arizonabiltmore.com
* On Nov.
5-7, The Joule Dallas will
host "The Big Red" celebrating Texas
wine and agriculture. Hosted by Charlie Palmer and Scott Romano, incl.
the Texas Red Hoe-Down (a Master Sommeliers tasting to
select The Big Red), a Game Time - Tournament Cook-off using in-season
game meat featuring Charlie Palmer and Dean Fearing vs. Michael &
Voltaggio of Bravo’s Top Chef, and
The Big Red Gala, where the winner of The Big Red will be revealed.
(After-party will be held in The Joule’s Penthouse). $50
in Sausalito, CA Poggio will offer their 7th annual
Festa del Tartufo
Bianco with a special Piemontese menu featuring imported white
truffles. Market price. 415-332-7771 or www.poggiotrattoria.com poggiotrattoria.com.
* On Nov. 7, McCormick & Kuleto’s (415/929-1730) in San Francisco, CA and Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto (510-845-7771) in Berkeley, CA will be offering all U.S. military veterans a free lunch or dinner entrée in appreciation for their service to our country.
* On Nov. 11, Longest Chef’s Table in Dallas, TX benefits Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Top Chef DC Season 7 Fan Favorite and Top Chef All-Star Season 8 Chef’Testant Tiffany Derry, Go Fish Ocean Club, Dallas; Chef Tamesha Warren, Top Chef DC Chef’Testant, The Oval Room, Washington, DC; Dean Fearing, Fearing’s, The Ritz Carlton, Dallas; Chris Ward, The Mercury, Dallas; John Tesar, DRG Concepts; Tim Byres, Smoke, Dallas; and more. Six courses with wines and desserts. $125 pp. Call 214-561-8860 or visit thevillageonthegreen.com.
FEATURE: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linking up
with four excellent travel sites:
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, ForbesTraveler.com 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: AMSTERDAM--THE IDEAL DAY
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 KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
with first class travel industry credentials and global family
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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 amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.