IN THIS ISSUE
DINING VERY WELL IN
WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT
by John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
PORTER HOUSE BAR & GRILL
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
WHAT I'M DRINKING NOW
By John Mariani
DINING VERY WELL IN
WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT
by John Mariani
FLYING FISH at Disney's Board Walk
I suspect many visitors to Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort—either as children or with their own children—learned to eat what would have been exotic there, and that also goes for guests in the branches in France, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Disney has long been
canny about surveying guests’ likes and dislikes
about its food service—more healthy options than
burgers and fries, more seafood, more vegetables,
and, for the upscale market, restaurants
comparable to those found in major U.S. cities. As
mentioned last week, better international-style
food was introduced when Epcot Centre (now just
Epcot) and the Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s
Hollywood Studios) opened.
NEW YORK CORNER
HOUSE BAR & GRILL
By John Mariani
Photo by Francesco Tonelli
a wide margin, when out-of-town friends ask me
where to dine in NYC—which is like asking what
animals one should see in Kenya—they mean either
an Italian restaurant or a steakhouse. (Oddly
enough, the latter grew from Italian-American
roots back in the 1930s, when midtown saw the
emergence of steakhouses whose owners always
included Italian food on the menu.)
The chilled seafood platter ($97 to $125) teems with lobster, oysters, clams, shrimp and King crab, and the jumbo lump crab cake with a horseradish-mustard sauce ($25) is as good as any in a competitive market. If you really can’t do without facsimile caviar, there is American ossetra with blini and accompaniments ($125).
There are three pastas listed, and I’m very happy I ordered the excellent spaghetti alla ghitarra ($24), whose spicy tomato and basil coated every strand of the perfectly cooked pasta.
With a name like Porter House, the stakes (no pun intended) are high, especially since Peter Luger built its rep on that cut of strip and filet mignon. The meat is USDA Prime, of course, and its true flavor shows in the impeccable searing and maintaining an interior medium-rare warmth in the porterhouse for two ($124). The same goes for the on-the-bone strip ($63) and the delicious veal chop ($59), which comes with sage-glazed gnocchi, baby onions and thyme. The lamb chops are from Colorado ($57), the porterhouse pork chop from Niman Ranch ($43).
PHBG also offers Japanese wagyu (12 ounces $185) and American wagyu-style ($96), but I, among many beef lovers, have no appetite for such absurdities.
On the side go for either the nonpareil onion rings or the creamed spinach enhanced with bacon.
PHBG’s wine list is very well chosen. It’s got its trophy bottlings, but doesn’t go in for ten vintages of hyped California cult wines (although someone sometime bought a helluva lot of Williams Selyem). There are plenty of wines by the glass ($12-$95), and four pages of half-bottles. Mark-ups overall are steakhouse high, but you can find some good buys, like Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru 2013 for $85.
It’s true, aching temptation to decide among Porter House’s warm cookie plate ($12), an ice cream fudge sundae with maple walnuts ($12) or seven-layer South Carolina coconut cake ($14), all meant to be shared.
If you live in or nearby NYC, PHBG is a terrific choice to take someone who is not, and for those coming in on their own, you won’t find a better New York state of mind than dining here.
Porter House Bar & Grill is open daily for lunch and dinner,
PORTER HOUSE BAR & GRILL, 10 Columbus Circle, 212-823-9500.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
WHAT I'M DRINKING NOW
By John Mariani
LE VOLTE DELL’ORNELLAIA 2013 ($28)—Ornellaia, owned by Frescobaldi, is one of the most illustrious names in Tuscany, and Le Volte is the estate’s far more affordable Tuscan I.G.T. as a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Axel Heinz is known for his wines’ equilibrium with never any sharp notes, even while young, so Le Volte is easy to drink right off the shelf, and, at 13.5% alcohol, the 2013 doesn’t really need much more age.
MONTAGNE-SAINT-ÉMILION 2012 ($22)—In the
tradition of Saint-Émilion, this is predominantly
Merlot, with just 6% Cabernet Franc for a little
more grip. When
the label says “vieilles
vignes” (old vines), it means it: The
estate’s locale, spread over 30 acres, dates to an
abbey of the 12th century, rich in limestone soil,
which gives it a lot of structure. The wine has
loosened up and the Merlot is showing its
creaminess, but you can keep this around for the
next five years.
DON MELCHOR PUENTE
ALTO VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 ($75-$95)—Always
intended as a showpiece wine by Chile’s Concha y
Toro, Don Melchor has the power of 91% Cabernet
Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc, whose grapes have
enjoyed a cooler hilly climate than they would on
a valley floor. Fifteen months in oak tame it
down, too. Award-winning
winemaker Enrique Tirado has earned his reputation
as a master beyond Chile as a world-class player
without imitating Bordeaux or California.
LES DAUPHINS PUYMÉRAS 2014 ($19)—For
very pretty bottle alone and price, this would
make a nice gift wine, but it is also a fine
example of a traditional big southern Rhȏne Valley
red, made with 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10%
Carignane—but no Mourvèdre—wholly unfined and
matured entirely in concrete tanks, so the texture
is bonus to the richness of the fruit, and the
13.5% alcohol keeps it from becoming a cloying
JUAN GIL JUMILLA 2014 ($12)—Made
from the Monastrell
grape grown in chalky soils of the
Jumilla region of the Lavante, it has the
smokiness associated with the varietal, and the
of one year in French oak and one in bottle
smooths everything out to make it a very versatile
wine with a wide range of meat dishes. Remarkable
SAUVIGNON SPOTTSWOODE ESTATE VINEYARD WINERY
($85)—At a reasonable 13.5% alcohol, this
California Cabernet from a first-rate vintage is
made from grapes on the Spottswoode Estate
Vineyard in St. Helena as well as from grapes
bought from other select growers. It’s got good
spice, smells a bit of cedar and pine, and is made
from 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2%
Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot, all of which
add subtly to the complexity of the finished wine. Only a
thick slab of steak
will do for a big red wine of this stature.
PRESQ-UILLE CHARDONNAY SANTA MARIA
VALLEY 2015 ($35)—The name means “almost
an island,” a spot on the Gulf Coast favored by
the Murphy Family, which owns this vineyard in
Santa Maria Valley, California. (That favored spot
was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.) The
generational owners aim for complexity in cool
climate wines, and they make their Chardonnay in
the Old World tradition of using native yeast
fermentation, native malolactic conversion, sur lies aging
13.5% alcohol, all of which promote the fruit
while keeping an acidic brightness on the palate. The
price is about what I think Chardonnays of this
caliber should cost.
RUSSIZ SUPERIORE COLLIO CABERNET FRANC ($28)—The
wines of Friuli certainly have respect, though
perhaps not so much for the reds, but Marco
Felluga—the fourth of five generations of the
family involved—is among the pioneers and someone
who knows that making a mid-bodied red of real
refinement is a better bet than trying to make a
The region is known more for its Cabernet
Franc than Cabernet Sauvignon, and this is a fine
example, with a delightful peppery flavor and
vivid fruit with only 13% alcohol. With
poultry, game or lamb, this makes a magnificent
ALFRED GRATIEN BRUT
ROSÉ CHAMPAGNE non-vintage ($37-$40)—Alfred
Gratien’s website goes a bit overboard in its
description of this lovely Champagne—“The initial aroma is
fruity (strawberries and red currants) and
floral (peonies). Wheat, biscuit and crème
fraiche notes are detectable, as are hints of
more roasted flavours”—but it does have many
notes and a charming bouquet in a pretty salmon
The wine is made in the Grand Crus and
Premier Crus districts in the heart of the Cȏte
des Blancs region of Épernay, with each cru
vinified separately. The house is known for the
voluptuous quality of its Champagnes, and that
certainly shines through in the fruit of this
DISTILLERY DOUBLE CASK RYE ($80)—Master
spirits blender Dave Pickerell left Maker’s Mark
Bourbon in Kentucky to come to the Hudson Valley
in 2010 to make rye whisky from small batches of
organically grown grain distilled in a 250-gallon
copper pot still built to his exact
As much care was put into the choice of
used Port barrels to be charred and aged, so that
there is just enough caramel flavor and dark
winter fruits to make it distinctive. Not as
sweet as bourbon nor as intense as Scotch, it is
bottled at 90 proof.
In an effort to calm their after
midnight customers who may be a tad inebriated,
McDonald's is experimenting with playing Mozart's
“Magic Flute” and “Ode to Joy” to set a more
civilized mood in certain stores.
OK, OK, WE GET IT!
“I am obsessed with carrots.”—Mark Bittman, “I Am Obsessed with these charred-carrot tacos,” NEW YORK Magazine (7/6/2017)
autumn kicks into low gear, we are reminded of the
fragility of Mother Earth and her
bounty. As an importer representing several
family wine makers from
around the globe, I often like to point out that all
the wines that we
represent are green, some of them greener than
others. The greenest of
all are classified as Biodynamic or certified
Organic. One of the most
interesting selections of eco-balanced, organic and
biodynamic wines comes to
us from Chile and the vineyards of Emiliana.
Natura Chardonnay In the cool coastal Pacific climate of the Casablanca Valley, organically grown grapes are hand picked during the last week of March, and vinified in stainless steel tanks, free of the domineering influence of oak. On the nose, tantalizing citrus aromas of grapefruit and lime blend with notes of pineapple, all of which reappear on the palate and finish with balance thanks to the wine’s freshness and natural acidity. Delicious with spring salads and seafood dishes.
Natura Carmenere – From the rustic isolation of the Colchagua Valley, this intense and voluptuous offers aromas of cherries, chocolate and spice, coming together in ramped up volume on the palate with soft, round tannins and firm, well-balanced structure. Great balance between fruit and oak, with a long, juicy finish.
Novas Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva – Hailing from the San Antonio Valley’s thin rocky and clay soils, the organic grapes for this wine are harvested by hand in March and undergo fermentation in stainless steel to preserve their bright fruit character. Herbal notes mixed with citrus and soft floral hints fill the bouquet; the taste is medium bodied with grapefruit flavors joined by a delicate acidity and a touch of minerality.
Novas Pinot Noir Gran Reserva – The grapes for this wine are grown in the cool, coastal Casablanca Valley’s permeable sandy loam soils, and harvested by hand. After a cold soak on the skins, the wine is aged for 8 months in French oak barrels to add character, depth and roundness. Bright ruby red in color with attractive aromas of berries, strawberries and notes of spice and cocoa, this wine bursts with fruit flavor, layered with earthiness. Delicious with white meats, light sauces, full flavored fish and shellfish, cured ham and sushi.
Coyam – A blend dominated by Syrah with nearly equal parts of Carmenere and Merlot balanced by “soupcons” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Petit Verdot, from the Colchagua Valley estate called Los Robles – Spanish for the oaks, called “Coyam” by the native Mapuche people in their own language. Hand harvested certified biodynamic grapes are naturally fermented in French oak barrels. Coyam is largely unfiltered and aged for 13 months in barrels. Aromas of ripe red and black fruits integrate with notes of spice, earth and a hint of vanilla bean. Elegant expressions of fruit are delicately interwoven with oak, mineral and toffee.
Ge – Chile’s first certified biodynamic wine, the name Ge is a nod to Geos, the earthly environment pulling together all the elements that surround us. Ge is a blend of nearly equal parts of Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the deep soils of colluvial origin in the coastal range, which lends mineral complexity. Naturally fermented in oak barrels, Ge is deep plum red with violet tones; it offers intense aromas of black fruits and berries alongside mineral notes and a soft touch of tobacco leaf. Generously fruity with cedar notes, Ge is well balanced with tremendous volume, well rounded tannins and a long finish.
For more information please visit http://www.banfiwines.com/winery/emiliana/
Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from amazon.com.
The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) 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 his master back from the edge of despair.
WATCH THE VIDEO!
“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.
❖❖❖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, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: LAKE COUNTY, CA.
Eating Las Vegas
JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is
the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50
Essential Restaurants (as well as
the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas.
He can also be seen every Friday morning as
the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the
Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3 in
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John
Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani,
Robert Mariani, Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Geoff Kalish, Mort
Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina
Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click here.
© copyright John Mariani 2017