Virtual Gourmet

  January 26, 2014                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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Mexico City Restaurant Menu circa 1935



On Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 6 PM, the International Culinary Center in NYC will hold a lively debate on the subject "Culinary Technology: A FAD...or the FUTURE?"--whether MODERNIST CUISINE is a flash in the pan or an integral part of cooking fundamentals, moderated by Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Founder and CEO of International Culinary Center.  Join  the strongly opinionated panelists:

“The fact is, despite tremendous media hype… the expansion and influence of avant garde cuisine has been next to zero."

--John Mariani, columnist for Esquire and author of the new Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink.

“Mariani's remarkable contention that avant garde cuisine has had no influence is so far off base as to be absolutely stunning.”--Colman Andrews, editorial director, The Daily Meal, and author of The Taste of America and Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food. 

6:00pm classic + techie cocktails; Debate begins promptly at 6:30pm in the Amphitheater at the International Culinary Center, 462 Broadway, 2nd floor. Please RSVP by January 27 to or call 646-254-8577.





   By John Mariani

     By John Mariani

    By John Mariani


        By John Mariani




By John Mariani

   Monument Valley on the border of Arizona and Utah

        I first set foot in Scottsdale and Phoenix in 1977, while driving across the country on a 14-week honeymoon. After wending our way through the South and barreling on through Texas, I was aware I was in a new kind of western territory, one where people were wholly willing to take chances and open to innovation, while still preserving the long, often sacred, traditions of the region.
        I was also very impressed by the food scene in Phoenix and Scottsdale back then, at a time when few American cities had much to brag about in their staid gastronomy.  Of course, if you used the Mobil Guide back then, restaurants in the Valley of the Sun seemed almost a satire on fast food Americana.  But I recall some very fine restaurants, like Durant’s Steakhouse (then already 37 years old), the Orangerie at the Arizona Biltmore, Mandarin Inn, Etienne’s, the superb nouvelle cuisine restaurant Vincent’s on Camelback, and one of the best Italian restaurants of its day, Ianuzzi’s (where an excellent bottle of 1967 Barolo cost $17). Since then, the region’s gastronomy has grown hugely in quality and stature.
    My favorite time to go to Arizona is not in mid-summer, when it's 110 degrees outside. "But it's dry heat!" the locals scream. So is a pizza oven's. So the only thing to do, as I did when there last summer, was to stay inside until time for lunch and dinner, when I could venture out, crank up the a/c in the car and rush into a nice, cool restaurant.  Here are some of the places I found to be welcome relief from the Scottsdale/Phoenix summer.

Virtù Honest Craft
in the Bespoke Inn
3701 North Marshall Way
Scottsdale, AZ

        The place where I spent most time inside was the Bespoke Inn (below) which is a good deal more than a bed-and-breakfast and well shy of a formal hotel. Its luxury is evident in the attention to personalized detail owners Kate and Rob Herren put into every inch, from the comforters to the soaps, from the books and toys on the shelves to the polished nickel fixtures. There is an infinity edge lap pool and you may ride British Pashley bicycles free of charge (even if it’s 110 degrees outside).
        Downstairs are three bedrooms and upstairs the Signature Flat, where I was so happy to stay, furnished with high ceilings and reclaimed wood floors, with a fabulous kitchen with a marble island and handmade walnut farm table.  Daily brunch at Virtù downstairs is part of the room rate.
         Kate and Rob--you’ll be immediately on a first name basis--are eager to tend to your wishes, and you’d have to think long and hard to come up with a request they will not grant.  When a taxi did not arrive on time to take me to the airport, Kate just shrugged and said, “Hop in the car. I’ll run you over.” More generous, more congenial, more amiable innkeepers cannot be.
        As for the Virtù Honest Craft restaurant (above),
I’ve long admired the inventive Southwestern cooking of Chef Gio Osso (left), and now he’s proven himself one of America’s finest interpreters of Mediterranean food, albeit with Arizona swagger, evident in a starter like his beautiful fried squash blossoms plumped up with pecan goat’s cheese, local lemon-scented honey and chopped chives.  The food looks, as fine dining is supposed to look, but the laid-back vibe of the place, with just 25 seats and a bar, puts off all notions of pretentiousness.
    It’s always evident when a chef cooks what he himself loves to eat, leading to dishes like Osso’s grilled orata coated with lemon-oregano crumbs and sided with a Calabrese peperonata with a scorpion’s bite.  He makes his own cream-centered burrata and chile butter, whips fat-mottled mortadella salame into a puree to be spread on smoky country bread, and reduces cherries, hazelnuts and chocolate to make a sour-sweet gianduja sauce to lavish on his smoked duck with toasted cumin and cashew tabbouleh of bulghur wheat.
        Virtù has a lot of buzz among local chefs, who sit at the bar, order a Virtù Starter Kit cocktail of Cocchi vermouth, Plymouth gin, grapefruit bitters and bitter lemon soda, and nod to each other as they eat Osso’s food, looking for ideas.

Open for brunch and dinner daily; Appetizers $7-$15, main courses $18-$29.


2320 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix

    Kevin Binkley (left) has an indisputable reputation as one of the Valley's most creative chefs, best evidenced at his first restaurant, Binkley's up in Cave Creek, where he serves long tasting menus of highly refined cuisine.  He also runs the delightful Café Bink in Carefree, where the food is admirably simple and so satisfyingly good.  His newest place, Bink's Midtown, despite its inane name, is a fine marriage of both his creativity and his idea that food should indeed have simple virtues, an attitude reflected within the white wooden walls of a modest house in Phoenix.
    I was there for lunch and ordered a slew of items, beginning with deep-fried baby back ribs with a tamarind, sesame and yogurt dipping sauce--a dish no one but a vegan could possibly be immune to.  Green chile pork papusa came with an assertive salsa verde cut by a tangy apple and peppery radish, and a plate of sweetbread nuggets, creamy and served with a sweet-and-sour Gen. Tso’s-like sauce, peanuts and scallions, went fast at my table. Burrata cheese was an option, with pistachios, breadstick, and peach preserves, but it came out ice cold, when it should have been at least room temperature.
    You so rarely see sand dabs on a menu--if you do, it’s probably in a San Francisco restaurant--so, when I do, I order them. Binkley’s were terrific, tender, sweet and dressed in plenty of brown butter with almonds.
    I enjoyed my lunch but can imagine that at twilight, as the Arizona sky starts to turn colors, Binks Midtown is an enchanting place to have a long, lingering romantic dinner.

Open daily for lunch and dinner; appetizers at dinner $4-$21, main courses $16-$22.


6936 East Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ

        The House Brasserie doesn’t look quite like any other restaurant in the area, unless you can find a place with flocked gold wallpaper, Victorian mirrors, and crystal chandeliers.  It’s possible a silver mine magnate’s house might once have looked something like this, but otherwise it’s actually very comfortable and not in the least stuffy.  The website says it’s “grandmotherly.”
        I enjoyed the Mexican food Chef Matt Carter was doing at The Mission, but here he has fanned out to more global cuisines on a menu that is too large by half to do everything equally well.  But I dined with gusto and satisfaction, beginning with crab fried rice, properly runny mollet egg and amarillo chile, a diverting Arizona-Asian concept.  There is also a generous selection of domestic salamis ($16), and I’m sure salad lovers will enjoy the one here with gem lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, roast corn, smoked pasilla chile and lime vinaigrette, a dish that really succeeds at every level of taste and texture.
        I wasn’t mad about the bland crispy pork rillettes with blue cheese, but crisp, hot jerk chicken had a lot of punch going for it, with cashews, banana, and smoked grapes, and the pork belly took on Korean notes of kimchee, udon noodles, and a fried egg.  Crab with a smoked Gouda fondue, roast peppers and cilantro made for a perfect lunch dish, and for dessert you’d have to go far to find better than the caramel upside down apple cake with salted caramel and pistachio ice cream.

Open for lunch and dinner daily; appetizers $4-$18, main courses $26-$45.

2922 North Hayden Road
Scottsdale,  AZ

    Meat, salt, pepper, meat, chilies, meat, fat, innards, meat.  That about describes the over-the-top carnivorous fare at the appropriately named Pig & Pickle.  It’s a big,  gregarious room with the atmosphere of a gastropub set within--as are so many restaurants in the Valley--a drab shopping center.
        It’s hard not to have a good time here, but wear stretch pants. This is not food you want to be anywhere near if you’re even thinking of going on a diet.  To that end you’ll dine very well indeed, starting off with items like a pork liver and caramelized onion dish with pickled fennel, or an array of housemade charcuterie with pickles (they are serious about their pickles!). 
         Braised, very juicy duck leg (below) came on wild rice and quinoa salad with almonds and cranberry gastrique and the gilding of feta cheese, while porchetta was accompanied by a hefty portion of succotash and three bean salad.  The overproduced pretzel-crusted chicken with smoked tomato ratatouille--with an “add on” of foie gras--didn't work, but I loved the hefty cheeseburger here--as juicy and flavorful as “custom ground” beef can possibly be. (There is, actually, a vegetarian green curry with basmati, lentils, Savoy cabbage, Greek yogurt and winter squash on the menu.)
         Desserts are suitably gloppy and good--seared carrot cake with whipped goat’s cheese, black pepper caramel and golden raisins, and a fine Mississippi mud cake with--ready?--fudge filling, marshmallow fluff and praline ice cream, which will give you a sugar rush to last till dawn.
         Pig & Pickle pretends to nothing more than the service of big grub, generous cocktails, a lotta beer, and music, and if you’re up for that, this is your place.  And trust me on the stretch pants.

Open daily for dinner, from 4 PM; Appetizers $5-$12, main courses $14-$27.



6035 N 7th Street

was a big fan of Doug Robson’s first restaurant, Gallo Blanco, where he was doing riffs on regional Mexican food hard to find anywhere else in the Valley of the Sun at that time, three years ago. At the time I wrote, “The trouble with most Mexican street food, including in Phoenix, is that the cooks just don’t use first-rate ingredients. Robson does, most sourced locally from area farmers, and it shows in the distinctive flavors he achieves in every dish.” That’s certainly the case at his new place, Otro Café.
                              Robson’s bloodlines run to Mexico, France, England and Vietnam, which he can hardly ignore when he cooks. Otro Café sticks closer to the simpler traditions of regional Mexican food, like tacos filled with achiote-marinated grilled shrimp, and a pollo en mole negro. The tacqueria part of the menu features five items, and I loved the al pastor with juicy pork, pineapple, achiote adobo, and tomatillo salsa.
        I’m not a big fan of Spanish paella, but Robson gives his some real kick, Mexican style, with chicken, pork and plenty of chorizo for spark (right).
        He serves breakfast all day, and I can well imagine c
oming here late at night or early morning, feeling a little worse for wear, and being restored to something like normalcy by chowing down on Robson’s chilaquiles rojas ($9) or huevos rancheros ($7). And I’m sure your waitress will be ready with the hot coffee.

Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner; appetizers $3-$9, main courses $9-$15.  



By John Mariani
Photos by Evan Sung

55 East 54th Street (off Park Avenue)

        NYC is hardly bereft of good Greek restaurants, but the new Nerai is easily the best to have opened since Anthos back in 2007 (since closed).  
    The latter was Chef Michael Psilakis’ thoroughly modern conception of Greek food, of a kind that would be difficult to find even in the more modern restaurants in Athens.

        At Nerai there are co-executive chefs here--Chris Christou (formerly at Per Se, Corton, and Ai Fiori) and Ioannis Markadakis (from Vezene in Athens)--and, while they don’t take the high leaps Psilakis did at Anthos, their cuisine adapts the finest traditions of Hellenic cuisine and refines them in ways no other Greek restaurant in NYC is currently attempting.
    On the night I dined at the elegantly appointed bi-level restaurant, it was with an interior designer friend who pronounced the marine-like décor exceptionally beautiful, especially the aqua-green lighting that played softly from the ceiling onto folds of white drapery-like fabric.  But if you look at the attached photo, the lighting is a garish violet color of a kind you’d find in an Atlantic City lounge. I’ve learned that the lighting is changed from night to night, and I shudder to think of some of the unappealing colors that might obtain. I don’t know if they take requests, but maybe you can beg them to turn on the gorgeous blue-green lights.
    Upstairs is very charming too, more subdued in décor, and there is a lively bar up front.  I cannot help but comment on the hostesses at Nerai, who are as cordial as they are comely. Indeed, every one of the staff is very attentive. When our waiter asked if he could get us anything to begin, I joked that the night air had frozen my fingers and said, “Yes, hot water!” One minute later he brought me a finger bowl of hot water.
    The 137-label wine list is 40 percent Greek, with some unusual selections like the Assyrtiko de Milos 2004 from Santorini, a charmingly aromatic white wine.   
    We began dinner with an array of mezes, including chickpea hummus and tahini flecked with onion (below); tender fava beans with onion and mastika spirits; and a delightfully spicy feta with paprika and pepper, all accompanied by fine warm pita bread.  Olives, curiously, were set on the table cold. The starters, as is so often the case in Greek restaurants, were wonderfully savory, like the superb duck moussaka with roasted potato and eggplant and creamy béchamel--the kind of dish that respects tradition while utilizing unexpected ground duck meat.  Smoked eggplant with roasted red pepper, ouzo-scented yogurt and sweet parsnip chips showed the same spark, while grilled octopus with chickpeas and marinated cucumbers moved the dial with the addition of a yogurt foam.
    A Greek restaurant must be judged largely on its seafood--which, believe me, in Greece still tends to be overcooked, but Nerai did an impeccable job of grilling a lavraki (sea bass), given a benediction of olive oil and capers. Langoustines--on the small side--were cooked with white wine and sweetened by a tomato confit and a little coriander.  We were thoroughly pleased by the hearty short ribs with youvetsi (orzo pasta), tomato, aged piave cheese, and the Mediterranean scent of cinnamon.
    At meal’s end one expects the usual flaky baklava and yogurt, but Markadakis gives as much attention to desserts as to everything else, rendering a delicious lavender mousse made with yogurt and honey, set on pineapple carpaccio with caramelized pecans.  Portokalopita is a sponge cake filo with orange syrup and caramelized hazelnuts, though a dark chocolate sorbet lent nothing to the dish.  Saragli are pastries composed of rolled baklava, very crispy, with almonds, pistachio and mastika gelato.
ne goes to Nerai for a truly fine dining experience, and one pays accordingly: starters range from $12 to $22 and main courses $26 to $48, with a lobster pasta for two, with 2 ½ pounds of lobster on squid ink linguine, at $112; whole fish sell by the pound, from $30 to $50.  Nerai is not a taverna, without bazouki players, fish nets or faded posters of the Acropolis. Instead, Nerai is admirably at the level of an Italian restaurant like Marea or a seafood restaurant like Oceana (whose premises these once were). Quality does not just count, it costs, and Nerai delivers it with a panache unique to Greek restaurants in NYC.

Nerai is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat.



By John Mariani


It’s not like sales of OREO cookies are lagging.

They have long been and still are the best-selling cookies in America: more than 345 billion have been sold since first appearing in 1912 and still selling 7.5 billion every year.

So the announcement “confirming the rumors” that two new flavors are being launched in limited release—about six to eight weeks on the market—may have more to do with keeping OREO’s image bright, even hip, when a TV spot, featuring vocals by indie rockers Tegan & Sara, plays during the Grammy Awards on Sunday, January 26. At the end of the commercial, OREO will reveal a one-time-only, top-secret hash tag for “fans with the fastest thumbs who tweet” to get a free first taste of the new cookies, which hit the shelves in February.

The two new flavors are Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy.  I’ve tasted them and they’re O.K., in the way a variant of “Surfer Girl” with strings might be, or a Porsche with fins.  The cookies were likeable, nice crunch, pretty much the same dark chocolate flavor in the Cookie Dough sample.  The Marshmallow Crispy one is biscuit color and has something of the taste of Rice Krispie Treats.

They’re awfully sweet, but then OREOS never skimped on the sugar content.  They are certainly not an absurd marketing gaffe like New Coke or Pepsi Clear, and the limited release gives them a kind of cult status. But after eating a couple of the new flavors, I didn't feel like gorging on the rest of the package, as I and millions of fans do with uncontrolled abandon, with or without a glass or milk, on classic OREOS.

Indeed, a 2013 study from Connecticut College showed that, at least for lab rats, OREOS are as addictive as cocaine, activating the animals’ neurons in their  “pleasure center” in the same way heavy drugs do. “I haven’t touched an OREO since doing this experiment,” the school’s neuroscience assistant professor Joseph Schroeder said after getting the results.  Awesome.

OREOS have had a long time to grow on us.  They weren’t the first sandwich cookie—that was Hydrox in 1908, followed four years later with a very similar cookie developed by a grocer named S.C. Thueson, who named it OREO, a name delectably, elusively mysterious, since nobody, not even Nabisco Biscuit Company that owns the trademark, knows what it means. It has been suggested that the name may derive from the French word for “gold,” or, because the original package had the product name in gold. Another guess is that the word is from the Greek for “mountain,” the shape of which early test batches of OREOs resembled.  Both stories sound ridiculous.

But the catchy name itself was easy to stick in people’s minds.  It had a happy sound, like a pet’s name, but one that sounded vaguely like a symbol for a secret society that passed out the cookies, with their odd imprints of what looks like four-leaf clovers and a UFO with an antenna, in low-lighted ritual halls, chanting “OREO, OREO, OREO…” (Hydrox, which sounds like a cleaning solution, went through various hands, was discontinued, had name changes, and its most recent owner, Kellogg’s let the brand drop.)  The name OREO is so well known that it even became pejorative slang, both for a black person emulating whites, and for a sexual threesome of two blacks and a white in between. 
    The appeal of the OREO is not that it’s a filled cookie—nothing new there—but that it has a perfect balance of very dark, almost bitter chocolate, very crisp wafers and pure white cream center, so it is the only cookie that demands a certain decision about how to eat them: either you take a bite or you twist off the top cracker and lick off the cream filling. 

Such behavior always comes up as a topic of conversation—the twister considered mildly deviant—and I suspect more than one divorce lawyer has heard one party complain that “I loathe the way he eats his OREOs! It drives me goddamn crazy!”  Cookies in bed. Not good.

OREO’s triple pleasure and twist-off top is what first beguiles children, but, however many thousands of the cookies you eat in your lifetime, those pleasures are recalled, along with the way the cookie softens in milk and how the crumbs bob in the milk, offering a fourth pleasure to the exercise of eating an OREO.  It's something you never forget, the way most of us do about eating SPAM or TV Dinners or Chef Boyardee spaghetti.

So whether or not Americans need a new OREO flavor—these two are not the first ever marketed—seems moot.  Variety is not such a bad thing—tassels on loafers, different color Post-Its, a new James Bond actor—but as with a few very good things in life, what was perfect when we were five should be just as wonderful when we’re fifty.





By John Mariani

       The buying and selling of wine has two long traditions: on the one hand, it is a rough-and-tumble game of selling as much mediocre wine and sheer plonk as possible to a customer base that looks first and only at price; on the other hand, it has for a century been an elitist business in which price is determined by supply and demand of the most hyped-up wines in the world.
        These days, however, while the volume sales continue to tilt one way or the other in half-percentage points, the upscale wine market has gone through boom and bust periods right along with the economy in general.
        Prior to 2008 California cult wines like Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon were selling for hundreds of dollars a bottle and the rarest of red Burgundies, like Romanee-Conti, sold for thousands, very often to people who had no intention of ever drinking them.  The futures market, through which you pay for wines at a set price before they actually come into the market, seemed a good bet back then.
        But the crash of 2008 put the wine market into turmoil, saved only by the opening of a Chinese market for fine wines that has rocked sales at auction for prestigious Bordeaux and Burgundy sold to China’s new millionaires.  Then, in the past year, top Chinese officials directed such lavish excesses to be reigned in, so things began to get shaky in the fine wine market. The auction market went up and down in 2011 and 2012, but U.S. sales to consumers last year hit a new high of 360.1 million nine-liter cases for a value of $34.6 billion.
        What to make of all this turmoil in 2014? First of all, those sky-high U.S. sales figures, as with the wine sales figures of all countries, are not based on premium bottles ($10 and above) but on cheap wines selling for $5 to $10 a bottle, with chardonnay still the most popular varietal. And, while U.S. sales may in fact rise in 2014, with 100 million Americans drinking the stuff, those sales are unlikely to be of $25 merlots and $100 cabernets. Even so, the U.S. is still behind Ireland, Canada and Iceland in per capita consumption.
        In France and Italy, wine consumption has dropped precipitously among young drinkers. In 1980, 51 percent of the French drank wine every day; in 2010 it was only 17 percent and 38 percent never drink wine at all.  Italians’ wine consumption per capita has dropped by 50 percent.
        It came as a laughable surprise, then, when a recent article in London’s Guardian newspaper asserted there was now an actual scarcity of wine in the world, especially since the Chinese and Indians had entered the buyer’s market.
        “There is no scarcity, but with global consumption rising, supplies will be tighter,” says Scott Shellady, CEO of Bradford Capital Management, who also advises on wine portfolios for clients. “All commodity markets have had to deal with China in their marketing plans. With more and more Chinese traveling and being introduced to Western products, supplies will be affected. It's the same with beef and grain. While our hybrids and production capabilities have been growing at an arithmetic pace, the demand side of the equation has been growing at a geometric pace. Asia will have to be dealt with when it comes to Western production.”
        Still, Shellady says he would steer clear of the Chinese wine market for the time being, because there is so much faking and forgery of wines occurring there--mainly with the very top-of-the-line wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, but also popular wines from Italy and Spain.  “I was in Beijing recently,” a producer of a grand cru Burgundy told me, “and I was amazed to see that my wines were being counterfeited, but I was shocked to see how widespread it was.”
        As for the auction market right now, it’s very much caveat emptor because of the increase in forged wines. Just last month wine seller Rudy Kurniawan, who in 2006 sold $24.7 million worth of wine at an Acker, Merrall & Condit auction, was found guilty by a federal jury of selling counterfeit wines and defrauding a finance company--the first such case in U.S. history. He may be sentenced to up to 40 years in jail.

        “Everyone’s being much more careful in the auction market,” says Peter D. Meltzer, auction columnist for Wine Spectator and author of Keys to the Cellar: Strategies and Secrets of Wine Collecting. “The auction houses will be more diligent and the buyers will ask more questions as to where the wines have been all their lives. But overall I think the market will be calmer and prices won’t rise dramatically, largely because there was something of a glut with the 2009 and 2010 vintages.”
        For the average wine drinker, however, I see far more good wine available at stable prices than ever in 2014.  With so much competition now offered by quality South American wineries, especially Argentina, Chile, and, now, Uruguay, producers in Spain, Italy, Australia and New Zealand will be forced to keep prices down.  France has already driven prices down for export wines below the grand cru rankings.
        Also look for quality wines to come from Portugal and eastern European countries like Greece, even Serbia, and, finally, good South African wines priced to sell.  For everyday wines, 2014 will be a buyer’s market.



A Seattle blogger who calls herself Beautiful Existence (left) spent an entire year eating only from Starbucks and its affiliates like Tazo Tea and Evolution Fresh.



"Right now there's a luxe food economy, focused on a couple of London postcodes, which is entirely supported by a grotesque, preening, Louboutin-heeled, gold-plated iPhone-carrying, plastic-crashing, Bugatti-driving, natural resource-pillaging excuse for humanity that floats like some gold-flecked scummy head on the warm beer of the rest of an economy simply trying to make do. [Dining out with such people] is a complete and utter hell." --Jay Rayner, "Posh Restaurants Wasted on the Rich," The Observer.


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

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from “abalone” to “zwieback,” plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It 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: BEST OF FLORIDA SPORT FISHING

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).

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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