Virtual Gourmet

September 3, 2006                                                       NEWSLETTER

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In This Issue


An Interview with Guy Savoy by John A. Curtas

NEW YORK CORNER: Barbetta by John Mariani



by John A. Curtas

          iiiiiiiIt’s been a decade since my one and only meal at the French Laundry, half a dozen years since I endured Charlie Trotter's, about five since Le Bernardin and Jean-Georges blew my socks off, and a few months since Daniel Boulud last dazzled me in the Big Apple.  In 1998 I devoured thirteen of the then 19 Michelin 3 Star restaurants in France, and about a week ago Joël Robuchon at The Mansion fed me what I thought was the dining experience of a lifetime.
        It is with these meals in mind that I contemplate whether the new Restaurant Guy  Savoy (Caesars Palace, 3570 Las vegas Boulevard; 702-731-SAVOY) right now is the best restaurant in the United States. Of course the “best” of anything is highly subjective whenever score is not being kept, but it is no stretch to say that Guy Savoy competes with all of them for that distinction.
      With the opening of Joël Robuchon (click for review) in the MGM Grand last October, a new level was reached in both the quality and price in the haute cuisine available in the high Mojave Desert.  Between the opening of the Bellagio in 1998 and the Wynn in 2005, a gourmet stampede of nationally known chefs and restaurants put Vegas on every gourmet’s go to food map.  With all that publicity and prominence came the exponential price raising that, even before Robuchon, made fine dining in Vegas at least as expensive as any other major city in America.   With Guy Savoy and Robuchon offering 11-course tasting menus at $290 and $345 per person respectively, new price heights have been scaled that make your average prix fixe at a top New York or Chicago restaurant seem positively bargain basement by comparison.  Thus, the question remains if all the time and travel and trouble Monsieur Savoy and his family have gone to is worth what you will pay for spending three hours in their company.  From where I sit, when one considers the quality of the food, the service, and the décor, and the uniqueness of basking in the glow of one of the titans of western gastronomy, it is.
          Deciding to open his first venture outside of France was not easy for this iconic owner of five Parisian eateries, including the three-star Guy Savoy.  He had dismissed Vegas for years as a gambling town, but had never been there until Caesars' executives coaxed him and his wife Danielle into a three-night stay in the spring of 2004. Besides the usual inducements of money, fame and, well, more money, the quality control factor loomed large over the negotiations until the Savoys got their taste of the new, restaurant-improved Vegas.  (See Interview with Savoy below.)   Three dinners convinced Savoy that enough kitchen talent and top shelf ingredients were available to carry forth his gastronomic vision 6,000 miles from his culinary comfort zone.
          While little fault can be found with the cooking of any of other pioneers of Vegas’s culinary transformation, none of their restaurants competes with the architectural drama that confronts you as you approach Guy Savoy on the second floor of the new Augustus Tower in Caesars.  There is a "Land of the Giants" feel to approaching the 30-foot wooden doors at the end of a short hallway, well out of ear- and eye-shot of the casino floor.  Across their top are the subtle, almost recessive graphics announcing the entrance to RESTAURANT GUY SAVOY.  Thus, from the architecture are you given clues to the cuisine soon to be encountered—at times bold and overwhelming, at others, discerning and ethereal.  Those massive doors give way to a foyer to the left of which lies a minimalist Champagne bar with six bar stools and a low-slung couch for lounging, grazing on appetizers, or perusing the menu and wine list.   A small but telling detail in this operation is that you are welcome to only order a small plate or two at the bar, or simply sip champagne as you drink in the ambiance and ponder the brown and beige grandeur that surrounds you.
          The extraordinary design by Jean-Michel Wilmotte may be the most impressive in town. He takes his cues from his 2001 re-design of Guy Savoy in Paris, and (literally) expands and exaggerates the theme to fit the outrageous scale of Las Vegas.   In doing so, he creates a dynamic 75-seat space that manages to be both eye –popping and soothing, and provides a dramatic backdrop for Savoy’s food without overshadowing what is brought to the table.  A rare feat indeed.4hjj
          The again,  it would be tough to overshadow tiny foie gras “club” sandwiches served on sterling silver skewers as an amuse both at the bar and at your table.  Tiny triangles of toasted bread caress dense and silky slivers of duck liver that are the ideal marriage for a glass of Billecart-Salmon Rosé. Likewise, “Colors of Caviar” (right) is brought in a cylindrical shot glass exposing haricot vert purée, caviar vinaigrette foam, caviar-studded crème fraîche, and sevruga and osietra eggs (each layer a different temperature and texture), which meld with those acidic, fruity bubbles into salty and sweet perfection on the tongue.
          "Entrees" are the starter  courses on a French menu, and here they are some of the more intriguing choices. “Tout Petit Pois” or “peas all around” is another Savoy signature dish that is a delectable mosaic of fat green pearls atop a thick purée sitting in a luscious, preternaturally green broth (below, left).  An exquisite poached egg provides just the right unctuousness, and shards of black truffle add an earthy touch to this celebration of the joys of a much underrated vegetable.  Numerous food writers have sung the praises of Savoy’s black truffle and artichoke soup,  dense with the essence of both, but it is his oysters en gelée that will astonish you.  Six oysters sit in their shells atop an oyster cream pudding showered with clear, tiny cubes of oyster aspic, in an oyster on oyster on oyster presentation that highlights the ultimate extraction of bivalve flavor.
          Thin slices of seaweed bread will probably be offered with your oysters, and a tiny mushroom and truffle brioche is brought to your table to accompany the artichoke and truffle soup by the ever-present (but not obtrusive) bread sommelier.  It seems that in taking French haute cuisine to “11” Savoy considered the prominence the rolls (and the baguettes and the brioche) have played in his country’s gastronomic history.   So with every course a panoply of pains du jour is offered, with gentle suggestions for the most appropriate food-and-bread match.  The idea may seem pretentious to some, or putting too fine a point on things to others, but like all the service here, it is handled with style and grace, and is great, delicious fun.
          Playfulness shows up in (and under) other plates as well.  Many is the diner who finishes his plate of impeccable roasted monchong (Hawaiian permit), only to have the waiter lift the top plate to reveal asparagus soup lying beneath the cross-hatched top piece of china, in a hidden soup bowl that has both given and received taste to and from the fish that once rested above it.   Côte de gros turbot à l’oeuf en salade et soupe is a “salad” of steamed turbot, spinach and poached egg nestled on another slotted platter atop another soup bowl holding a garlic and potato-infused fish bouillon.  In both poissons, two dishes are created from one in a savory and surreptitious celebration of flavors that secretly enhance each other.
          For pure dazzle-factor though, it’s hard to top the pintade (guinea hen) cooked in a pig’s bladder.  The staff proudly parades the huge brownish-gray, basketball-sized balloon through the dining room to wide-eyed "oohs" and "ahhs" as it is shown to your table, then whisked away.  Inside is the extraordinary fowl whose flavor outshines all others.  The expandable bladder acts as a kind of  pressure cooker, insuring intensity, tenderness and succulence. Both Robuchon and Savoy do extraordinary versions of this bird, but Savoy’s is the one I will return to.  Equally beyond reproach, if not quite as jaw-dropping, are the crispy veal sweetbreads, as smooth as silk, served with super-thin potato disks housing thin slices of black truffles that, unfortunately were truffles in name only.  It being summer, one wonders why the kitchen even bothers with the famous black fungus that, increasingly, seems to have less and less flavor.  That being said, these small “sandwich” garnishes were the only place on the menu a dish failed to live up to its billing.
         dvbbb Neither Executive Chef Damien Dulas (left) nor Chef de Cuisine Adam Sobel (below) look old enough to legally drink, buttgegeg they seem more than adept at adapting these signature recipes and moving their menu confidently between surf and turf.  Santa Barbara prawns are accented by a mousseron mushroom-prune jus that harmoniously plays land and sea flavors off each other in a combination only the best chefs in the world could think of, and pull off.  The poached-then-roasted squab with fava beans may not have the richness of the pintade, but it is textbook perfect nonetheless, and the same can be said of the giant veal chop “pour deux personnes” that gave five of us a healthy tasting portion one night.   If there is a theme to this cooking, it is in its respect for fundamental flavors and primary ingredients.  Nothing ever seems overwrought or excessive, and you can sense the pride of these chefs in presenting exceptional raw materials in such a way that they are properly accented, yet allowed to speak for themselves.
          Those prawns paired perfectly with a Drouhin Meursault 2004 that came from the 1,400 bottle dictionary-sized list. It is presented on its own three-foot high stand and makes for great reading if your dining companions don’t mind you taking an hour or so doing just that.  Better to leave the choices to General Manager Franck Savoy, Guy's son, or his able brigade of sommeliers.  They will tell you that the list is heavily French, full of all the boring trophy Bordeaux a know-nothing high roller could ever point to, and a treasure trove of quality red and white Burgundies.  And it won’t take you long to notice the fine selection of Loire and Alsace wines as well.  What they are also justifiably proud of are the hundreds of bottles available for under $100, rare in a three-star restaurant.
         tc2 One of those Alsatian whites might be just the ticket for washing down a selection from the two-tiered cheese cart laden with two dozen of France’s best.  Only a few years ago, you were lucky to get three decent cheeses offered to you at even the best restaurants in Las Vegas. Now, a veritable cheese-mania is upon us with Boulud Brasserie, ALEX, and Robuchon leading the charge.  As a twenty-five year resident (and inveterate fromage-o-phile), I am the first to admit that a wheel of runny Époisses, or a tart-sweet Fourme d’Ambert, or a tangy chèvre is not the best choice of sustenance when it’s 106 degrees outside.  But if you want some pungent Livarot, or a beautifully ripe, nutty Comte, all of these stellar establishments now deliver the goods.
          Calling the dessert offerings here over-the-top is an understatement.  To begin, you will be given a dessert “amuse” of  an avocado purée topped with passion fruit or pineapple foam.  At this point you will be thinking to yourself:  “That’s nice, now maybe a bite or two of something and we’ll be done.”
      Think again, then gird your loins, for in keeping with Parisian three-star tradition, the desserts just keep coming and coming.  What you actually order will show up sometime before the house-made swizzle sticks of outrageously flavored candy, the chocolate candy bars, the traditional French pastries, or the jars of crème brûlée and variously flavored rice puddings, or the fresh marshmallows, or the cotton candy, or the sorbets and ice creams dished out promiscuously if you even hint at wondering what it is, or the chocolate fondant with crunchy praline and chicory cream, or the grapefruit terrine with tea sauce, or the chocolate ganache with Tonka beans…you get the idea.  There might even be a way to convince Franck Savoy to back off and not dish at least a dozen of the most delectable sweets on earth onto your plate—after you’ve finished dessert--but in four meals here, I haven’t found it.
     His father is supposed to come to Vegas every two months in the next year to oversee the kitchen.  Maybe I can get him to get his son to stop making me so fat. . . and happy.
     Restaurant Guy Savoy is open Wed.-Sun. for dinner only.

           aaaaaa A Conversation with Guy Savoy
by   John A. Curtas

     Monsieur Savoy lived in Vegas for two months prior to the opening of his restaurant, and he sat down with me to discuss the bringing of his first gastronomic outpost to southern Nevada.  Intense, animated and passionate, Savoy was obviously delighted to be bringing this spectacular offspring to life and full of good humor the afternoon I spoke with him, perhaps because he was about to beat the heat and leave for Paris the next day!

(Special thanks to Laura Savoy and her husband Franck, for arranging the interview and providing invaluable English-French and French-English translation services, without which this conversation would not have been possible
JC: So how easy was it to get you to come to Las Vegas?
GS: Not very.  I have been to America almost every year since 1980, but always to New York, California or Florida.  I had no use for Las Vegas since I thought it was only a place to gamble.
JC: What changed your mind?
GS:  In March 2003, Greg Waldron (Vice President of Food & Beverage at Caesars), came to my restaurant in Paris and invited me and my wife Danielle to be his guest in Las Vegas.  I first told him I wasn’t interested, but they asked if they could stay and dine at my restaurant.  They did and we enjoyed talking to them, and a day later I called them back and said I could come for a short visit.  So in late April or early May 2003 Danielle and I came to Nevada for the first time, for three days.
JC:  I take it you weren’t that enthusiastic about what you would find here?
GS:  I thought I’d see a lot of gambling and big casinos, but little else to make me want to bring my concept here.
JC:  So you didn’t think much or know much about our restaurants?
GS:  I had heard some good things, but I had no idea how good the cooking and food was until we had three very good meals in a row at Bradley Ogden in Caesars, Picasso with Julian Serrano  at the Bellagio, and finally Renoir--where Alex Stratta’s food really impressed me.   (N.B.: Stratta is now at ALEX in Wynn Las Vegas.)
JC:  What did your wife think?
GS:  She loved all the luxury boutiques, of course, and neither of us knew there were so many of them.  After seeing Céline Dion and Cirque du Soleil’s “O,” we could see that there was much more to Las Vegas than huge gambling casinos.
JC:  Any other surprises, pleasant or otherwise?
GS:  I was taken to Whole Foods and was impressed by the qualities and varieties of fruits, vegetables and cheeses.  The types of olive oils alone were very great compared to all but the best Parisian food shops.  In fact, I would say the Whole Foods store I saw had a better variety and quality in those items than any store you would find in France, outside of Paris.  This is important because it is the duty of the chef to bring the best provisions to the table and to work with local and locally available products as much as possible.
JC:  How have you had to change/adapt your recipes and cooking to the American/Vegas market?
GS:  We have had to do that very little and mostly in good ways.  In Paris, the beef is of inconsistent quality, so there is none on our menu.  American beef is much better, so here that is not a problem, and there will always be beef on this menu.  We even have a great Hawaiian fish, here because the quality is so good and we cannot get some of these fish in France.

JC:  So no compromises were made?
GS:  Our philosophy here was to open with a good, experienced staff (chefs Williams Caussimon and Laurent Solivères, with Savoy for fifteen years, and Savoy's son Franck and wife Laura, who run the front of the house), not too many seats (75) and to get good products that we, as chefs, can transform into happiness for our guests.  Once I saw what was being done in your better restaurants, I knew we could operate here without lowering our quality.
JC:  How would you summarize your philosophy of  cooking?
GS:  It is most important for a chef to know everything about his products, including their entire history as a food, so that he can use that knowledge to transform that product into pleasure for the diner.
JC:  So do you consider those skills and the skills of a great chef to be those of an artist or a craftsman?
GS:  A great chef is a craftsman with the soul of an artist.k;[[
JC:  Many people have written lately that haute cuisine and dining, the way it is practiced in the great Parisian temples of gastronomy, is dead or dying.  I cite as an example the decision of Alain Senderens of Lucas Carton to downscale his cooking and the formality of the restaurant (and its prices).  Your thoughts?
GS:  It is dangerous to make a conclusion like that based on one example.  Just as it was foolish of me to judge all of Vegas only by what little I knew of casinos and gambling.  Attendance at great restaurants is growing throughout the world.  You must put aside your prejudices to evaluate these things.  Even in Dubai you can now eat in some of the best restaurants in the world.  And here at Caesars, we have been pleasantly surprised that (after being open only a few weeks), half of all diners choose our (nine course, three- hour) “Menu Prestige” or tasting menu.
JC:  Has it been hard being away from Paris this spring as you’ve worked to get this restaurant ready?
GS:  Not really. [He chuckled as he leads me to one of the twenty-foot windows at Guy Savoy that look onto the Las Vegas Strip]  Whenever I get homesick, I can look out these windows and see Chanel and Christian Dior right across the street (in the Bellagio Shops), and the Tour Eiffel  right down the street—just like in Paris!
Since 1995, John A. Curtas  has been the restaurant critic for KNPR-Nevada Public Radio.


by John Mariani

321 West 46th Street

      A hundred years!  A century! Ten decades! Four score and twenty years ago!  Sustaining a restaurant for that long, especially under the same family ownership, is a remarkable achievement, one that only a handful of restaurants in the entire world have achieved.
    Even more remarkable is that at Barbetta, only two generations of one family  have maintained its eminence, from the day in 1906 when Sebastiano Maioglio opened the doors, making it also the oldest Italian restaurant in NYC and the first to achieve landmark status.  Today it is run by his immensely charming daughter, Laura, who has maintained all that is old and beautiful with impeccable taste while bringing fresh ideas to the beloved establishment, which in 1963 included her design for a stunning leafy garden surrounded by hundred-year-old trees and flowering magnolia, wisteria, jasmine, oleander and gardenia that perfume an al fresco evening here.wff2

      The restaurant is composed of four  townhouses dating to the 19th century when owned by the Astor family, and in contrast to most pre-war red-and-white tablecloth Italian restaurants in NYC, decorated with 18th century Piedmontese antiques that include an extraordinary Turinese chandelier from the Savoy family in the main dining room (above), and a harpsichord signed by Francesco Fabbri 1631 (which the Metropolitan Museum has requested be donated to them).   The upstairs private dining rooms, like the Rose Room (right) are stunningly preserved period-style salons.

       Since its inception Barbetta has never gone along with the clichés of Italian-American menus that would seem foreign to visiting Italians; instead, the menu has always been resolutely Piedmontese, with refined renditions of antipasti like bagna cauda,  pastas like tajarin, and desserts like monte bianco  rarely found anywhere else in America. These signature dishes are notated with the year they appeared on the menu. Barbetta was the first restaurant in America to offer white truffles during the truffle season, maintaining its own truffle hunters and hounds in Piedmont.  And Laura continues to update and allow the cuisine to evolve, so that Barbetta is both the most traditional regional Italian ristorante in New York as well as one of the most contemporary.
     In addition, the winelist is a template of vini italiani offerings, especially for the glorious Barolos and Barbarescos of Piedmont. Since 1997, Barbetta has won the Best Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator, and now lists 1,700 selections, with numerous verticals and many wines dating to the 1960s, some, including Grignolino and Barbera, are from her own vineyards. (Laura is married to Nobel Prize-winning physician Günter Blobel.)

      On a recent glorious late summer's evening in New York, I decided there was nowhere I'd rather be than in Barbetta's garden (below). I made a reservation for just after 8 PM, because before that the restaurant is always teeming with rushed theater-goers frantic to make their curtain.  The garden was as beautiful as ever, the candles flickered, the crickets chirped, and sweet-smelling roses were set on the fine linens of our table near the little found surrounded by cherub statues.
       00oHaving been informed by Laura that there had been changes on the menu and some new dishes since out last visit, my wife and I simply turned everything over to her, maître d' Florin Slavescu, and sommelier Alessandro Merlo, and began our evening with an array of grissini breadsticks, good rolls, and an icy Campari and soda.  After "preparing the wineglasses," Merlo brought an exquisite blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc from Angelo Gaia, his Rossj-Bass (named after his daughter), which was absolutely delicious with our first course of thinly sliced, pink veal with mâche, lemon, and olive oil, and charcoal-grilled octopus and calamari with marinated black chickpeas.  Even though I have gotten very tired of beets at this point in the year, the salad of full-flavored roasted beets was refreshingly good, as was a rollatine of robiola cheese wrapped in grilled zucchini.
      It had been a few years since I gobbled up Barbetta's rich fonduta of melted fontina cheese (below), which now comes nestled on thinly sliced fried leeks with quail's eggs, and, for whatever uncharacteristic reason, Chinese bok choy. This was followed by a marvelous minestrone thick with fresh, seasonal vegetables and served at room temperature, along with an equally impressive warm roasted eggplant soup.
      Ordinarily I am not a fan of herbaceous risotti, but Barbetta's balances the herbs to such a degree of finesse that I loved the dish, the tender rice laced with olive oil. Nothing could improve the perfect gnochetti with Piedmontese cheeses, which I wanted to eat more and more of and end the meal right then and there.  But there was still to come toothsome sea scallops with a julienne of Yukon Gold potatoes in a fresh tomato jus, and the crowning glory of the evening: absolutely the finest bistecca alla fiorentina I've had this side of Il Latini on  the Via del Palchetti.  Angus beef with perfect marbling cooked to a char on the outside and rare within, sliced thickly, glossed with olive oil, and served with Tuscan white beans.  This dish is served for two, and at $38 per person, a truly sumptuous dish two people will probably not be able to finish.
      There are cheeses to be selected but here is one place I forgo them, in favor of choosing from two carts groaning with magnificent desserts--something you almost never see any more--from a macédoine of fruits and zuppa inglese to panna cotta and monte bianco,  from espresso chocolate cake to baked peaches, from apricot tart to lemon-pistachio tart.  Then coffee and Piedmontese pastries.
       Above us the sky was starry and the crickets still sang.  And I knew all over again how unique Barbetta truly is, not only for its great link to the past of grand cucina italiana but for keeping in step and in touch with modern cooking, viticulture, and service.  I once wrote that Barbetta is one of the half-dozen best Italian restaurants in America, and this splendid, romantic evening did nothing to alter that opinion except perhaps to push Barbetta further up that short list.
       Prices at Barbetta actually seem more reasonable than ever for this level of sumptuous dining, with antipasti $13-$17, pastas $17-$19 (as full portions, from $24), and entrees $28-$36. A pre-theater dinner, with 24 options, is available for $49.  The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.


"Service, too, evokes a return to Ruggeri's heyday. . . . Pacing was spot on, and our server's discreet presence never allowed us to feel rushed or neglected.  Water glasses were continuously topped off and spent plates whisked away in a manner that left us wondering if David Copperfield were moonlighting as our busboy."--Kim Harwell, "Seems Like Old Times," Dallas Morning News (Aug. 11, 2006).

O Rufus, Where Art Thou?H,LU
In Jacques Spur, Idaho, a wild turkey nicknamed Rufus adopted a local Jacques Spur Junction Café and became a tourist attraction for about six months. But on opening day of hunting season, Rufus was shot by a hunter who then drove off with the turkey in his truck. Condolences have been sent from as far away as Canada and the Netherlands, according to the Lewiston Tribune. "People are really upset," said waitress Cherie Ankney. "One man said he'd like to tie the guy on the back of his pickup and drive around town a few times."


* On Sept. 6, A Taste of Puerto Vallarta 5-course dinner to be held at the James Beard House in NYC with Chef Luis Fitch, of  Los Xitomates, as culinary ambassador. . . .The eclectic flavors of Puerto Vallarta will also be on display at Rosa Mexicano, where  Fitch will be guest chef on Sept. 7.  Additional information on Puerto Vallarta, the town’s culinary scene and the International gourmet festival can be obtained at

* Red Carnation Hotels is offering “It's a Wonderful Life” festive package at their three London properties: The Milestone, The Egerton House and "41." Available between Nov. 24 and Jan. 7, it incl.: Minimum 2-night stay in luxurious accommodations; A gift of a deluxe tree ornament plus a DVD of the classic movie "It's A Wonderful Life"; Full English breakfast daily; Tea for two with Christmas cake; A bottle each of red and white wine; Lunch or dinner for two; on one day ; A visit by Santa if children are staying with a guest on Christmas Day. Call in Europe call toll free 00 800 1698 8740; in the USA call toll-free: 1-877-955-1515. Visit,, and visit

* On Sept. 13 in Chicago, Shaw’s Crab House and Female Winemakers of California host “Wine, Women and Shoes” a 4-course meal featuring wines from St. Supery, Astrale e Terra, and Katherine Hall Vineyards, a fundraiser to benefit UNICEF’s Girls’ Education Programs, with half of the proceeds going to the charity. $100 pp.  Visit or call 312-527-2722.

* Guests at L’Auberge de Sedona can attend an event called “State of the Art, A Collector’s Evening,” presented by Sedona’s Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. Stay at L’Auberge on Sept. 15 & 16 to view Sedona’s best artworks, meet the artists and sample cuisine from the finest chefs in the region.  Executive Chef Jonathan Gelman with the chefs of Amara Resort and Sedona Rouge Resort and Spa, will serve a 3-course  dinner. Prices range from $780-$1,180.  Call 800-272-6777 or visit

* The Chef’s Table at NYC’s Waldorf=Astoria hotel, held  in the hotel’s main kitchen,  is returning for a series of 8 dinners throughout the fall and winter that will offer guests a 5-course dinner with wines, prepared by Executive Chef John Doherty.  They will be held  Sept.  15 & 29, Oct.  6 & 11, Nov.  8 & 17,  and Dec. 15 & 20.   $150 pp. Call 212- 872-1275.  . . . On  Sept. r 10 the Waldorf will be reintroducing its brunch at its Peacock Alley restaurant, created by Peacock Alley’s Chef & Restaurant Director Cedric Tovar, taking over the hotel’s Art Deco main lobby. $75 pp. Call 212- 872-7335.

* From Sept.  22 and Oct. 15, The Peninsula Beverly Hills offers a “Belvedere Experience” package, incl. accommodations and dinner at the acclaimed Belvedere restaurant from a tasting menu crafted by Executive Chef Sean Hardy, with a bottle of 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Lewis Cellars, continental breakfast for two in your room or poolside at The Roof Garden. Visit or Call 800-462-7899.

* From Sept. 22-24, Southern Exposure, presented by The Cliffs Communities, is a 3-day food and wine celebration with demos, tasting events and musical performances, beginning with  the “Taste of the South" featuring several Greenville, SC, area restaurants, fine wine and live music at the Peace Center Amphitheater.  Proceeds fund “Local Boys Do Good,” a non-profit group founded benefiting Upstate charities and community organizations.  A complete list of events and tix options available at

* This October, in Venice, the Hotel Cipriani’s Cooking School offers courses by two Michelin Star chefs: Oct. 15-17: Raymond Blanc, of Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Oxford; Oct. 17-20: Ezio and Renata Santin, owners of Antica Osteria Del Ponte, MilanRenato Piccolotto, Chef of the Cipriani, will also prepare some of his specialties. Both feature an escorted tour to the Rialto fish and vegetable market, a traditional Venetian recipe book, and a “Cipriani” apron.  $2,690 pp per session (3 nights) and for two sessions, $3,360 (5 nights), Call 1-800-237-1236.


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,  Naomi  Kooker, Kirsten Skogerson,  Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, and Diversion.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning new Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

6y6My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. A beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

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copyright John Mariani 2006