Virtual Gourmet

  JUNE 14,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

  Archives       About Us          

"Tampopo" (1985)


By John Mariani

Mireille Guiliano's Passion for Oysters
By Mort Hochstein


By John Mariani

Texas de Brazil
By Mort Hochstein

Master Chef Roger Vergé Passes Away
By John Mariani

Bobby Cox Takes Sole Ownership of Pheasant Ridge
by Andrew Chalk 


By John Mariani

The seasonal tsunami of new books on food and wine, grilling and baking, dieting and gluten-free, are increasingly just more of the same. Another Greek cookbook? Two more Thai street food books? Tedious reveries of living, loving and cooking in either of the two Portlands? Given that most of these end up selling fewer copies than a new translation of Sartre's Nausea, one wonders why the publishers bother to keep ripping off their authors via their in-house Departments of Sales Prevention.
     So, unless, you are dying to try out another 120 recipes for Lebanese pastries or read about 1,001 dishes you'll never get around to eating, the only sensible thing to do for summer is to search out food and wine books worth the actual reading, books that inform, entertain, educate and enlighten.  Here is my pick for those kinds of books most likely to claim a place on my bookshelves past Labor Day.

THE HISTORY OF WINE IN 100 BOTTLES  by Oz Clarke ($24.95)--
A wonderful read and antidote to all those windy 700-page volumes of out-of-date tasting notes and winery histories.  Clarke, who is one of the wine world's savviest and most readable authors, gives us the reasons why wines as illustrious as Mouton-Rothschild and as commercial as Mateus are milestones in wine history and for the industry itself.  Along the way there are stories of Egyptian tombs full of wine jars, the reason for Greek resinous wines, how the modern wine bottle came to be (in the 1740s), the importance of Louis Pasteur, and opinions on international wine consultants like Michel Rolland. 

SHORT COURSE IN RUM by Lynn Hoffman ($14.95)-- Let’s face it, who outside the spirits industry needs a long course in rum? There is, of course, a very long, sometimes sordid, history to the liquor that involves pirates, slave trading, and Prohibition, and Hoffman gives a good taste of that.  But he also gives a rollicking picture of working in a small rum distillery, why great rum need not be expensive (it’s all made from cheap sugar), and plenty of recipes, from cocktails to dessert.

WINE IN WORDS by Lettie Teague ($29.95)-- Lettie Teague followed years of embarrassing wine coverage in the Wall Street Journal with her down-to-earth, honest reporting on the industry, pointing out its foibles and marketing ploys and the emptiness of the 100-point scoring of wines. The chapters constitute a series of essays with titles like “The Well-Dressed Wine” (about expensive, often useless wine accessories), “Tasting Blind,” “In Praise of Mediocrity,” and “The Country of Cheap” (Chile). Teague is precisely the kind of wine-knowledgeable person who will never bore you with Winespeak, because she knows that such arcane verbiage is usually just a mask for having nothing intelligent to say about a bottle. 

JEAN-FRANÇOIS PIÈGE by Jean-François Piège ($85)-- The cliché that you can’t tell a book by its cover has never been more true than in the case of this all-gray volume, whose cover hides within some of the most stunning French cuisine of a contemporary Michelin-starred master.  Piège, 45, brought back the luster of Paris’s Hotel de Crillon Les Ambassadeurs and made a further mark at his own eponymous restaurant on Rue St. Dominique.  These are not dishes the home cook is likely to attempt, but the book is a template for modern French cuisine, which gives the lie to those who contend the gastro-scene in France has become sterile and stultified.  The photos of the dishes show the complexity of Piege’s cuisine, so it’s too bad the recipe pages themselves are printed in black ink on battleship gray paper.

DONUT NATION by Ellen Brown ($22)-- I always await with an appetite the next volume from the prolific Ellen Brown, whose topics often seem narrow but whose scope is daunting, even when it comes to an item like the donut. For this is not just a book of recipes--and they are all tempting, with names like “Dutch Monkey,” “Chocolate Stout” and “Zeppole”--it is also a Baedeker to the myriad donut shops all over America, each thoroughly researched and lovingly described.  Brown, who was USA Today’s first food editor and now is a weekly columnist for the Providence Journal, has enormous affection for American fare and she writes about it with gusto, as when she describes the nurse-like uniforms of Psycho Donuts in San Jose, CA, where the donuts types are scribbled on prescription pads.

CHARLIE PALMER'S AMERICAN FARE by Charlie Palmer ($40)-- The marriage of French technique and American good taste has affected both cuisines so that the distinctions are not as evident as they were before chefs like Charlie Palmer, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America to go the classic route of apprenticing in illustrious restaurants in France, came on the scene.  Today he runs 14 restaurants and hotels, and his long residency in the wine country of  Sonoma has been a crucible for developing family meals based on everything he knows, from baked ratatouille and green tea soba noodles with tuna to pork loin with orange and mustard-crusted rack of lamb.  Recipes are simply and clearly written and geared to the home kitchen--perfect for outdoor cooking this summer.


REAL MAINE FOOD by Ben Coniff and Luke Holden ($35)-- I don’t know that there is a “fake” Maine food, but Coniff and Holden will convince you that the 100 recipes culled from “fishermen, farmers, pie champs, and clam shacks” have a distinct regional flavor based on the glory of Down East bounty, both from the sea and the land.  There are communal dishes like the “Washtub Lobster Bake” and recipes using kelp in a salad; there’s a finnan haddie gratin and pastrami mackerel with whole grain mustard; and there is “Bean Hole Beans” along with anadama bread, maple kettle corn, and Whoopie Pies.  The evocative photos are first-rate, too.

PATSY'S ITALIAN FAMILY COOKBOOK by Sal Scognamillo ($29.99)-- Patsy’s is far from the last remaining Italian-American restaurant in New York, but it is to my mind the best, not just for the quality of the cooking and for the wall of celebrity photos it is famous for, but for the hospitality of the Scognamillo family that has run this ebullient Theater District restaurant for seven decades.  Patsy’s seems never to change, but in fact Chef Sal is constantly working to improve dishes with better, seasonal ingredients, without ever compromising what made them so beloved in the first place, from mussels marinara and eggplant rollatini to osso buco and spaghetti and veal meatballs.  Open any page, look at the photo of the food, and just try to stop yourself from salivating.


Mireille Guiliano: Paris Oyster, A Love Affair With The Perfect Food
By Mort Hochstein

      By the high water mark she set more than a quarter of a century ago, Mireille Guiliano’s fête for her latest book ,  Paris Oyster, A Love Affair With The Perfect Food ($20), is quite modest.
       Back in the eighties, this powerhouse of a woman was the North American CEO for Veuve Cliquot Champagne. She staged a lavish party, a screening of the award-winning film, “Babette’s Feast,” followed by a monumental buffet recreating the memorable banquet that gave the movie its title. 
    I thought of that event while attending a reading Mireille staged at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York recently. There was no extravagant buffet ,sad to say, just four select oysters, a fine Sancerre, Mireille rhapsodizing over the French passion for oysters, and a respectful audience that paid to hear her promote a book. 
    In the years between these two events, Mireille (below) left Veuve Cliquot and went from behind-the-scenes marketing guru to literary light, front and center. She became the 21s century’s version of Alexis de Toqueville, who explained American culture to the French with his two-volume book Democracy in America, in the mid 1800’s.  Mireille has been explaining the French way of life to Americans and the world in a series of books, starting with the best selling French Women Don’t Get Fat in 2005. She followed that with French Women for All Seasons; Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire; a cookbook and website based on French Women Don’t Get Fat, and innumerable articles and speaking engagements.
    Guiliano has planted her flag in a vein of what seems to be an inexhaustible gold mine.  Asked what makes French and American cultures so different, she cites feminism.  “Before the rise of equal rights for women in the United States, they were at home and were cooking. Then things changed drastically, and when they went to work, they put the cooking aside. In France, women do not regard a job as the top priority in life, whereas in the United States, you are sort of defined by what you do, and that is why so many women are lost when their careers end.”
    Returning to the subject of her new book,  Guiliano said that the French passion for oysters can be explained by  three virtues: The oyster, she rhapsodizes, is  simply delicious, but, secondly, it is  a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with proteins, carbohydrates, antioxidants, good lipids, and wonderful boosts for the human immune system. And the third element is sex. Casanova, she tells us, seduced a total of 122 women, on a diet of  five dozen oysters a day. The Roman emperors, she notes, paid a fortune for oysters, having them shipped by sea from Cancale, France, and no one questioned their belief in the aphrodisiac qualities of the crustacean delights.    
    While she says there is no scientific proof that oysters inspire and facilitate sexual performance, she reports that they are rich in acids associated with increased levels of sex hormones, as well as zinc, which aids in the production of testosterone.  She gives example after example of Parisians savoring the oysters piled high on street carts and in bôite after bôite in Paris.  She mentions many of her favorite restaurants for oysters,  like  La Coupole, Brasserie Lipp, Le Dôme, and Le Procope, but her oyster heaven is Huîtrerie Régis, a popular hole-in-the- wall -sized temple to the oyster in the heart of Saint Germain-des-Prés. 
     Régis, the proprietor (no last name to speak of) does not take reservations, but he is good to his regulars, so Mireille seems always able to find a seat at his table. A successful businessman in other fields before succumbing to his passion for oysters, Régis is, he says, addicted to them, and joyfully works at his trade nearly 18 hours a day, six days a week, all the while exuding bonhomie to his fellow oyster lovers. 
   Guiliano’s book is crammed with descriptions of belons, facts and figures on speciale de claire, fin de claire, prairies and Marennes, the varying grades of oysters and advice on how best to eat them. But the most interesting parts are the recounting of the shared passion  of Mireille and a battery of famous Parisians who make  Huîtrerie Régis  their club. (I have to interject here that I, too, am an oyster lover. During a recent one week visit to  Paris, I ate four nights at La Mascotte, an oyster haunt in Montmartre, and will return as soon as possible.)
       Back in the seventies, the gourmet food writer Roy Andries de Groot wrote his most heartfelt book, The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, about a restaurant deep in the the Jura Mountains. Food fanatics swarmed the little inn, driving one of the two patrons into early retirement and the other into surrender. She sold her inn and the place no longer rates any attention.   I asked Mireille if the book’s glorification of Huîterie Régis might incite a similar onslaught. Non, she emphasized: “My little book may bring a few customers, but with such a small place,  so many oyster bars in Paris, and a no reservation policy, the hurried crowd of today may not consider it necessary. There is room for those who come early and are in no hurry. Régis is also a passionate baker and makes the delicious apple tart of his grandmother daily, hopefully for the next ten years. No use worrying about the future.”  
       Paris Oyster ends with  Mireille's version of “We’ll always have Paris,” Humphrey Bogart’s famous farewell to Ingrid Bergman in the movie “Casablanca.” “Huiterie Régis,” she declaims, “is Paris, past, present and future. When I am in New York or in a far-off location, I know I can mentally slip into a seat at Régis and feel deeply, emotionally there. The culture, the people, the traditions, the oysters. I can eat them as Hemingway and Proust did. I think I’ll take a dozen.”    


By John Mariani

            Fathers come in varying degrees of size, height, weight, sophistication, and affluence, as do their sons and daughters. So here are some convenient, utilitarian, delicious and over-the-top gift suggestions for Father's Day.  (I trust my sons are reading this?)

LUXE LEATHER ENTREPRENEUR BY GENIUS PACK ($278)—Men can never have enough pockets, especially when it comes to briefcases, and I found that this  Luxe Leather Entrepreneur had so many pockets that I had to go over the case again and again before I found and got used to them all. A padded compartment fits 13-inch to 17-inch laptops; there’s a water-resistant umbrella pocket;  pockets for newspaper, pens, business cards, and a Genius Charger & Device to power up your iPhone (though the iPhone 5 and 6 requires use of their battery cord). The zippers are hefty, the teeth have real grip, and the carrying handles (with strap) easily fit over trolley handles and stay put. Of real importance, it only weighs 1.2 pounds. The case is not the most beautiful piece of luggage, but it does everything you need a case for.

($65-$125)—These days the remarkable low prices for wine and other glasses has made it irrational not to buy good quality for everyday use.  But I cannot imagine anyone’s father not feeling giddy if given these Mark Thomas hand-blown, lead-free crystal glasses made in Vienna of such beauty and lightness. Indeed, they are so light I at first thought they were made of very, very thin plastic. But they are also quite sturdy, even to being put into a home dishwasher.  They are designed so that wine, Champagne, or beer appeals to the nose, eye, touch, and feel, while maximizing aroma and taste.
 The unique double-bend design outlines the measurement for a perfect pour: the first bend indicates the ideal amount for a wine tasting, the second bend ideal for the average pour size for restaurants and wine connoisseurs.   I loved the wine glasses but, even more, I found the beer glass so convincing, so elegant and such a perfect fit to my hand that I doubt I shall ever drink a brew from anything else in the future.  The glasses are not inexpensive—they rank with some of the top-of-the-line Riedel—but the Mark Thomas series offers more in terms of design and utility.  Available through


—Anyone who has ever flown on a private jet is unlikely to forget the experience and forever regret that he can’t always fly at that level of service.  Now, just for Father’s Day, Magellan Jets is offering Dad (and the family if he’ll take them)
access to a private jet anywhere in the U.S. with as little as 10 hours’ notice, with a pool of nine different jets to choose from.  The company has 24/7 concierge service to advise on the appropriate size jet (prices vary), plan or change itineraries, order catering and arrange ground transportation.  Purchases can be made through Father’s Day 2015 and the card is valid for travel through Father’s Day, 2016. Call Magellan Jets at 877-550-JETS or by visiting


($29.99)—Outside of jetlag, the drained, off-putting icky feeling getting off a plane might be considerably helped if a man could quickly shave without lathering up back in the bumpy lavatory or depressing airport men’s room.  If you can get to your electric shaver, which I doubt many men carry, it’s a noisy business and probably needs an electric outlet to work.  Shavetech has come up with an electric shaver that is not only easily rechargeable but looks as sleek as an iPhone but smaller.  It’s not quite as powerful as some electric shavers but it’s a lot less bulky, lighter, and really pretty cool.  The outer foil  and inner blades are replaceable.


SAILING ESCAPE FROM CASTLE HILL INN--Along with a two-night stay at Newport, RI's historic Castle Hill Inn, fathers, sons and daughters can enjoy a private three-hour sailing lesson and a Castle Hill tote bag packed with gourmet chef snacks. Guests can also gear up for the afternoon in top-of-the-line sailing gear with a $100 gift card from Helly Hansen. Then follow with sunset cruise through Newport Harbor on The Madeleine, then finish off the night with dinner at resort’s first-class restaurant, The Mooring. Total cost depends on room, season, weekend bookings, etc. Call 888-466-1355.

HIGH SPIRITS—There are always new spirits coming on the market, sometimes reprises of older lines that Dads cherished. Those who are fans of peaty, smoky Scotch  (though less so than the label’s 10 Year Old) should cheer at the return of Laphroaig 15 Year Old ($79.99), just re-released after 30 years for a limited time, in honor of Laphroaig's 200th Anniversary.  This Single Malt Scotch is bottled for export at a higher 43 percent alcohol. . .  Heretofore unavailable in the U.S., Six Saints Rum ($37) takes its name from six of Grenada’s parishes, where rum has been produced since 1785; the distillery, one of two on the island, is the last of the West Indies to actively export their spirits. Made in small artisanal batches, Six Saints has medium body, 41.7 percent alcohol, and if you close your eyes, you may sense a hint of the Spice Islands. . . .Haig Whiskey, which dates to 1824, known for its Gold Label and Pinch, is now selling Haig Club ($50), in a beautiful sea-blue square blue bottle, made from a blend of three grain whiskies, each matured in different types of casks and unfiltered.  Soccer star David Beckham is the public face of this, the first new offering from Haig in more than 30 years,  and, bottled at 40 percent alcohol, it’s designed for easy drinking and intended to woo younger drinkers from vodka.



By Mort Hochstein
Texas de Brazil
1011 3rd Avenue

        Long ago I swore off churrasquerias, those generous South American-style restaurants where the food, primarily meat, keeps flowing until an ambulance arrives to take you away. It’s not because those restaurants are bad; it’s  because I’m weak and lose all inhibition and self control when confronted by fine food. 
        But recently, impelled by reports about a really good example of the genre, I toddled over to Texas de Brazil on the East Side of Manhattan. The restaurant has a small, attractive bar at street level, but all the action--meaning a huge buffet and squads of knife-wielding servers carrying meat around on skewers--is upstairs. It's one of scores of branches in an international chain that stretches to the United Arab Emirates and South Korea.
       Texas de Brazil is a churrascaria, the Portuguese way of spelling the term. And, while its servers wear very moderately flaired gaucho pants, their costumes and the restaurant decorations are more subdued than at other such steakhouses I’ve experienced.
       The centerpiece of the room is where I immediately lost control, dazzled and snared by a huge overflowing buffet table with hot and cold food and soups (right). There were enough goodies packed onto that table to appease all appetites and, indeed, the buffet is offered as a separate, lower priced option. There was sushi, good quality smoked salmon, seared tuna, charcuterie, about six varieties of cheese, asparagus stalks, shrimp salads, hearts of palm, maybe four dozen possibilities, and on one side, along the wall, hot soup, including a lobster bisque, creamy and generously lobster-loaded, a meal in itself.
       In a churrascaria guests control the service by flipping up a green card that says bring it on or by turning the card to its red side, which tells servers you need a time out. Show that green card and almost immediately a waiter is at your side, skewer up, with an ominous, glistening blade poised to slice away at a huge slab of meat. The first course in our case was a somewhat spicy Brazilian sausage, and we had to tell the waiter to ease up. Please, we begged, please split one small sample of whatever you have between the two of us.
     We knew the best was yet to come and we would be wise to leave room for pork ribs, slow roasted leg of lamb, chicken breast wrapped in bacon, flank steak, braised beef ribs--the surprise hit of the evening, tender and tasty, a flavorful ringer for the brisket we served at Passover--lamb chops, and two takes on filet mignon, normal cut and a filet wrapped in bacon. In every case, we had to frustrate waiters who were too eager to slice king-sized portions.     
When the server was not satisfying carnivorous cravings, he was scurrying from table to table to offer garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and an irresistible cheese bread. 
I have to mention that the waiters knew their stuff. A lot of the terms they used to describe cuts are Latin American in origin, and the servers to a man, or woman, provided an understandable translation. 
       And, oh yes, dessert. The selection was somewhat more limited. From a tray that included several types of cakes and ice cream, we chose a version of bananas foster and a tangy Key lime pie, foregoing, sadly, a generous slice of cheese cake (right).  Though the desserts were ample, king-sized to be truthful, they didn’t measure up to the meat offerings. And they came too late and fell on an exhausted palate. However, I shall return with a more tactful battle plan, after I work on my self control.

 Open nightly for dinner. Fixed price $59.99, for salad area only $39.99.



By John Mariani


    Roger Vergé, one of France’s most respected and beloved master chefs and a pioneer of la nouvelle cuisine, has died at his home in Mougins at the age of 85 from complications of diabetes.     With his jaunty mustache and white hair, Vergé was the epitome of the modern French chef when he came on the scene in the 1960s, at a time when chefs were barely acknowledged for their efforts and the Michelin Guide gave stars to the restaurant, never the chef.
    Along with Paul Bocuse, Michel Guèrard, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, and Alain Chapel, Vergé forged a new style of French cooking whose hallmarks were a respect for the best ingredients, a simplification of cooking and presentation, and a call for creativity in the kitchen without ever abandoning the classic body of knowledge and technique that made innovation possible.  That the cooking was often lighter than traditional haute cuisine was an aspect that garnered too much attention, as if it were supposed to be health food.
    Vergé disdained the way la nouvelle cuisine was appropriated by young, publicity-seeking cooks who took creativity to mean gimmicky license of a kind Vergé characterized as “
a joke. It is nothing serious. Now it looks Japanese: large dishes, small portions, no taste, but very expensive.”
    What distinguished Vergé’s cooking at his restaurant, Moulins de Mougins, which he opened with his wife, Denise, in 1969, was a distillation of all he knew of classic French cuisine with the flavors of Provence and the Mediterranean.
    Having cooked in North Africa and Kenya, he developed an avid appreciation for the taste of fruits, citrus and sweetness, which he amalgamated into haute cuisine with rigorous French techniques.  Vinegars and olive oil were used liberally, the aromatics of flowers gave a freshness to the dishes, and the presentation, on Villeroy Boch china, was fanciful.
    He’d use ingredients long banned from haute cuisine kitchens, like pig’s trotter, even pasta, and called it the Cuisine of the Sun (the title of his cookbook ), served up in an enchantingly sunny dining room with patio. The first menus, which included lobster, were fixed price at 28 francs; guests felt as well treated wearing casual holiday clothes as jackets and ties. In 1972 he won the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France award and two years later earned a third Michelin star.
    Vergé said he “liked to take risks” and a had a “dread of sameness,” which translated to a glamorous lifestyle that often took him away from Mougins, even to opening a restaurant at Disneyworld in Orlando, FL, with Bocuse and Gaston Lenôtre, as well as promoting products.  It was all a far cry from the stultified stereotype of the chef who never leaves his kitchen and has no life beyond it, including no knowledge of other cuisines but his own.
    I still have my index card notes from my one and only meal I had at Moulins de Mougins, on May 6, 1982, remarking on the lovely atmosphere of what had once been a mill and on the young staff that seemed such a contrast to those in stiff, formal dining rooms to the north.  The wine list was superb, with as many wines of Provence as of Bordeaux and Burgundy.  And my wife and I still recall just how amazed we were by dishes that would fit impeccably onto menus today: a warm mousse of salmon and scallops with lemon sauce; zucchini flowers with truffles and another rendering with a forcemeat of mullet; a lobster salad with grapefruit, mayonnaise and snow peas; turbot in cream with morels; duck confit with pears; apple soufflé with Calvados ice cream; and more.  It was all unforgettable, as much for its fine taste as for its personality, which was purely Vergé’s.
    Unlike many of his contemporaries and a generation of chefs to follow--who, like Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon, built empires on their names and connections--and except for the profitable foray into Orlando and a failed restaurant consultancy in NYC, Verge never expanded beyond Provence, where he was happy.  Which was what Vergé wanted his guests to be after dining so beautifully at his restaurant.  Life is too short to spend it in a dark dining room conversing in whispers, and Roger Vergé broke that mold with personal élan and a touch of welcome Gallic whimsy.



Bobby Cox Takes
Sole Ownership of
Pheasant Ridge

by Andrew Chalk 

Bobby Cox (below), the winemaker who played a major part in putting Texas wine on the national map, is back as owner (with his wife) of Pheasant Ridge Winery. Cox and the Bingham Family agreed to split the assets with the Binghams, getting existing inventory and all of the wine making equipment at the winery, and Cox getting ownership of the brand, the winery building near Lubbock and thirty acres of vineyards (about half of which are producing). Cox said that he is optimistic about the future of Texas wine, considering the industry to be at a tipping point at which high quality is going to become commonplace. He says that he looks forward to being part of that quality revolution and will be using 100% Texas grapes.
    The Bingham Family, one of the largest growers of grapes in the High Plains, plans to move forward with their
Bingham Family Vineyards in Meadow, TX, and has already released wines and opened a tasting room in Grapevine (below). Tastings and tours start at the Meadow winery facility later this summer after construction work is finished but Betty Bingham stressed that they expect the Grapevine tasting room to be the main consumer tasting facility.
    For Texas wine lovers, this development means that two producers committed to making quality wine from 100% Texas grapes can operate at full pace.  Pheasant Ridge holds a unique place in Texas wine history. Founded by Cox in the early 1980s, it committed to grow vinifera grapes in Texas right from the start. At a time when many of the few dozen wineries then in the state were producing an embarrassing mish-mash of chemistry set experiments gone wrong, Cox’s winemaking and viticulture produced medals, not just in-state but at the country’s most prestigious wine competitions. The Pheasant Ridge 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon won a medal and their Sauvignon Blanc won an honorable mention at the San Francisco Wine Competition. A silver medal was awarded to the 1984 Sauvignon Blanc at the San Francisco Wine Competition in 1985. In 1986 the 1983 Cabernet Sauvignon won a gold at the San Francisco Wine Competition. The world’s most influential wine critic, Robert Parker, wrote “For Cabernet Sauvignon Pheasant Ridge Winery is turning out lush, intense wines with plenty of character that can compete in quality with anybody’s.”
    The early 1990s saw a recession which put the original winery out of business. Cox became a prolific consultant in the Texas High Plains, having a formative impact on the viticultural and enological development of the area. Today’s news restores the status quo ante. “I aim to make the best wine possible with the available terroir,”  says Cox.



According City Town, despite city warning signs that read,  "Warning: Fish contaminated. Do not eat," a growing number of people in East Harlem, NY, are fishing for striped bass, bluefish, and perch in the heavily polluted East River in an effort to go "organic" and avoid farmed fish. "Personally I like organic stuff, so I prefer fresh fish," one man explained. "I don't eat farmed fish." Another said the bass are "the freshest fish in New York City," 


"Like a school bully, Western Europe had grabbed me by the ankles,
 turned me upside down and shaken me until my loose change chimed
on the pavement."--Gavin Haines, "I Love Porto," National Geographic
Traveller UK
(June 2015).


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

   I'm proud and happy to announce that my new book, The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books), has just been published through Amazon and Kindle. 
     It is a  novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The  story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring back his master back from the edge of despair. 


“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.


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,  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:

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. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Andrew Chalk,  Dotty Griffith and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click here.

© copyright John Mariani 2015