"Walter's Seltzer" (2008) by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery
Chicago Eats Large, Part One
About Town: Cosmopolitan Las
Vegas New Year's Eve
Wine: An Interview with Joe
GOOD NEWS! Esquire.com 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.
WHERE TO EAT IN NEW YORK. . . AT LEAST THIS WEEK
Chicagoans have never been reticent about cheering their restaurants, and I have long insisted that the city of the broad shoulders is, after New York, America's best, not least for the largess of its restaurateurs, from Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to Larry Levy of Levy Restaurants. Chicagoans love to eat with abandon and refuse to be gouged on the bill. So you almost always get a square meal for a square deal, now more than ever with the rise to eminence of the gastro-pubs, each with its own swagger and exalting of charcuterie culture. Chi-town’s historic restaurants, like Gene & Georgetti’s steak house, are now few in number, but waves of conventioneers keep longstanding classics like Charlie Trotter’s, Spiaggia, and Tru, packed. There’s no better or more seminal Mexican restaurant anywhere than Topolobampo, and the city is America’s epicenter for avant-garde, molecular cuisine. Here are a few up-to-the-moment places I'm always happy to get to when I fly to the Midwest.
LONGMAN & EAGLE
The gastro-pub craze
has spread outward from the city center, and Longman
& Eagle, which modestly calls itself a whiskey bar, takes the genre
and just burns right through the clichés via Chef Jared Wentworth’s ingeniously
gutsy cooking. Who else in
town is doing Buffalo frog's legs with “aerated” blue cheese and a
carrot-celery barigoule? Or grilled
artisan al foie gras with strawberries, wild chamomile, and a black
cake? You don’t come out here just for a hamburger (though
there’s a good one somewhere on the menu, with potatoes fried in beef
come to try the fried duck cojones
with peas, lettuce, pickled cherries and a rich-as-hell bordelaise
sauce. That sort of thing.
takes it to a much higher level of interest and personal
style, which is why it was one of my picks for Esquire's Best New Restaurants of
West Randolph Street
its generosity of spirit and no-holds-barred conviviality,
from the moment you walk in the door. It's loud, though not as
much as some other big Chicago restaurants these days, and its
warehouse-farmhouse décor that has an unfinished scruffiness
about it that feels
unforced. The t-shirted waiters are of the "How you doin' tonight?"
cast, and they'll tell you that the plates are small and there's a
point at which you may have ordered way too much. So it's best to
go with a gang of four friends or more--we had a table for six--so you
can eat your way through
the menu, snatching goodies from each other's plates.
G&G is open for dinner
nightly. Small plates menu, from $4-$15, larger plates up to $29.
THE PURPLE PIG
500 North Michigan Avenue
Purple Pig is a collaboration of Chefs Scott Harris of Mia Francesca,
Bannos and Jimmy Bannos Jr., of Heaven
Seven, located down
a narrow corridor in an office building off the Magnificent Mile.
through the door and you’re in one of Chicago’s true hot spots.
The Purple Pig is open daily
for lunch and dinner; Appetizers and small plates, $4-$9, main courses
☛ PART TWO OF THIS ARTICLE WILL APPEAR
IN TWO WEEKS, IN THE JANUARY 23rd ISSUE
NEW YORK CORNER
Pranna is open for lunch Mon.-Thurs, for dinner nightly. Small plates, soups and salads, $6-$16, main courses $14-$29.
Paltrow in front of the fireplace sipping a bottle of cold
and watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, there’s no better place
celebrate than at Sin City’s newest and swankiest hotel yet, the
Oh, yeah! Beyoncé, Jessica, and Gwyneth were all in
Rodriguez and Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Rihanna,
Wahlberg, Kirsten Dunst, Blake Lively, Brandy, Sugar Ray
Leonard, Busta Rhymes, Lisa Ling, and dozens of other celebs.
a final song
from Coldplay, Jay-Z hit the stage in his black tuxedo and shades and
went crazy as he began his three-hour performance, singing his hits “99
Problems,” “On to the Next One,” and of course his tribute to New York,
State of Mind,” preceded by Sinatra’s “New York New York.”
Mid-way through the night Kanye West
made his surprise appearance on stage with Chris Martin, as the piano
and bass started bumping the instrumentals to “Homecoming” as the crowd
gained a surge of energy that blew the ballroom ceiling off. The concert continued with Kanye’s “Runaway,"
then around three in the morning the stunning Beyoncé Knowles
audience with her presence to sing “Forever
husband, Jay-Z. The concert was as
as it gets and the party didn’t stop there. It
for after-party drinks
and toasts straight through the late morning.
an upcoming issue I will be reporting about the many
terrific restaurants in
the new Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to email@example.com
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
A Bottle of Wine a Day Keeps
Joe Bastianich in Tip Top Shape
by John Mariani
At 6’ 1” and 200 pounds, Joe Bastianich, looks little like the image of a grocer, wine merchant and producer, and owner of 20 restaurants, including Babbo and Del Posto in New York, Carnevino Steakhouse in Las Vegas, and Mozza in Los Angeles, all with partner Mario Batali. Two years ago, he did.
“Bastianich was born into the restaurant family of his mother Lidia and father Felice, who opened New York’s Felidia in 1981, but dutifully went to Wall Street. “I barely made it through the MBA program at Merrill Lynch, and very quickly realized that the culture of the office was not for me.”
His passion and knowledge of both were the subjects of an interview I did with Bastianich at his Italian food store, Tarry Market, in Port Chester, on the debut of his new book, Grandi Vini: An Opinionated Tour of Italy’s 89 Finest Wines (Potter, $24.99).
Mariani: Why pick just 89 Italian wines
Bastianich: Well, I started out with 100 but the publisher said I’d have to cut 20,000 words, so I settled on 89. It sounded Fellini-esque.
Mariani: Throughout the book it seems you know most of the winemakers personally, which adds a great deal of color to the book. Are you friends with them all?
Bastianich: I know maybe 75 percent of the winemakers in the book and had assistants who conducted many of the interviews. These winemakers are very expressive about their vineyards and their region, and I hope that comes through in the interviews.
Tell me about your own family vineyards (below).
Mariani: What is the relationship between food and wine at your restaurants?
Bastianich: When I opened Becco, we were the first Italian restaurant to really emphasize food and wine together, with an all-Italian list. That became true at all our restaurants, and at Babbo we truly wanted to create a wine-and-food experience for our customers. So we have four sommeliers to interact and educate them. As a result, 50 percent of our profits come from wine, which is significant. Even at our pizzeria, Otto, in Greenwich Village, we started out with 200 labels, now we’re up to 800.
Mariani: What are you trying to educate them about?
About the magic of regional pairings and the terroir of the wine, why
the way it does and why it goes with the food of the same region. We’re
them a piece of culture, not just a wine.
Mariani: How and when did Italian wines gain real stature in the global market?
Bastianich: You have to understand that after World War II, a lot of people moved to the cities for work and abandoned the old vineyards. Then in the 1950s and 1960s wineries were paid to produce volume at a cheap price, not quality. That’s when the Lambruscos and bad Chianti were popular. By the 1970s young winemakers like Angelo Gaja, Angelo and Antonio Mastroberardino, and Piero Antinori began experimenting and going against entrenched traditions in order to make better wines. But I think 1990 was the benchmark year, not only in terms of a good vintage but because the younger generation came back to the family vineyards and said, let’s make really good wine that expresses our territory.
Mariani: Do you think Italian wines are still underrated compared to French and California wines?
Yes, but in the last few years Italian winemakers have crossed the
steered away from what I call “fabricated wines” that tasted like so
others in the world. They are now more localized and, I think, the
bearers for food-friendly wines. I think that, by comparison with $2000
of grand cru Burgundies, first-rate barolos, which sell for under $100,
Mariani: Have too many Italians priced their wine out of the market?
In some regions like Tuscany, especially brunello di montalcino, the
regulators have expanded the appellation to parcels of land
couldn’t even grow potatoes. Yet the producers try to charge the same
prices the established brunello makers do. It’s
Given your diet and exercise regimen these days, just how much wine do you
Mariani's wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News,
✉ Guidelines for submissions: QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below. Thanks. John Mariani
* On Jan. 11, Zink. American Kitchen in Charlotte, NC, will host a Founders Brewing Company Dinner, featuring select beers and an innovative four-course menu by Executive Chef Scott Wallen. $55pp. Call 704-909.-500 or visit zinkamerican.com.
Jan. 17 and Feb. 7, Cityscape Bar
in Chicago, will
host a Dewar's Decision
Tasting featuring a complimentary scotch "blind-tasting". Featured
scotch will include Dewar's 12 and "White Label". Complimentary.
Call 312-836-5000 or visit cityscapebar.com
* On Jan. 17, Bella Bacinos in La Grange, IL, is offering an "Up-close and Personal" Wine Tasting with vintner Laura Catena of Argentina's Catena Zapata Winery. Traverse the lands of Argentina while enjoying a comprehensive tasting of Catena Zapata wines and the best complimenting fare of Bella Bacinos. $55 pp. Call 708-352-8882 or visit bacinos.com.
* On Jan 19, Carnivale in Chicago will host a Mojitos 101 Class hosted by the Latino restaurant’s Master Mixologist Daryl Freeman. Participants will learn the history of the classic Cuban cocktail while creating and sampling mojitos paired with appetizers prepared by Executive Chef David Dworshak. $25 pp. Call (312) 850-5005 or visit carnivalechicago.com.
* On Jan. 20, RBC NYC will host the first-ever Manual Brew Down competition for baristas and coffee enthusiasts. Participants can register free, bring their own beans and tools, and present their signature recipes for a panel of esteemed coffee authorities. Contestants can sample RBC’s high-tech tools , like the German-made Uber boiler; the American-made Luminaire LB-1. Prizes will be available for the winners courtesy of Barismo, Coava, Counter Culture, Madcap and Ritual coffee roasters. Free. 212-226-1111 or visit rbcnyc.com.
* On January 20 in Berkeley, CA, Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto hosts a Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. beer-paired dinner with a five-course prix fixe menu prepared by Chef Devon Boisen. $40 pp. Call 510-845-7771; spengers.com.
* From Jan. 24-Feb. 6, Tourism Vancouver presents Dine Out Vancouver featuring
three-course menus at over 200 restaurants at either $18, $28 or $38.
The dining festival also includes a roster of exciting culinary tours
and events. Special hotel rates available in $68, $98 and $138 price
points. Visit tourismvancouver.com.
* On Feb.
15-16, The Little Nell, Aspen, CO, and Daniel
Johnnes, Wine Director for Daniel
Boulud's Dinex Group/producer of La Paulée de
New York, will host La Paulée des Neiges. Pairing some of
sought-after winemakers w/ 4 celebrated chefs. Seating limited. $3,250
Collectors Dinner Feb. 15/ $500 pp for La Paulee des Neiges Feb. 16.
Reservations, call 212-625-2519/ 970-920-6320. For those attending,
off the rack rate being offered at The Little Nell. Room reservations:
call The Little Nell @ 888-843-6355/ 970-920-4600 & reference code
FEATURED LINKS: 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, 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: NEVIS ON 2 WHEELS; LA DOLCE VITA ON THE SLOPES OF ITALY
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.
Tennis Resorts Online: A 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).
The Family Travel Forum - A community for those who "Have Kids, Still Travel" and want to make family vacations more fun, less work and better value. FTF's travel and parenting features, including reviews of tropical and ski resorts, reunion destinations, attractions, holiday weekends, family festivals, cruises, and all kinds of vacation ideas should be the first port of call for family vacation planners. http://www.familytravelforum.com/index.html
ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nickonwine.com.
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.
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