IN THIS ISSUE
CHECKING OUT THE CELEBRITY CHEFS:
GRANT ACHATZ'S ALINEA AND
DAVID CHANG'S MOMOFUKU KO
By John A. Curtas
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
A NEW RESPECT FOR MALBEC
AT CHÂTEAU LAGRÉZETTE
BY JOHN MARIANI
ANNOUNCEMENT! There will be no issue of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet next week (October 29) because Mariani will driving around Normandy and Brittany for his readers' edification.
THE CELEBRITY CHEFS:
the past decade, restaurant going has become a
sport, and the prize is bragging rights. Like
Big Game hunting, it doesn't take much skill to
pursue this hobby, just money.
Grant Achatz was perfectly situated to
capitalize on this phenomenon when he opened
in 2005, and his timing couldn't have been
better. Between the hagiographic
slobbering the media was doing over Ferran Adria’s
molecular cuisine in Spain and similar praise for
Thomas Keller for his endless tasting menus at
French Laundry and Per Se, it was time to turn up
their ideas by introducing to the Midwest the
glories of marathon meals composed of
hard not to admire what Chef David Chang has
done with Momofuku (“Lucky Peach” in
Korean). What began as an eight-seat eatery in
lower Manhattan in 2004 has spawned an empire that
now stretches from Soho, New York, to Sydney,
also not hard, after eating your way through
Momofuku, to sometimes wonder what all the
shouting is about—shouting from the rooftops being
what the influential New York food media has done
almost from the day Chang opened. Once they laid
the groundwork, social media took over, and for
well over a decade foodies the world over have
been inundated with tales of Chang’s influence and
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
136 Ninth Avenue (near 18th Street)
cutting back a bit on my out-of- town travel and
my impulse to check
every new restaurant in NYC, I’ve been able on
occasion to go
to favorite places I’d almost forgotten about,
like Salinas, which seven
ago I put on my list of Best New Restaurants in
America. So when an opportunity to dine
with a German hotelier came along, I thought he’d
unusual and imaginative as this colorful modern
on Ninth Avenue and 18th Street.
Pulpo tinta ($19) is a Galician octopus crusted with popcorn, fried in flax seed oil and tossed in a dark squid ink aïoli spiked with preserved lemon. Every flavor note hits on its own while enhancing the brininess of the octopus. Similarly, puntillas al yogurt ($16) is a dish of crispy baby calamari, roasted coriander-citrus yogurt, pickled purple pear onions and the pepper condiment called pimentòn de la Vera.
One of the most wonderful dishes at Salinas is the coca de morcilla y hongos ($17), a flatbread from Balear, made with rice-studded blood sausage, lobster mushrooms and sweet PX Sherry made into an onion marmalade. Black Catalan rice, arroz negro, is cooked a la plancha till crispy, as it is at the bottom of a paella pot, with grilled red black Catalan rice and grilled local calamari, Marcona almond ajoblanco and a dill gelée ($23). Nothing modernist about it but admirably modern and typical of Bolo’s ingenuity.
Next came a plate of meloso de carabineros, Spanish red prawns with bomba rice, Manila clams and chanterelles in a light, saline shrimp reduced broth ($43). Juana de pato ($34) is a duck dish (left) enriched with foie gras and fragrant arborio rice, seasonal mushrooms and baby roots suffused with an octopus-duck broth.
At this point we cried “Tío!”—knowing dessert would follow: a dark, flourless chocolate-pistachio tartin with salty pistachio brittle, Sicilian pistachio ice cream and a little olive oil ($12) . Also, migas andaluzas ($12), a mélange of Seville olive oil cookie crumbs, crispy cocoa-flavored meringue, Marcona almond praline, double chocolate ice cream and an accent of gold sea salt. One could hardly have a Spanish dinner without custard; Bollo calls his “Flan 2.0” ($13), which involves a foamy vanilla emulsion, dried mandarins and caramel bubbles—not really molecular, just playful for dessert.
The wine list is not all that long but it represents many of the finest Spanish bottlings now coming into this country, all at reasonable prices. The two dining rooms are warm and the service staff very cordial in every respect.
Spanish cuisine of this depth and breadth would be rare even in Barcelona, and in coming to America Luis Bollo gave us his great imagination and his hard work to produce something never seen before. That’s what immigrants so often do.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
A NEW RESPECT FOR MALBEC
AT CHÂTEAU LAGRÉZETTE
BY JOHN MARIANI
Malbec is certainly
not an unfamiliar grape—it’s usually third or
fourth down the list of varietals in a
Bordeaux blend—but, even more than with
Merlot, it’s not one to leap to mind when most
wine drinkers pick a bottle from a restaurant
list or shop shelf.
YOU EAT FREE,
YOU EAT FREE, MISS DIVINE
Shrimp restaurant in Hangzhou, Cina, is
giving discounts based on women's breast size--the
larger the breasts, the bigger the discount, as advertised
on a poster placed outside the restaurant that reads, “The whole city is looking for BREASTS,”
with an accompanying image of animated female characters
with varying breast sizes and a table showing how much
of a price cut a woman would get based on her bra size.
WHO WOULD HAVE EVER GUESSED?
WHO WOULD HAVE EVER GUESSED?
"All across the country, even as the market becomes more saturated, restaurateurs and titans of industry are gunning to create the next fast-casual behemoth — and lately, it seems lots of them have their sights set on Italian food. Specifically, `Italian food' that is all-but-guaranteed to appeal to as many Americans as possible: pasta and pizza.--"Is Italian Food the Next Frontier of Fast-Casual Eating?"--
Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our
various styles of red wines are harvested, culminating
with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.
Cooler weather means it is time to start enjoying more
red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines. That
includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura,
literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese
vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di
Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines
from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino
and a Riserva of Brunello. Rosso is sort of like the
younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100%
Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger
vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to
the four required for Brunello. The
Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective
harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year
Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese
BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites.
Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage.
Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish.
Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation. Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.
Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of
intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native
Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched
vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which
it takes its name.
di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky. Deep ruby
in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits
and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic
The Rosso di
Montalcino is also intense ruby red. The bouquet
is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of
cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints
of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut. It is full
bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly
long finish. The
Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note. It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside in southern Montalcino.
SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet. An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine.
Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.
Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table.
Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti. An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes. This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.
Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining.
Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.
Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice. It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.
Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.
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: LE DRUGSTORE, PARIS
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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.
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