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  November 27,  2011                                                                                               NEWSLETTER

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"Sophia," Hand-colored archival photo by Franc Palaia (2011)


by John Mariani

by John Mariani

by John Mariani


By John Mariani

    A fter New York and London, no city celebrates Christmas with more spirit than Paris, which, being the City of Lights, seems wholly appropriate. The beauty of the city itself gives it a festive cast year round, but during Christmas and New Year's--especially given the nightly, hourly light show that makes the Eiffel Tower sparkle like a Christmas tree--Paris truly makes for a joyeux Noël.  If you're fortunate enough to be there then--and don't mind spending a few euros for the pleasure--here are some enchanting spots to stay and  dine.  Consult the websites for any special packages or prix fixe dinners.

Le Bristol

112 Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré

    Le Bristol's Beaux Arts building dates back to 1757, before the French Revolution turned the town topsy turvy, and it has been a grand hotel since 1925.  Closed for a complete renovation and enlargement, the hotel has a new wing, and it has  retained every inch of its classic architectural charm while showing a new polish and, it seems, a youthful vitality among the staff.  Any whiff of Gallic snobbism has vanished.
    The rooms are sunny, as much as possible by  letting in the flood of the soft Parisian light that made the Impressionists giddy. The bathrooms are now California large and gorgeously appointed, marble from floor to ceiling, the amenities first rate.  It would be hard to match the elegance and views of the Prestige Suite (left), and it's easy enough to see why the hotel is a favorite of the fashion crowd.  (Le Bristol, incidentally, is renowned for its High Tea fashion shows.)  It is one of the few grand palais hotels that also offers an extensive children's program and even a separate menu for them.  And the lobby has its own roaming resident white cat named Fa-Raon who is much indulged by both staff and guests.
    The hotel has its own florist, so there are vases of fresh flowers everywhere.  There is a spa and very beautiful pool, business center, hair salon, and for a remarkable 10 euros you can rent a Bristol Smart Car to go shopping. (Just how many gift boxes fit into a Smart Car?)

    The biggest change here has been the relocation of the main Épicure dining room, which has had three Michelin stars for years now, to what had been the summer garden space.  Now enclosed for year-round dining room, it is awash in sunlight, twilight and starlight through glass doors and windows.  The old dining premises, where I most recently had an exceptionally fine lunch, is being turned into banquet facilities.
    I cannot, then, speak of the new premises but I can easily rave about the  quality of Chef Eric Frechon's cuisine, which now seems lighter and less complex than it used to be yet still solidly within haute cuisine standards of luxury.  Instead of a seven-course extravaganza at lunch, I asked Frechon if he could serve each of us different three-course meals  (we always switch plates), and of course he was far more generous than that, sending out exquisite amuses, breads, and tidbits to spur the appetite while we sipped Pierre Mouncuit Rosé Champagne.  The amuses included foie gras lollipops with spun sugar and chips of crispy cheese and pistachios, with flavors and textures galore, the sweetness followed by the burst of cheese.  There was also chorizo-studded egg custard, and an odd, small green ball that when placed on the tongue bursts with olive oil. 
     A creamy cauliflower mousseline in red onion gelée followed, with  haddock foam--that last vestige of Ferran Adrià's culinary legacy--the kind of dish that exemplifies haute cuisine moderne, but without gimmickry.   We both began with a succulent large langoustine and caviar, served cold, with  crispy celeriac and a bit of Japanese lemon. Then came one of Frechon's signature dishes, macaroni stuffed with truffles, artichoke and foie gras (below)--the French are never one to skimp on expensive ingredients when it comes to pasta--which was slipped under the broiler with a topping of Parmigiano cheese. With this we drank a Château Dubois-Challon Fleur Amandine 2009, the marriage decadent in the most honest ways.  Veal sweetbreads were braised with Amaretto, sweet red onions and candied and fresh almonds to add texture. Although the description sounds cloyingly sweet, this was an outstanding, well-balanced dish, accompanied by a hearty Château Barde-Haut 2000. The fish served was a whiting in a bread crust with what was described as "al dente" New Zealand spinach with curry oil, and it was sensationally good, served with a perfectly mature Domaine M. Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 2009. A lovely selection of cheeses was matched with a Domaine Rolet Père et Fils Arbois Vin Jaune 2004, while a pre-dessert of a stalk of meringue with a sour citrus sorbet, mango gelée, and mango powder was an intense spark before black Provençal figs poached in a spiced strawberry juice, with ice cream and biscuits
(plus numerous cookies, candies, and chocolates), accompanied by sweet Domaine Etko Commanderie Centurion from, of all places, Cyprus. It was liquorous and delicious.
    This vast display of dishes was served in a very civilized two hours, and it is fascinating to watch the timing and tempo of the staff, the captain knowing precisely when to signal waiting waiters with their silver trays to bring the next course, the busboys always attendant to breads and removal of dishes.  It was a flawless meal.
    The restaurant has a cache of more than 30,000 bottles and a thousand selections. Menus are printed in various languages, and, of course, taxes and service are included in the price of the food. Dinner first courses run 78€-110€, main courses 62€-120€.  A  6-course tasting menu runs 250€.
    The Bristol is offering a Christmas package that includes a one-night stay,  American Breakfast for two, a bottle of champagne and chocolates in your room upon arrival, and a special gift for children, from 650€. Christmas Réveillon dinner is 590€.


Hôtel Fouquet's Barrière
Avenue George V & Champs-Élysée

  Six years of renovation and half-a-billion US dollars has transformed the Hôtel Fouquet's Barrière on the corner of the Champs-Élysée and Avenue George V and attached to the venerable Fouquet's restaurant, opened in 1899, from which you can see the Japanese tourists across the street lined up outside and waiting to get into Louis Vuitton to buy handbags.
    The Lucien BarriÉre Group's founder, François André, dreamed of owning Fouquet's restaurant as long ago as the 1920s, and his nephew Lucien went on to build on his uncle's legacy of grand hotels, with the Group eventually owning and operating 40 casinos, 16 hotels and more than 90 restaurants.  But the famous Fouquet's (once a coachmen's inn and the first restaurant to open on the Champs Élysée) eluded them. Intimately bound to the history of French and international cinema, from which the Molière and César Awards Ceremonies were launched, Fouquet's was also the place during World War I where the French flier aces drank when not shooting down German biplanes and zeppelins. The restaurants had a good run until  the 1970s, when, like the Champs Élysee itself,  it went into decline.  A new owner tried to revive it but it took three years of legal battles and the award of Historic Landmark status to prevent Fouquet's from being shuttered by the landlord. In the fall of 1998, with the Champs Élysée now chic with expensive fashion stores, the Barrière Group took it over and began its renovation, with the new hotel opening in 2006.
    The Group describes the new décor as "modern yet baroque," with plenty of posh appointments throughout, including an open-air terrace and
beautiful interior garden, with every room offering views of the Champs Élysée or George V.  Velvet and damask are used in the curtains and canopies, gold-leafed arches and columns are everywhere,  and the bathrooms are among the most spacious in Paris, with black granite floors and walls, double sinks and TV screens. Soft drinks from the mini bar are complimentary, as is an internet connection--which I hope becomes the norm in at a time when other hotels in Paris charge exorbitant rates for such an amenity. There is, of course, a completely modern U Spa and a 50 by 26 foot swimming pool.
    The 40-seat restaurant within the hotel is called Le Diane (below), after one of the Barrière family, opening  onto that lovely garden patio. It's all about light here, quite modern, with gold and mauve contrasted with orange and sprays of the season's flowers. The silverware is Christofle, the china Limoges, the glassware crystal. Here Chef Jean-Yves Leuranguer makes a modern cuisine tending towards a lighter spirit, with dishes like tomato tart with burrata; Challans duck with a turnip confit spiced with orange and ginger; mullet with zucchini flowers, olive oil, and sauce vierge; pressed quail with foie gras and chutney; and wild strawberries with vanilla cream and almond croustillant and rhubarb sorbet.  His cooking is very much centered on the main ingredient, not distracted by so many others, and the pedigree of those ingredients--Challan duck, Charolais beef, and more--is unassailable.
    Le Diane is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Chef Leuranguer offers tasting menus at 78€, 98€ and 125€. À la carte appetizers run 29€-59€ and main courses 42€-66€, which these days in Paris constitute moderate prices for this caliber of cuisine.
  Le Diane is also featuring a Christmas dinner as part of a Le Diane package that includes a luxury room or suite, American breakfast for two, dinner at Le Diane, complimentary pass to the spa, and more.
    I did not have time to dine at Fouquet's but I was enchanted at least to have breakfast there.  While retaining a look that partakes of its Belle Epoque history, it is wonderfully bright and shiny, and its prospect on the Champs Élysée and Avenue Georges V is nonpareil.  One need not try too hard to imagine everyone from Jean Gabin and Romy Schneider to Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant sitting at a table here, and although it's often regarded as a brasserie, the dining rooms (one upstairs) are quite elegant, with crystal chandeliers, leather banquettes, thick carpeting, and mahogany accents, with scores of black and white photos of the celebrities who have filled its tables.
    Chef Leuranguer oversees the kitchen here, too, and the menu is considerably more traditional than at Le Diane, with starters (27€-49€) like lobster in fennel soup, parsnip soup with foie gras; and smoked salmon with potato puree; and main courses (48€-64€) like John Dory a la nage with coco beans and mizuna; roast rack of lamb with vegetable tian; and sautéed sole with steamed potatoes.
    There is a menu at 89€. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

La Cuisine

Le Royal Monceau Raffles
24 Avenue Hoche

     There are two restaurants at the new Royal Monceau, one indelibly French, called La Cuisine, the other stylishly Italian, named Il Carpaccio.  I reported on both some months ago, but I happily had occasion to return to La Cuisine this fall to see how the seasons were changing the menu there, under
Executive chef Laurent André and chef de cuisine Gabriel Gapin, who focus is on ingredients rather than presentation. There is an emphasis on roasting and grilling without fuss.
    I am also happy to report that prices here are somewhat below those at other deluxe hotel dining rooms in Paris, with
appetizers from 22€ to 41€, main courses 39€ to 55€,  a  seafood prix fixe dinner at 90€ and vegetarian menu at 39€.  There is a communal table (below) with aluminum chairs, the open kitchen faces the dining room.
    You might begin with medallions of Brittany lobster come with a vegetable salad and a silky mushroom marmalade.  There is the inevitable pasta dish, one night done with lobsters and sweetbreads, a rich, wonderful dish, or the more traditional Parisian gnocchi, piped from a pastry tube, were rife with peas, wild mushrooms and a julienne of ham; currently Burgundian snails are added.  Chestnut soup, perfect for the season, comes with guinea fowl meat on toast, while duck foie gras is roasted till its center is creamy and pink, served with fresh fig and black pepper caramel.
    Sea bass is roasted on a spit (not easy to get right and keep intact), and accompanied by polenta, black olives and dried tomato coulis. Also from the spit cames browned, succulent squab à la  "Rossini," with foie gras and truffles. There is even a selection of sushi here, like razor clam with golden caviar, as well as a cold shellfish consommé.
    It is very difficult these days to justify ordering both cheese and dessert, so go with someone willing to share both.  We were delighted by the variety of perfectly ripe cheeses, breads, and condiments (14€), no less than the exquisite desserts that includes a delicate rendering of millefeuille pastries. The montebello dessert is a pistachio dacquoise biscuit with pistachio mousseline cream, and seasonal berries. There is also a citron tart with lemon cream and candied lemon, and  an entire page devoted to macarons, which have become the sweet rage of the moment in Paris.

    The 35,000 bottle wine list, overseen by Burgundian sommelier Manuel Peyrondet, is very strong for a young restaurant and growing; prices are haute reasonable, with some good wines under 60€.  
    The big, spacious room itself bright but softly lighted, with crystal chandeliers and 1960s mod colors throughout, reds, blues, yellows, with graffiti-like messages on columns;  it's a great spot for people watching, especially since the hotel has actively courted a show biz crowd, so that some rooms are named after great performers, like Ray Charles, and the hotel has its own cinema room with 100 seats.
    The rooms at the Royal Monceau have been designed to feel more like apartments in their appointments, with particular books and décor resembling a (well-off) artist's atelier. Le Royal Monceau is very much the hotel of the moment, and given its forward-looking decor and breezy public spaces, it is likely to be so for a good long time to come.

Les Tablettes

16 Avenue Bugeaud


    Jean-Louis Nomicos, formerly of Laserre and Alain Ducasse, brings his own modern French cuisine to this new casually chic restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe, with a  sleek slender dining room with gray basketweave wallcoverings and burnt orange fabrics.  Its size and menu scope is a pretty good indication of the style of 21st century free-standing restaurants in the city now, for few individuals, without massive financial support from a hotel or luxury goods company, can any longer launch the kind of restaurant that garners three Michelin stars--despite Michelin's hollow boast that they only judge what's on the plate, never the plate itself. 
    The menu here has a sensible number of dishes, and we began with a delicious shooter of foamy mushroom soup.  Our guest ordered what turned out to be a simply wondrous dish--poached egg with girolles, a "chlorophylle" of parsley, and emulsion of truffles and potato, a very good wintry dish. "Papillons"-shaped pasta (farfalle in Italy) came with clams, squid,  shrimp and a little basil, needing more flavorful components, not least garlic and oil.
    Sweetbreads came with a gremolata (note the ubiquitous influence of Italian cuisine in Paris these days!), poppyseeds, and citron honey, a superb dish, deceptively simple, with the essential flavors all enhancing each other. Also very good were tender veal cheeks with citron caviar, romaine lettuce, and gnocchi. Noisettes of lamb had plenty of flavor, especially accompanied by eggplant, pine nuts, zucchini and savory.
     The desserts stay simple, too, from warm figs with rosemary, honey, and almond ice cream to a chocolate "grand cru," three items on one plate, moelleux, fondant, and café emulsion, ending off with mignardises, lemon tart and hazelnut cream.
    Appetizers run 29€ to 48€, main courses 26€-59€, with dégustations at 80€, 120€ and 145€, which includes
two glasses of wine. For Christmas there is a seven-course 160€ meal with a glass of vintage Champagne.
    The wine list is good for this size restaurant, though there is next to nothing on it under 50€, which is unfortunate. 




24 West 55th Street (near Fifth Avenue)

     In1979, at the age of 25, the redoubtable Michael McCarty opened his namesake restaurant  in Santa Monica, CA, then quite off the beaten track of Los Angeles' dining map.  Aside from the Italian restaurant Valentino, there wasn't much out there except the beach, so to add a true fine dining spot to the neighborhood took a leap of personal faith.  Fortunately, McCarty, originally from the NY suburb of Briarcliff, had self-esteem and youthful exuberance to burn, and his own culinary experience up till then was impressive:
He lived in the Champagne region of Rennes for a year as part of the Andover-Exeter School Year Abroad program, where he fell hard for fine French cuisine and service, going on to study cooking, wines, and hotel and restaurant management in Paris, earning diplomas from the École Hôteliére de Paris, the Cordon Bleu, and the Academy du Vin. In 1974, he returned to the United States, attended Cornell's Summer Hotel Program, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in the Business and Art of Gastronomy from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    Michael's was unlike any other restaurant of its day, for while it was in the vanguard of what was being called "New California Cuisine," the restaurant had a breezy American style to it, replete with some of the emerging American artists' paintings and sculptures decorating the room, including Jim Dine and David Hockney, which his wife, painter Kim, helped him to collect. The patio was pure California casual chic, with white umbrellas, daisies in the Perrier bottles, and an engaging crew of waiters dressed in khakis, pink Oxford shirts and knit ties.  All that, and wonderful French-California cuisine--those first menus were entirely in French--was engagingly new, and long before the word "locavore" was coined, McCarty, along with other L.A. progenitors were cooking with only the finest, freshest ingredients available from the California cornucopia. At the beginning, McCarty was the menu creator but along the way he had a notable number of young talents, like Jonathan Waxman, to oversee the kitchen.
    So inextricable did Michael's seem from the California ethos, that it was with some surprise that he opened an outpost, looking much like the original, on New York's west side, in 1989.  From the start McCarty (right) won over a whole new crowd--he'd be in each city twice a month--not least among New York's expense account-rich media--while attracting regulars from California who came to town for some TLC and McCarty cuisine. They would come for a power breakfast, lunch or dinner, happy to see McCarty, never sure how long his hair would be or how broad his jacket's shoulders, but they could usually count on him wearing faux-leopard spotted shoes.
     In all those years since, McCarty and his chefs (currently Kyung Up Lim) have never veered much from the original menu concepts--plenty of effulgent salads, baby lamb, Dover sole, and freshly baked cookies, still basing everything on the season and the ingredients.  The waiters still wear chinos and Oxford shirts, and though McCarty has retired the leopard shoes (I think), he still beams with California exuberance and swagger and seems on a first name basis with most of his guests.  He even serves wines from his own, admirable Malibu vineyards, along with 800 other labels.
    Except for a brief lunch, I hadn't been back to Michael's for a long time, so I was very happy to find him at the restaurant. I've known him since he opened the original Michael's so I spent a few moments reminiscing about how things have both changed and not changed.  Michael's longevity as a restaurant suggests that consistency and dedication will always outlast the faddish and cutting edge, the former also passing, the latter always becoming dull.
    The place looks great, but is it my imagination the lights are lower than they used to be?, which takes a little of the fun out of a dining room. It was a fairly quiet night, and we took our time, ordering from a new array of cocktails, some interesting, some odd, and perusing the winelist before going with a 2009 Belicard Puligny Montrachet and a 2007 Malibu Pinot Noir.     Our first courses included an item I am helpless to refuse--Florida stone crabs, those fat, meaty appendages that need nothing more than a dip in mustard sauce or mayo. Sweet potato and mascarpone packed tender ravioli, served with a simply and very well rendered beurre noisette, tinged with sage and crushed hazelnuts for added texture.  An heirloom carrot salad was exemplary of the Michael's style, full of
fennel, arugula, marjoram, goat's cheese, and pepitas.
    As with those stone claws, I could hardly turn down a mid-course of the season's first bay scallops, accompanied by small mussels, 
shaved ice radishes, and leaves of Brussels sprouts (above).
    Our main courses included a perfect, plump Dover sole, grilled with a meunière butter sauce on the side; luscious skate wing that had been breaded and quickly sautéed just past translucence and served with leeks, celery root, and seafood salad; and an Ellensburg rack of lamb (above), well fatted and a kind of signature dish at Michael's, accompanied by a succulent potato gratin, cipollini, broccoli ans the pan juices.
    Desserts in profusion, by Brooklyn girl Diane Carrasquillo, included the anticipated cookies, exceptionally rich dulce de leche cake with a sprightly citrus icing; a moist pumpkin bread pudding with candied pumpkin seeds and cinnamon ice cream; chocolate cake with white chocolate mousse and pistachio-cranberry ice cream; and  peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate ganache; upside down fig cake, seasonal sorbets and ice creams, along with
meringues, coconut macaroons, classic chocolate chips, and double-chocolate cookies. Great place for the holidays.
     Scroll back over this menu we had and you'll see that the ideas have become American classics in style and flavors, these days taken for granted by young cooks everywhere.  But those young cooks should realize that without Michael's and without McCarty and his colleagues from those exciting days three decades ago, little of this would be on menus today.  And rarely with such personal panache.
Jasper Johns, Untitled, 1981.

Michael's is open for breakfast Mon.-Fri., lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner Mon.-Sat. Dinner starters $16-$22, entrees $30-$45.




by Christopher Mariani

The Man About Town is on assignment.
His column will appear in an upcoming issue.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to




Can the 2009 Bordeaux Live Up to All the Hype?

 by John Mariani

    Here we go again.
    We’re only 12 years into the 21st century and yet another Bordeaux vintage, 2009, is being declared the “vintage of the century” by the wine industry and media, which said the same thing about the 2005 vintage. And word is that those who have tasted barrel samples of 2010 are combing the thesaurus for even more superlatives.         Words like “spectacular,” “awesome” and “magnificent” have been bandied about thus far—and the wines will not even be in stores till next spring or summer. Hyperbolic wine guru Robert Parker, who tasted the wines in barrel, has even declared that “
For some Médocs and Graves, 2009 may turn out to be the finest vintage I have tasted in 32 years of covering Bordeaux.”
    With Bordeaux wine prices already at an all-time high—-even the mediocre 2006 and 2007s vintages were very expensive--Bloomberg’s Elin McCoy last year reported that upon offering futures for the 2009 London wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd sold 700 cases in one hour, with online orders freezing up their computers.
         Unlike some of my colleagues who exalted the 2009s after tasting them in barrel more than a year ago, I have been content to wait until the wines have been bottled and aged.  Having tasted many prestigious wines in barrel over the years, the one thing I discovered is that the wine in one barrel can differ considerably from that in barrel next to it.  Unless you work at a Bordeaux château and can monitor all the wines in every barrel from the beginning, finished wines are a much more sensible way to judge a vintage’s character.
         I was therefore delighted to attend the sold-out annual Fête du Bordeaux at The Four Seasons restaurant (below) in New York in October, where six examples of the 2009 vintage were tasted. Restaurant owners Alex von Bidder and Julian Niccolini brought in three notable Bordeaux vignerons, Anthony Barton of Châteaux Léoville Barton and Langoa Barton (above), Jean-Charles Cazes of Châteaux Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez, and Nicholas Glumineau of Châteaux Montrose and Tronquoy Lalande.
         Glumineux was so giddy about the vintage that he got up and sang an Italian aria and “New York New York” before declaring that the wines are “so powerful, so long, so expressive, as if I’m talking about the woman I love.” French guys tend to do that. (A video exists of Mr. G not resisting his urge to sing in public.)
         At my table of winelovers, which included one Master of Wine and one from the trade, opinion differed on the 2009s, though no one went into any fits of ecstasy over them. My own reaction was that this is indeed a very good vintage but one that also says a lot about how Bordeaux wines have changed over the past decade.
         None was a First Growth—no Lafite, no Margaux, no Haut-Brion or the rest—but they were all fine examples, including newly emergent estates like Château Tronquoy Lalande, which recently underwent a three-year, 10 million euro rehab.  Overall I found every wine surprisingly voluptuous—even at only 13 or 13.5 percent alcohol--very fruity, with tannins already quite softened and not as much acid as I’d hoped for.  My notes contain words like “huge,” “thick,” even the occasional “wow,” and I would happily drink any of them right now rather than wait five to ten years to see how they develop. I thought the Tronquoy Lalande had exceptional depth and laudable tannins, with a bouquet that took a little while to open up.  Les Ormes de Pez, a cru bourgeois, was actually sweet on the finish, with a caramel and oddly vegetal nose that blossomed quickly in the glass.
         Château Langoa Barton, a 3rd Growth from Saint-Julien, was, as expected, closer to the usual Bordeaux taste of restrained fruit and good mineral notes, though it seemed far forward.  Lynch-Bages, a 5th Growth from Pauillac, was tight at first but opened up to reveal elegance very much in the Bordeaux tradition, while Leoville-Barton was also tight and somewhat tannic, but there was a refinement here I’d expect from the 2nd Growth Saint-Julien. This one has a bright, long future.
         Montrose (left), a 2nd Growth Saint-Estephe, was very thick, very bold, and held on to its big tannins; I’d keep these around for a while.

         I was very happy with the wines, though I’ll hold my exhilaration at bay thus far. My concern is implicit in my scribbled note that “the 2009s taste like really good California cabernet blends,” which is a backhanded way of saying that California blends are becoming more complex but that Bordeaux winemakers, already troubled by global warming, may be making their wines in a far bigger, more forward—dare I say, overripe—style that tends to impress the critics. This is not your father’s Bordeaux.
         In the end, though, does it really matter? The global market, fueled by Chinese, is buying up all the classified Bordeaux it can find, in good and weak vintages.  And with First Growth 2009s selling for thousands and lesser chateaux selling for hundred per bottle, craziness, not connoisseurship, makes yet another “vintage of the century” pretty much a moot point.  

John Mariani's 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.



A man in Georgia, dissatisfied with the filling in his food bought at Taco Bell, returned at four AM and tried to throw a Molotov cocktail though the drive-thru window but missed, hitting only the building. . . Meanwhile, in San Diego, a man ordered a burrito at a taco stand to distract attention from his accomplice, who was dressed in a gorilla mask, trying to rob the place.


After reading a negative review by critic AA Gill in the Sunday Times, Chef Charlie McCubbin  from the River Cafe, Brecon, allegedly swung a punch at kitchen worker Keith McVaigh, then pushed him downstairs and tussled with him.  He also allegedly used "foul" language and "appeared intoxicated."

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

My latest book, written with Jim Heimann and Steven Heller,  Menu Design in America,  1850-1985 (Taschen Books), has just appeared, with nearly 1,000 beautiful, historic, hilarious, sometimes shocking menus dating back to before the Civil War and going through the Gilded Age, the Jazz Age, the Depression, the nightclub era of the 1930s and 1940s, the Space Age era, and the age when menus were a form of advertising in innovative explosions of color and modern design.  The book is a chronicle of changing tastes and mores and says as much about America as about its food and drink.


“Luxuriating vicariously in the pleasures of this book. . . you can’t help but become hungry. . .for the food of course, but also for something more: the bygone days of our country’s splendidly rich and complex past.  Epicureans of both good food and artful design will do well to make it their cofee table’s main course.”—Chip Kidd, Wall Street Journal.


“[The menus] reflect the amazing craftsmanship that many restaurants applied to their bills of fare, and suggest that today’s restaurateurs could learn a lot from their predecessors.”—Rebecca Marx, The Village Voice.

My new book, How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan) is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe, Gotham Bar & Grill, The Modern, and Maialino.



FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to 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: In the Footsteps of Butch Cassidy on the Outlaw Trail.

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).

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.

Family Travel Forum

                                                                    ALL YOU NEED 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.

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© copyright John Mariani 2011