Virtual Gourmet

  February 28,  2021                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Farley Granger and Robert Walker in "Strangers on a Train" (1951)

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By John A. Curtas

Chapter Forty-Nine

By John Mariani



By Geoff Kalish


On the next video episode of Celebrating Act 2 on January 6, I will be speaking with hosts John Coleman and Art Kirsch about the origins and types of PIZZA. 
Go to: CA2

By John A. Curtas

    What's new on our restaurant scene?
        Quite a lot, actually.
     No other city in America can say the same, but Las Vegas, as you know, is no ordinary city. We are the quintessential tourist town, with huge rumbling, cacophonous casino/hotels bestriding our economy like so many Brobdingnagian towers—casting long shadows, quaking the earth, dominating the gastronomic landscape. Until now.
        More so than any other city in America, our main economic engine is moribund, comatose, on life support. Visitation numbers fell off a cliff in 2020, down to 19 million souls from a 2019 high of 42.5 million. And those vacationing here are not the free-wheeling, high-spending conventioneers, whooping it up on someone else's dime. No, these are the bargain hunters, the coupon-clippers, the escapees from California looking for something fun to do on the cheap. During the week, casinos are deader than Moe Dalitz. Even on weekends, the big hotels can feel like ghost towns. Shows are closed, shops are empty, and eatery options have been eviscerated.
    Sounds depressing, doesn't it? Well, it is and it isn't. Because it is there—on the Strip—but it isn't here— in the actual town where 2.3 million Las Vegans live.  It seems the Strip's loss has been the neighborhoods' gain. New restaurants on Las Vegas Boulevard South might be harder to find than toilet paper in a pandemic, but the local scene is flat-out jumping. Downtown is leading the way, with a spanking new hotel, Circa, which opened late last year—the first new one on Fremont Street since 1980. It boasts five excellent restaurants, and seems to be busier every weekend.
    A mile to the south, in the Arts District on Main Street (above), new joints are popping up like porcinis after a downpour. Can any other town in America say this? Pretty doubtful. New York and California—the epicenters of American food/restaurant culture—are doing their best to crush the life out of the restaurant industry. Thankfully, little old Las Vegas has kept the foodie flame burning, albeit at bare BTU levels. But at least we're open, and feeding people, and human beings are socializing and breaking bread together all over town, like homo sapiens were meant to.
    While it might take the giant hotels another year to start humming again, locally, Las Vegas appears to be entering a new age of local dining—a resurgence led by a neighborhood that didn't even exist four years ago, but now is the one everyone is talking about.


100 E. California Ave.

    The Arts District in downtown Las Vegas is fast becoming one of the coolest neighborhoods in America. While it still has a ways to go residentially, food-wise the options are expanding geometrically. A micro-climate of good eats has sprung to life on South Main Street, boasting a dozen bars, four brewpubs, and three new restaurants within a block of each other. Each is much better than it has any right to be.
    Yu-Or-Mi (the name comes from a Jackie Chan movie) exists around the corner from Good Pie and Main Street Provisions, a half-block from a wine bar, and in a world of its own when it comes to Japanese-fusion food. All the usual suspects are there, but it's in the small plates and sushi rolls where the kitchen puts out an array of appetizers that show a hand both refined and restrained, and beautiful to boot.
    Everyone does crispy Brussels sprouts these days, but the sweet-sour kurozu reduction on these keeps you reflexively reaching for another bite. Other standards like yakiniku ("grilled") beef gyoza, rock shrimp tempura, tuna takaki, and chicken karaage rise above the cliches to remind you why they became famous in the first place.
     The Yu So shellfish roll bundles lobster tempura with lobster salad in bite-sized packages of tofu skin which announce textural, salty-sweet seafood contrasts with every bite. The purist in me is horrified, but I can live with cutesy names like "Oh Snap" when the Japanese red snapper is this fresh, and the ginger-chili ponzu this bracing.
     Even non-ramen fans will have to admire the broth—as rich as any you'll find in Chinatown/Spring Mountain Road—and the yakisoba noodles and garlic fried rice reveal both subtlety and amplitude, no mean feat.
     All of these are conceived and executed by Virakone Vongphachanh (he goes by "V" out of sympathy for us non-Southeast Asians)—a chef whose Laotian roots belie an inspired Japanese cook by temperament. The sake list is not one you can get lost in, but the small selection is well-chosen and well-priced, and, for our yen, the only thing to drink with this food.
    What YOM is doing is straddling a line between high-toned raw fish and crowd-pleasing concoctions—compelling creations that do its Nobu ancestry proud. Shopping mall sushi this is not. But the prices are fair and the setting is cozy and the downtown crowd has taken to it like barnacles to a boat.

Dinner for two will run around $80, without alcohol. Appetizers run $8-$20; Sushi/Sashimi is priced by the piece between $6-$15; Specialty Rolls are $13-$18; Omakase sushi menus run $40-$55, with more than enough for 2; Rice and noodle dishes are in the mid-teens.

1212 S. Main Street


    Like its neighbor Main Street Provisions, Good Pie opened late last year, when starting a restaurant was dicier than drawing to an inside straight. It survived serving pizzas to-go and by-the-slice, and with a recent opening of both inside and outdoor tables, chef/owner Vincent Rotolo is poised to re-set Las Vegas's pizza paradigm.
      Rotolo is a classicist in the vein of every family-run Italian joint up and down the East Coast pizza belt. The dark bar, white tile and comfy booths (along with the "Grandma Wall" of family pictures), puts you in mind of the type of place where you'll hear, "Ma, who gets the scungilli?" or Faackin' Yankees did it to us again" over the thrum of dough being slung.
     And what dough it is. Quality flour, long-fermented, in a variety of styles; one bite tells you you're in the midst of a higher-level of deck oven craftsmanship. The doughier, rectangular (Sicilian, Detroit) crusts have the complexity of great bread, while the thinner Brooklyn, and "Grandma" styles, display the crackle and char of their big-city forebears.
     Ingredients matter is the mantra, and from those crusts to the olive oil to the house-made tomato sauce to the ricotta and toppings, everything hits home. To my mind, there are almost too many choices, and the dizzying menu array can sometimes make ordering feel like a jigsaw puzzle. But amazingly, the pieces always fit no matter how you arrange them.
    Beginners should tuck into a simple "Grandma" square, or Brooklyn round to acquaint themselves with the Good Pie oeuvre, while fressers should throw caution to the wind with a spongy Sicilian the size of a small desk, a Detroit caramelized cheese crust carb-fest, or a "Quality Meat" 3-protein lollapalooza.  They also offer something called "Mike's Hot Honey" to dribble on your pies, and, also amazingly, this little sweet-hot condiment adds quite the pleasant kick to counter the queso overload.
    Those not in a pizza mood will be happy with Italian-American standards like chicken parm, "Sunday lasagna" (left), garlic knots, superb fried ravioli, great meatballs, and a decent Caesar salad. I'm no fan of gluten-free pizza, but if you insist on eating yours on top of cardboard, Rotolo's are probably the best in town.
      Can a new school/old school pizzeria, which looks like it belongs on Wooster Street in New Haven, and acts like a modern restaurant (complete with upscale cocktail bar), come out of this pandemic smelling like a tomato rose? The crowds seem to be saying that it can. Pent-up demand for great pizza is real. Long may Good Pie's red sauce flag fly!

Prices start in the high teens to $34 for the Grandma Supreme, but the round pies come in small and large ($14-$24), and the big rectangular boys ($24-$30) will satisfy 6 hungry adults. Entrees are in the $15-$20 range.

1214 S. Main Street

      You can throw three stones and hit all three restaurants mentioned here. All were on the drawing board, and scheduled to open downtown in mid-2020. Covid put an expensive dent in everyone's plans, and none more so than Main Street Provisions. Owner Kim Owens and Executive Chef Justin Kingsley Hall spent the entire year cooling their heels until finally, in early December, the doors swung open, to 25% maximum capacity.
    Putting the best face forward that she could, Owens has said that the restrictions allowed her to dispense with the usual friends-and-family shakedown cruise, and let her staff get used to customers without dealing with overload, at either the front or back of the house. Now that things are starting to relax, the neighborhood is crawling with hungry tummies, and they'll have to get used to being in the weeds.
      Hall's menu can best be described as smokey and southern—as in Utah and the Deep South—and gutsy. Frou frou bistro food this is not.
      Right off the bat the Scotch Egg will catch your eye—soft boiled and wrapped with smoked Riverence trout crusted with potato chips, sitting in a shallow pool of lemon cream. Nothing says "don't try this at home" like a smoked trout Scotch egg in verbena cream, and it takes a chef with Hall's chops to pull it off—cloaking a prosaic egg in a sophisticated wrap which enhances them both.
      Beyond that, you'll find a unique butcher plate of smoked meats, pates and rillettes made in-house, accompanied by fry bread that is pretty much the last word in Native American carbohydrates. The same bread sits alongside an herb-flecked hominy hummus studded with preserved lemon, which turns something with usually all the interest of drywall Spackle into a compelling starter.
    I wish I could celebrate the use of barely-seared venison in a tataki of whiskey-shoyu dressing, but the venison doesn't come through and the whole dish feels like the chef is trying too hard. Likewise, the deep-fried, breaded Sole Kiev (wrapped around herb butter) feels forced and out-of-place on a menu brimming with interesting edibles.
      Once you get past those misses the hits abound: rosy red Heritage Ham Steak blanketed with a sour-sweet pepper-tomato sauce, charcoal roasted quail gumbo with smoked andouille sausage stuffing, a serious New York strip dubbed "Utah Woman's Steak" (after Hall's wife) that comes with a one-two punch of aggressive, charred scallion chimichurri sauce and a soothing "funeral potato" croquette.
      The burger is good, if a bit overloaded (with pickles, smoked cheddar and fried onions), but all sins are forgiven once the poached rabbit sausage ("Rabbit Boudin") with potato dumplings shows up (left). It is flat-out great, and by all accounts is becoming the restaurant's signature dish.
       Any restaurant bold enough to serve rabbit sausage, quail, hominy, and ham steaks is clearly trying to set a trend, not follow one, and the feeling one gets is of a chef who is cooking the kind of food with which he and his friends like to impress each other—gussied-up for restaurant customers, of course, but substantial, rib-sticking stuff done with a chef's flair and an eye for detail. It may not be the lightest meal you'll ever have, but it will be one of the most original, and there is no more interesting cooking going on right now in Las Vegas.
      Whenever something threatens to feel a tad overwrought (the fish, that venison), Hall pulls you back to the simple reality of exquisite ingredients being allowed to shine, as with his harissa carrots (roasted, of course), oat milk grits, cattlemen's BBQ pea beans, and Louisiana popcorn rice (served plain or with schmaltz). These side dishes are frame-worthy on the menu (and would make a great meal all their own). The one salad we tried—For Ernie's Birds—was a tantalizing tumble of local greens and seeds, dressed just-right in an herbaceous chimichurri vinaigrette.
    Desserts are few in number but pack a wallop, especially the butter cake—another homage to the caloric glories of the South.
    Like its neighbors, MSP has feng shui in spades. It is long and narrow with a welcoming bar to one side, and colorful, comfortable seating pointing to an open kitchen in the back. The effect is to pull you in and make you feel like you belong there.

Dinner for two (without booze) should run around $120. Appetizers start at $12; the Butcher Plate (which feeds four) is $24. Mains migrate between a low of $16 for the burger, and a high of $42 for the strip steak. The Rabbit Boudin is $26. The wine list is fairly priced  and interesting, but reflects a clientele who would rather knock back cocktails and craft brews.

    Whether by design or happenstance, all three of these restaurants have an inviting familiarity about them. Each reminds you of small, personal restaurants shoehorned into intimate spaces in large, impersonal cities. Restaurants like these give metropolises their warmth and livability. They are human scale, not profit-scaled by real estate developers. There are no anchor tenants to block out the sun, nor ginormous parking lots to traverse. Cars drive by at civilized speeds, they don't whiz by in a hurry to get to the secluded glory of a gated stucco farm.
    Time will eventually credit these pioneers for changing the way Las Vegas looks at restaurants—for tapping into a market hungry for the real thing, for feeding the pent-up demand for authenticity. This demand will be for community, and for togetherness and for gathering around food and drink prepared by people who care about these things as much as you do.



By John Mariani


    Since, for the time being, I am unable to write about or review New York City restaurants, I have decided instead to print a serialized version of my (unpublished) novel Love and Pizza, which takes place in New York and Italy and  involves a young, beautiful Bronx woman named Nicola Santini from an Italian family impassioned about food.  As the story goes on, Nicola, who is a student at Columbia University, struggles to maintain her roots while seeing a future that could lead her far from them—a future that involves a career and a love affair that would change her life forever. So, while New York’s restaurants remain closed, I will run a chapter of the Love and Pizza each week until the crisis is over. Afterwards I shall be offering the entire book digitally.    I hope you like the idea and even more that you will love Nicola, her family and her friends. I’d love to know what you think. Contact me at
—John Mariani

To read previous chapters go to archive (beginning with March 29, 2020, issue).


By John Mariani

Cover Art By Galina Dargery

fter the July Fourth weekend, the fashion industry went into sleeper mode, and Nicola was enjoying the time off, some of which was used looking for an apartment somewhere around Columbia University.

          The neighborhood directly surrounding the huge campus was relatively safe, though above 120th Street or below 110th Street, it would have been inadvisable for a woman alone to take an apartment.  But just a block west, right on the Hudson River, Riverside Drive was considered prime real estate, with stately, mansion-like pre-war apartment buildings with doormen and police patrols.  These apartments were fairly expensive, but since Nicola had her scholarship and a fine bank account from modeling, there really was nothing to stop her from moving into one of Riverside Drive’s very roomy apartments with that grand view of the Hudson. 
          She also thought she might move to SoHo, an area in Lower Manhattan that was quickly gentrifying but still offered bargains for large spaces, including lofts.  Though not as convenient as Riverside Drive, SoHo seemed a good investment for the future, she was told often, not least by Steven Holtz.
        So, when the phone rang two weeks into July and Steven was on the line, Nicola assumed he’d gotten a tip on an apartment near the SNAP offices, which would certainly be convenient for SNAP’s booker.
          “Find a great apartment for me, Steven?” asked Nicola.
          “No, but if the news I’m about to tell you works out, you’ll be able to buy any condo in New York, Nikki.”
          “Meaning what?”
          “You sitting down, Nikki? I just got a call from one of the big ad agencies that just got the account for a new Italian make-up and fragrance line called Vivace.  The agency convinced them they should break out with a very specific image. Apparently the line is aimed at young women, so they need a young woman as the `Face of Vivace.’  And can you guess who they want to be the `Face,’ Nikki?”
          Nicola almost didn’t dare answer, then asked, “Me?”
          “Yes, Nikki. You. And do you know what that means?”
          “Not really. Tell me.”
          “It means that if you become their exclusive icon and spokeswoman, you—and I—will make a lot of money.”
          “What’s a lot of money?” Nicola asked, holding her breath.
          “If I can't get them to sign a $500,000 contract, I wouldn’t be much of an agent.”
          Nicola’s jaw dropped and she had to shake her head to comprehend what Steven had told her.
          “Are you kidding me? What do I have to do for that kind of money?”
          “It’s a two-year contract and for that you do spring and fall ads, which they repeat throughout the season, like Chanel and Revlon. They may ask you to do some public appearances, open a Vivace counter at Bloomingdale’s or somewhere—for which you’ll be paid extra.”
          “But what about my other modeling jobs?”
          “Well,” said Steven, “that’s where the exclusivity comes in. They don’t want you appearing in other ads or magazines—although they may allow you to do some of the top fashion mags.  They want you, and only you, to be their image because you supposedly represent everything wonderful that Vivace stands for.”
         Over the preceding decade, the biggest cosmetics companies had been signing models to such contracts, which had become the gold ring for models.  Margaux Hemingway had signed with Fabergé’s Babe perfume, Karen Graham for Estée Lauder, Christina Ferrare for Max Factor, Cheryl Tiegs for CoverGirl, and Shelley Hack for Charlie.  And now it looked like Vivace might sign Nicola Santini.
          “They like the fact that you have an Italian name,” said Steven, “though they prefer `Nikki’ to Nicola.”
          “Jeez,” said Nicola, “For that kind of money they can call me Nuggie for all I care!”
          “So you love it?”
          “I love it.”
          “Okay, I’m going to negotiate with them and get as much money as we can.  Make us both a little richer, Nikki.  Just don’t lease any apartments yet!”
         Nicola promised she wouldn’t and hung up the phone, astonished by all she’d just heard.  With such a contract she would have no worries about making money for a long while, and the exclusivity factor meant she would have all the time she needed to pursue her PhD.  Once she attained her degree, say, four years from then, she figured her modeling career would be winding down, but if she made wise investments along the way, she could do anything she wanted, including stay in academia, or write books, or whatever, without having to worry about the cost.  Why, she might even some day endow a scholarship in her family name at Columbia or another university.
         For the moment she was feeling giddy, but before there actually was a contract, she thought it best to stay quiet and allow herself the delirious luxury of day dreaming.  For, although she was not the first wealthy woman to get her PhD in art history—indeed, it was something of a social coup—she would most certainly be the first semi-wealthy woman from Belmont to do so.
         Nicola didn’t have to keep quiet for long.  The next day the phone rang and it was Steven.
          “You sitting down, Nikki?”
          “What, Steven,  what?”
          “How does a two-year, half-a-million-dollar contract sound to you?”
          The phone on Nicola’s end seemed to have gone dead.
          “Nikki? Nikki, you there?”
          “I’m here, I’m here. I’m just floored by the news.”
          “Well, you’ve earned it, kiddo.  Now, listen, before the ad agency signs, they of course want to see you, then we’ll get the contract drawn up pronto. So, Nikki, you ready to become one of the most recognized faces in the world? Billboards? Ads in every fashion mag?”
          “I don't know, Steven. I’ll need your help, I guess.”
          Steven assured her, “I’ve got your back, Nikki.  You’re a very smart girl.”
         Nicola got off the phone and went into the bathroom to look in the mirror, praying to God that, please, please, just for twenty-four hours, no zits!
God was good to Nicola Santini that night. Her beautiful complexion was unblemished.  The meeting with the ad agency went very well. Two Vivace executives were along and very pleased that Nicola spoke Italian.  They said they were ready to move quickly to mount a campaign for the middle of autumn.

       She would be photographed by one of the best fashion photographers in the world over a two-day shoot, headshots the first day, some outfits the second.  They all shook hands and that was that.  Steven would work out the details and get back to everyone.
          Now, Nicola said to herself, I can tell everyone the news. First to know was Catherine, who screamed so loudly in her dorm room that some residents asked if she were all right.  Catherine said, “Nicky, you are going to be great! I am so happy you are my friend.  Wait till I tell everyone around here.”
         “Well, don't oversell it,” said Nicola. “I don't want anything to change with my friends.”
         The two girls hugged, then Catherine pushed back and said, “Oh, my God, Nicky!  I forgot to tell you!”
         “Forgot to tell me what?”
         “Rhys Shit John!”
         “What about him?”
         “He was fired from Columbia for sexual harassment of a student. And he’s going through a really messy divorce.”
         Nicola gaped, though she’d always thought it would come to this.  
         “Who was the student?”
         “Hold onto your seat, Nick. It was Mercédes!”
         “Mercédes! He sexually harassed Mercédes?”
         “Well, he tried,” said Catherine, smirking. “But he messed with the wrong Brazilian.”
         “How’d she prove it?”
         “Well, remember how in freshman year, when her English wasn’t all that great, Mercédes got into the habit of tape recording all her classes? Well, apparently she also recorded all her meetings with professors, so she’d get down exactly what they expected in a paper or exam.”
         “So she recorded St. John?” By then Nicola’s shock had given way to laughter.
         “That’s our Mercédes.  She just marched into the Dean’s office, played the tape, and Sinn Jinn was out the door.”
         Nicola shook her head and said, “Did Mercédes give you any details?”
         “No, you know how she is, Latina and all that. But whatever happened showed Sinn Jinn at his all-time worst.”         “Frankly, I’m sorry about the divorce,” said Nicola, “but if there’s a place in Dante’s Inferno, Rhys St. John should be well on his way there.”


© John Mariani, 2020




By Geoff Kalish


My first encounter with the wines of Serego Alighieri was a number of years ago when I sampled their Amarone as part of a tasting of Italian wines from the legendary 1997 vintage. I was so taken by the wine that I purchased a case and in fact finished the last bottle about a year ago (which incidentally was still spectacular, with long lasting flavors of plums, cedar and herbs).  And recently I had the opportunity to taste a number of the current vintages of the wines of its producer with my comments in the following.
    But, first a bit of history of the winery and some remarks about its vinicultural practices. In 1300 Dante Alighieri was exiled from Florence for corruption as the head of the local government. Some 53 years later, his son Pietro purchased a prime vineyard just east of Italy’s Lake Garda in the Valpolicella region. And, now, 21 generations later, wine is still being made from the Serego-Alighieri family vineyard—in cooperation with the Boscani family (owners of Masi Agricola), who provide wine-making and cellaring expertise in
general, the winery annually produces about 30,000 cases of wine from the vineyards that encompass about 300 acres on hills composed mainly of red soil that’s rich in limestone and clay. Of note, as much as possible the grape growing and winemaking processes are performed sustainably, with rainwater for irrigation, natural substances for fertilization and natural pesticides. Aging of wines takes place initially in large Slovenian oak barrels and then, rather unique to this winery, in smaller cherry wood casks. All wines are filtered prior to bottling.
    Now for the wines. Five of those currently produced  were tasted, and overall they were excellent, with long-lasting flavors that mated well with a variety of fare, and importantly they were well-priced in relation to their quality.


The 2019 Possessioni Garganega e Sauvignon del Veneto IGT ($12) , made from a blend of Garganega (75%) and Sauvignon Blanc (25%), was an easy drinking white with a bouquet and taste of pears and melons with a touch of grapefruit in its finish, like a toned-down New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It made a great mate for scallops, shrimp and grilled orate (gilt-head sea bream).


The 2019 Possessioni Rosso Verona IGT ($12) was made from a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara (Serego Alighieri clone) grapes and showed a bouquet and straightforward taste of plums and cherries, well suited to match hamburgers or pizza. 


The 2017 Monte Piazzo Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC  ($26) was also made from a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes is a cut or two above the typical Valpolicella seen on shop shelves. It had a bouquet and taste of ripe plums, cherries and a dry, slightly tannic finish that married well with veal Marsala,  lamb chops or pasta with red sauce.


The 2013 Vaio Amaron Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG ($67), with an alcohol content of 15.5%, was a bargain compared with the many over-priced, high alcohol Amarones around now. It was made by the traditional method of using a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes that following harvest were allowed to dry for 3-4 months on bamboo trays before being fermented to full dryness. The wine showed a bouquet and taste of dried plums, mocha, cassis and hints of cherry and licorice in its long, memorable finish. It made excellent accompaniment for duck breast, turkey or grilled steak . 


And the n.v Casa dei Ronchi Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG  ($65 for a 500 ml bottle), also produced from a Blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes that following harvest were allowed to dry on bamboo for 3-4 months and then fermented, with fermentation stopped to allow the wine to retain some sweetness. It had an intense bouquet and taste of ripe cherries and walnuts and a slightly sweet finish with notes of plum jam and exotic spices. It paired perfectly with aged cheddar, biscotti, even baked apples.



"The Best Recipes to Cook This Week, According to Eater Staffers Who Actually Cooked Them"—by Eater Staff , Feb 19, 2021.


According to Yelp ratings, using "data science team also balanced geographic representation by including an equal share of submissions from different regions of the country," The NUMBER ONE restaurant in the USA is the vegan  #1 Kelley Farm Kitchen (Harpers Ferry, West Virginia).


Sponsored by


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

   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. 


“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 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 Las Vegas.


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


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