Virtual Gourmet

May 4,   2008                                                        NEWSLETTER

"Bières de la Meuse" by Alphonse Mucha (1899)

Click to go to my new column at Esquire Magazine.

Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on

SUBSCRIBE AND UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish to this newsletter--free of charge--by clicking

In This Issue


NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR Texas Wines Can Take the Heat
by Mort Hochstein

NEW YORK CORNER: Bar Boulud by John Mariani



by John Mariani
Photos by Jack Plunkett, Bloomberg News

     Aside from an admirably rowdy music scene and the boozy college hijinks along Sixth Street, Austin, Texas, is a fairly sedate city now in the midst of a building boom. Buoyed by the headquarters of Dell and the public weal of being the state capital, Austin's downtown development has given it a dining scene that now runs from great barbecue to upscale sushi.
       I suspect most people visiting Austin for the first time go in search of the former rather than the latter, and there’s plenty of ‘cue around: Stubb’s Bar-B-Que (801 Red River Street; 512-480-8341) is famous for its Sunday gospel brunch; Lambert’s (401 West Second Street; 512-494-1500), in a landmark 1873 building, has the widest variety of “fancy” appetizers and a lively late-night bar and music scene. (Wherever you go, do not let anyone drag you to either of the local County Line BBQ places, which are as awful in service as they are for 'cue for the masses.)
       My own favorite is Iron Works BBQ (100 Red River Street; 512-478-4855), near the Convention Center. The old structure still shows signs of the terrible 1935 Austin flood (holes in the floor are covered with license plates). These days it’s decked out in Texas kitsch, and has hosted Kevin Costner, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bob Dylan, and Jay Leno. I find Iron Works’ sliced beef brisket ($9) and beef ribs ($11.95) to be paragons of Texas smoking and grilling. Their hot sausage and smoked turkey have the perfect pungency that requires a side of fine, creamy potato salad and the sweet beans, along with a bottle of Shiner Bock beer plucked from an ice chest.
      Mexican restaurants abound in Austin, led by the very beautiful Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop; 512-459-4121), here since 1975, serving a classic style of Mexican fare.  Far more downhome is El Chile Café & Cantina (1809 Manor Road; 512-457-9900; below), which does a mix of Mexican and Tex-Mex, and is especially good for its antojitos (appetizers) like mildly spicy tilapia ceviche with lime juice, tomato, onion, and cilantro ($6.95); grilled quesadillas with chorizo and Chihuahua cheese ($6.95); and a terrific tortilla soup in a rich chicken broth with avocado, queso fresco, tortilla strips, and laced with cream ($3.95).
       Having recently been introduced to breakfast/brunch at Curra’s Grill (two locations), I can’t imagine going anywhere else in Austin for the first meal of the day, when you tend to run into local and visiting musicians for whom this might be the end of a long, long night. The Garcia Prado family bases its cooking on the food of their hometown, Nueva Rosita Coahuila, and it is all clearly made with familial pride. At the East Olthorf Street location (left), I sat down to huevos con machado ($7.95), lightly scrambled eggs with shredded beef and barracho (“drunken”) sauce, and a large platter of migas ($6.50), scrambled eggs with shredded corn tortillas, chorizo, and a hot pico de gallo salsa, all washed down with excellent coffee. At other times of the day there are fish tacos, and tacos with rotisserie pork.
     Another of my favorite casual Mexican eateries (which also does a terrific breakfast) is Las Manitas (211 Congress Avenue; 512-472-9357), whose decor would barely make it into the ranks of "no frills" design.  Out back there's a patio, reached by walking through the kitchen (a quirky idea but one that proudly shows the kitchen has nothing to hide), and the tacos and chalupas are carne asado are among the best items.
    For generous, traditional Italian food in a very casual atmosphere, Stortini (1917 Manor Road; 512-391-9500) does a commendable job, starting with a delightful white bean and sausage soup with basil and Parmigiano to a good selection of pastas (though some are oversauced), and a very good cioppino seafood stew and a juicy braised leg of duck with a light cherry glaze, butternut squash ravioli, and a rich sage butter.  The pizzas need work.  The prices are easy to get along with, with pastas $9-$15 and main courses $14-$17.
      If you wish to eat a little higher on the hog, I highly recommend the new Parkside (301 East 6th Street; 512-474-9898), with a hip downstairs raw bar (below) serving up small plates, from ten species of oysters to a fried egg sandwich.  The main dining room menu features an appetizer selection of classic steak tartare ($11), an onion-and-goat’s cheese tart ($9), fried calamari reddened with smoky paprika ($8), and addictive hot crab fritters ($10) you dip into a garlicky aïoli.
      Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s nightly specials offer the most creativity, from a light lobster bisque ($7) and a plate of thick, oozy marrow bones with an herb salad ($12) to grilled bass with green olives and almonds ($18), and succulent pork loin with mustard greens ($18). For dessert don’t miss the cinnamon dough nut holes gussied up with apple butter, butterscotch, and laced with brandy ($7).
      Longstanding successes in Austin include two very fine upscale restaurants, Jeffrey's (1204 West Lynn Street; 512-477-5584) and Hudson's on the Bend (3509 RR 620 North; 512-266-1369).  Both have evolved from continental-style dining rooms to modern American, both with a little Texas twang, which at the latter has on occasion included rattlesnake cakes.  The Driskill Grill (604 Brazos Street; 512-391-7162) in the historic and wonderfully refurbished Driskill Hotel has emerged in the last few years as one of the top dining destinations in the state with good reason, with refined cuisine like lobster minestrone with cannellini beans and farfalle; braised short ribs with apricot chutney and a serrano glaze, and pistachio-crusted sea scallop with a scallop quenelle and truffled herb salad. Prices rise to the $40 entree level.
     The Driskill's casual 1886 Cafe & Bakery is a fine choice for breakfast pastries and they do a first-class overstuffed hamburger later in the day.
        For something more decidedly romantic there is Aquarelle Restaurant Francais (606 Rio Grande Street; 512-479-8117), set in a darling turn-of-the-century house furnished like a country home in Provence, with a wine bar and small patio that the locals find dreamy even when the temperature and humidity head into the nineties.
        Chefs Teresa Wilson and Jacques Richard set a menu of modern French cuisine that does not try to be daring but to take advantage of the seasonal larder. This translates into a delicious “trilogy” of foie gras dishes ($26)—a lush crème brulee, fresh foie gras with pineapple chutney, and a foie gras ice cream.  Panko-crusted soft shell blue crabs with a lemon beurre blanc, fried onions, and capers ($14) were superbly rendered to keep subtle and tangy flavors in balance, and a duo of duck dishes ($45)—a leg confit and pan-roasted breast with turnips, rutabaga, and a maple syrup demi-glace was a very honorable marriage of the earthy and the sweet.  À la carte prices run high—with entrees $27-$45, but there is a 4-course “menu rapide” at $40, a 3-course vegetarian menu at the same price, and a 6-course tasting menu at $80—all bargains.
     I noted that Austin also has a high-end Japanese restaurant. It’s called Uchi, but I did not have a chance to try it, an omission Patricia Sharpe, food editor of Texas Monthly, chided me on, insisting it’s the most exciting restaurant in Austin. Next time I’m back, I’ll be there in a New York minute.


Texas Wines Can Take the Heat

by Mort Hochstein

                                            Entrance to Fall Creek Vineyards,  Tow, Texas

Sometime in the early 1980’s,  I visited Texas as a judge for the wine competition sponsored by the Dallas Morning News. As far as I can recall, there were no Texas entries. I tasted, however, a few local Chenin Blanc wines, not very good, with one exception.
   That one came from Fall Creek Vineyards, operated by Ed and Susan Auler.  More than a  quarter of a century later, it is still a delightful wine and the centerpiece of  the Fall Creek  roster, which now includes  an award-winning Cabernet blend, Meritus, and a surprisingly good Viognier, along with more popular varietals such as Chardonnay, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli and Malbec. At their wine estate 40 miles northwest of Austin, the Aulers continue to experiment with varietals and blends, seeking grapes to fit their vineyards off Lake Buchanan and flavors to satisfy the taste of Texans.
    In truth, the first Texas wines I tasted were brought to New York several years earlier by Bobby Smith, an osteopath.  Dr. Smith farmed grapes and made his wine in an area which was dry, so that he had to sell his product a few miles down the road in a community which was more tolerant of  alcoholic beverages. Dr.  Smith’s  pioneering efforts and story were better than his wines.
   The Aulers travel frequently and communicate the Texas wine story much  the same as Robert Mondavi in his early days proselytized for California  and Allen Shoup at Château Ste. Michelle  promoted the then-young Washington state wine industry. As leaders they understand that everyone profits when they advance the cause of their regional wines.
   "Go Texan" is the slogan promulgated by the Texas Department of Agriculture to promote both food and wine products. The Texas Ag  Department is much more supportive of winegrowers than similar agencies in New York and New Jersey, even in California. It has created a series of food and wine programs and its schedule of linked events  that goes on almost continuously throughout the year. The Ag department proudly claims Texas as fifth-largest wine producing state in the nation and there are now more than 220 wineries in the state, many recent arrivals.

    Texas growers seem to have realized that their future lies with Mediterranean grapes, which are suited to the hot climate. “You can’t grow a bad Viognier in this state,” says Ed Auler who was an early adapter after experiencing it for the first time at Fernand Point’s famed restaurant, Le Pyramide in Vienne, while visiting wineries in the Rhône.  That conversion is similar to an earlier epiphany when the Aulers  determined that their soils were similar to the terroir that produced the great reds of Bordeaux while touring that region.
   After  a whirlwind four days of tasting at the Texas  Hill Country Wine Festival, I am not inclined to argue with Auler’s decision to go with Viognier.  Texas  Viogniers are extraordinarily rich in the floral tones that  distinguish the varietal.  Some, however, are a bit sweet, in order to (as several winemakers told me) accommodate the sweet tooth of Texans. I found that true, even with a most agreeable Viognier from Flat Creek and the peach and apricot-laden Viogniers coming from Brennan Vineyards.
    Texas growers are experimental. While many make the noble grapes of Europe, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Syrah, many  believe Texas is more suited to Mediterranean varietals and have planted  Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Rousanne,  and Italian varietals such as Sangiovese, Vermentino and Pinot Grigio, as well as the Tempranillo  of Spain. Alamosa Wine Cellars in Bend is a small producer with a  strong line of  the Mediterranean varietals.
   I can’t say that Riesling belongs in this terrain, though several houses try to tame this grape, which definitely is better suited to a cooler climate. On the red side, with the exception of Fall Creek’s Meritus and the blended reds, Sandstone II and Sandstone II from Sandstone Cellars, Texas has a long way to go before it can approach the level of a good California Cab. One other wine on my tasting chart the slangily-named but really classy Kick-Butt Cab from Texas Hills Vineyard, belongs in that group.
   Where the Texans really surprise is in  the sweet  and more spirited wines. Caris Turpin (right) of  Lightcatcher Winery makes a dry Orange Muscat that is worthwhile and a challenging Dulce d'amore, loaded with sweet papaya, apricot and citrus flavors.   Look for Port from  Grape Creek Vineyards and Pillar Bluff, and an extraordinary Madeira from Haak Vineyards from  the unlikely grapegrowing fields near  Galveston. The Haak is  based on an indigenous local grape Jacquez, and I would take it over the more famed Madeira from across the ocean.
  Gary Gilstrap of Texas Hills  Vineyard, the man who created Kick Butt Cab, is a fan of the Italian varietals, Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese. The red, he says, is often a victim of the wide swings of Texas weather. “Things change so much year to year,” he observed, “that I make a Sangiovese in the good years and a Rosé in the off years.” While many producers see Viognier as the white grape of the future for Texas, Gilstrap argues for Pinot Grigio. And though he feels Cabernet Sauvignon does well locally, he sees Tempranillo as the best of all possible reds for the region.
     I’ve seen it often at the Farmers Market in New York where visitors will come up to the Anthony Road winery stand and say “Oh, I didn’t know they made wine in New York.” That sort of thing  happens even more often in Texas where far fewer restaurants and retailers  promote the wines of their native state.
    Local recognition is one problem and for  those who want to taste Texas wines. Just finding the wines can be difficult.  Most producers are small and do the greater part of their business, as the French say, out  the cellar door. Several do travel across state lines, and Fall Creek, Flat Creek, Beckett and Llano Estacado (above) are among a handful of Texas wines available outside the Lone Star State.

Mort Hochstein, former editor and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, and former managing editor of Nation's Restaurant News, has written  on wine, food and travel for Wine Spectator, Wine Business  Monthly, Saveur and other food and wine publications.


by John Mariani
Photos by E. Laignel


1900 Broadway (across from Lincoln Center)

   Daniel Boulud grew up in Lyons, and, after rising rapidly, though dutifully, under the French system, through the kitchens of Roger Vergé, Michele Guèrard, and Georges Blanc, then upon arrival in États-Unis, built an enviable reputation at the Polo Lunge, Le Régence,  then Le Cirque, and finally triumphed at his own Restaurant Daniel as of 1993, still consistently ranked as one of the finest French restaurants in the world. He himself has won about every prestigious culinary and master chef award possible.
  Boulud’s legendary attention to detail and consistency in the kitchen has been a hallmark he has always passed onto to superb chefs de cuisine like Alex Lee and Andrew Carmellini.  In recent years Boulud has expanded his holdings considerably, first to the wonderful Café Boulud, then to db Bistro Moderne--both in New York.  His reach then extended to Palm Beach (a reasonable facsimile of his Manhattan Café, but still a facsimile) and an admirable brasserie in Las Vegas.
     All of which concerns me, because a cook can only put his fingers in so many pots.  Yet thus far, while maintaining his presence at his flagship, he has managed to keep his other enterprises humming smoothly. Now, across from Manhattan's Lincoln Center, the master has opened Bar Boulud, which has been a stunning success since the night it opened a couple of months ago.  Boulud has never pretended he is cooking in his outlying restaurants, instead proudly promoting those chefs who work for him.  At Bar Boulud he has put his faith in Executive Chef Damian Sansonetti, Chef de Cuisine Laurent Kalkotour, and a team of fast-paced, well-educated professionals, including wine director Daniel Johnnes and sommelier Steven Meir,  who somehow keep the cheerfully frantic ambiance at Bar Boulud from becoming mayhem.
    He has also enlisted the charcuterie talents of Sylvain Gasdon, who’d worked for years with Paris’s renowned Gilles Verot, and the wide range of charcuterie is at the heart of this new restaurant;  the flavors of everything suggest that this is precisely the kind of artisanal sausages, pâtes, and terrines Boulud ate while growing up in Lyon, including fromage de tête (below), joue de porc, compotée de lapin, pâté grand-mère,  pâté de campagne aux foies de volaille, andouille de Vire, saucisson cuit à l’ail, pâté en croûte, saucissons Lyonnais, and much more.  I have never had better charcuterie anywhere.
        You are cordially greeted and seated by Maître d’Hôtel Carrie Sumner, and if you just drop by, you might want to sit at the counter where you can just point to the wide range of charcuterie in front of you and have the cooks dole it out,  as much as you want, as much as you can handle, as much as you can pay for. The complete menu is also available here.
     Otherwise the 100-seat dining room, with its beautiful vaulted ceiling  and backlit gravel wall, wooden booths, tables with textured mats ands Riedel glassware, is appended with a  “Tasting Table in the Round” for up to 14 guests enjoy food and wines chosen by a sommelier in the center.
    Bar Boulud’s winelist, 500 labels strong, is dedicated to great French wines of the Rhône valley and Burgundy, whose varietals are the basis of the pickings from  California, Oregon,   New Zealand, Australiia, Chile and beyond. There is a good selection of wines at every price level, so trust the sommeliers to guide you to something particularly interesting.
     It is very easy and very tempting simply to gorge on all that wonderful charcuterie and an array of wines, not to mention the excellent breads by Mark Fiorentino, the butters, and cheeses.  But this is a bistro too, and I wouldn’t want you to miss the other dishes, starting with a generous frisée lyonnaise  of peppery chicory, chicken liver, poached egg , lardons, and sourdough bread.  You may feast on platters of seafood with an aïoli, or delight in grilled scallops, with  mustard , winter slaw, and a  tangy red cabbage marmalade.
      Among the main courses—here called “Plats de résistance”—there is a marvelous, classic coq au vin with fresh pasta, lardons, onions,  and mushrooms, its braising sauce very dark from red wine.  Wild striped bass swims in a sweet pepper stew with chorizo,  and haricots coco, and skate is stuffed with a wild mushroom fricassée and  spinach with a butter-rich, syrah glaze. Big appetites will relish the braised flatiron steak with  carrot mousseline and onion confit, and if steak frites Is your measure of a good French bistro, you will be enchanted with the version here.  For those who love blood sausage, Boulud’s  boudin noir with caramelized apple is terrific, and the confit of duck with tarbais beans and vegetable fricassée textbook perfect.
      There is a selection of impeccably maintained cheeses, like brie de meaux and 22 month-old mimolette, and then there are chef patîssier Ghaya Oliveira’s  scrumptious bistro-style desserts, from a tarte fromage blanc with blueberry compote  and sorbet to a gâteau basque, rich custard cake with brandied cherries.       
     Despite ill-informed grumblings about the demise of French cuisine in New York, Bar Boulud, like Bar Blanc,  reviewed here  recently, and the just opened Benôit, along with a slew of older bistros, indicate strongly that the classic tastes and bonhomie of food cooked from the heart will never, ever disappear.

Bar Boulud is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., Brunch Sat. & Sun., and dinner nightly. Full bistro menu including pre-theater and after-theater dining.  Prix fixe pre-theatre 3 courses from $39.

by John Mariani

     The London-based industry journal Restaurant Magazine has announced its annual list of the "50 Best Restaurants in the World," sponsored by San Pellegrino, and the results are a tad dismaying. 
    The list is put together from votes of what is called "The Nespresso World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy," the voters being food media, restaurateurs, and connoisseurs from 23 regions around the world, each with a chairperson who selects the voting panel within his region; total votes cast, 3,410.  The rules state, "There is no list of nominees; each member of our international voting panel [about 30 on each panel] votes for their personal choice of five restaurants. They may vote for up to two restaurants in their own region, the remaining votes must be cast outside their home region. Nobody is allowed to vote for their own restaurant and voters must have eaten in the restaurants they nominate within the past 18 months."  I was one of those voters.
     It is that last requirement that has bothered me ever since I was asked some years ago to chair the North American panel, from which I resigned the following year.  My reason, as I explained to the editors, was that most of the potential North American voting panelists I contacted were rigorously honest in stating that, while they dined constantly within their region, they had not spent much time outside of it and very little visiting restaurants in the rest of the world, especially not in the last 18 months.  I shared their concerns, for even though I do travel extensively outside of North America, many of those restaurants I consider among the greatest I simply haven't dined at in the last 18 months.
      How, then, I asked the editors of Restaurant, was it probable that restaurant critics and media from South Africa, Australia, Japan, India, and Europe had actually eaten at so many of the restaurants voted as among the best?  Since the two top picks--El Bulli in Roses, Spain, three hours' drive from Barcelona, and Fat Duck in Bray, England, 45 minutes from London--are constantly booked months in advance (El Bulli is only open six months of the year for one seating of 50 guests each night), how could so many of those panelists have possibly eaten there in the past 18 months?
        One has to wonder how many panelists have dined at places like Noma in Denmark (No. 10), Hof van Cleve in Belgium (No. 28), and Le Quartier Francais in South Africa (No. 50).  Alinea in Chicago (No. 21) has been open for less than two years: how many panelists could have dined there? Not providing the number of votes restaurants actually accumulated in order to make the list puts everything into question.  What if only six people voted for Le Quartier Francais? The reader has no way of knowing, just as with the Zagat surveys, which do not provide the number of votes for restaurants listed.
        I am not quibbling over the quality of this or that restaurant on the list--they are all highly commendable--nor in any way impugning the credibility of the magazine's statistics. Indeed, the list may well reflect conventional tastes among food media and people in the hospitality industry as to what constitutes greatness.  But it is well worth noting--perhaps with  a yawn--that, as ever, the list is  overwhelming dominated by fancy, fussy French restaurants, despite El Bulli and Fat Duck at the very top. I count at least 26 restaurants out of 50 decidedly French or doing French cuisine, and several others that are as close as a chef could come without wholly betraying his own Italian, Danish, Brazilian, or British culinary traditions.
       That French haute cuisine still rules the gastronomic roost would not be so surprising if highly experimental restaurants like El Bulli and The Fat Duck were not so resolutely non-French. (The on-line menu for Fat Duck lists "roast foie gras Benzaldehyde," "Salmon poached in licorice gel," and "nitro-scrambled egg and bacon ream. One of Chef-owner Hester Blumenthal's creations is shown at right.) Still, the chances of a great American restaurant serving American cuisine are slim indeed to make this roster. There is not a single restaurant here from Japan (despite the Michelin Guide this year giving more stars to Tokyo than to Paris!), China, India, Mexico, Canada, Dubai, New Zealand, or anywhere in South America, except for a single Brazilian entry (although the magazine publishes a separate regional list of notables).  Among U.S. entries there are but eight restaurants--and every one except Alinea is. . . French!
      (For the record, if I recall correctly, I voted for Le Bernardin and The French Laundry; if invited to vote next year, I could not vote for those restaurants because I haven''t been to either in 18 months.)
     Again, I have no complaints with any of these restaurants being on the list, but as a list representative of the excitement of what's going on in the world's gastronomy today, this seems glaringly out to lunch.

For the complete lists go to



An Oakland, Pennsylvania bar, the Garage Door Saloon, held a Wednesday night promotion called "Wetback Wednesday"--Corona beers for $7 and 75-cent tacos.

 In reaction, some University of Pittsburgh students tried to boycott the bar because they believed the promotion to be racist stereotyping. 

"I've seen 'White Trash Wednesdays' and 'Trailer Park Tuesdays,' and they haven't received any kind of hype," said the bar owner.


“The waiter had two black eyes, so we knew we were in the country; you rarely see a London waiter with a facial injury, though whether this is because they are too pussy to get into fights, I can't tell you.”—Zoe Williams,The (London) Telegraph


* On May 13, Savoy in NYC will host its eighth annual Calçotada, a traditional Catalan onion festival that marks the start of spring.  Attendees will sit at communal tables and drink rosé wines from porrons , while live flamenco music is featured. The following night, the festivities will be repeated at Back Forty (Savoy's sibling). $75 pp at Savoy; $60 at Back Forty. Call 212-388-1990.

* On May 17  Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery in South Coastal Massachusetts., welcomes Hannahbells Artisinal Cheeses for an  
Early Summer Wine & Cheese Dinner. $75 pp. Call 508-636-3423.

* In Chicago,  during May, Marigold’s Taste of India Menu will feature the Taste of Goa – Beyond the Vindaloo. Every Tuesday, Marigold will offer a three-course menu featuring dishes from the Indian region of Goa, priced at $25 pp. Visit  or call 773.293.GOLD .

* On May 24 in Chicago, Marigold and ChicaGourmets will host a dinner with Raghavan Iyer, author of 660 Curries. $55 pp for ChicaGourmets members, $65 for non-members. Call 708-383-7543; visit

*   On May 24 the Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing and AFC Wines present Robert Parker with a partnership with Brian McKenna, chef de cuisine of Blu Lobster, to create a wine dinner on the Great Wall of China. Incl: Dinner, limo transportation to the Great Wall ; 2 nights’ accommodation in a Valley Wing Premier Room or Diplomat Suite, May 23 and 24; Enchanted Journey treatment in CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La . Call for rates and info (86 10) 6841 6824

* In Woodinville, WA, The Woodinville Chamber of Commerce and selected Washington State visitor’s bureaus, restaurants, wineries and travel partners, present the 3rd annual Washington Wine Highway over Memorial Day weekend at Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.  Tasting pavilions represent Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain and Puget Sound, and feature each region’s wineries, restaurants, tour companies and accommodations.   Proceeds go to the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce and Washington Wine Industry Foundation.Tickets are $75 for a single day pass, $125 for two days.   Visit

* From May 26-June 1 at Curtain Bluff, Antigua, Chef André Soltner will be hosting 2 cooking classes and a special dinner.  From Chef Marc Bauer of the French Culinary will be in residence  July 20-26, giving cooking classes to guests at Curtain Bluff free of charge. Call 1-888-289-9898 or visit

*From May 26-29 in Hyannis, MA,  Cape Cod Life Publications will celebrate the “Cape Cod Life Food & Wine Festival,” showcasing the region’s finest chefs and 40 restaurants through a series of wine dinners and “Cultural Happy Hours” that capture the area’s art, history and nature– the Highfield Hall in Falmouth (May 27), the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster (May 28), and the Wellfleet Harbors Actors Theater in Wellfleet (May 29).  The festival kicks off with the Grand Opening Tasting at the Rectrix Aerodrome in Hyannis.  Visit  Call 508-775-9800.

Steenberg Hotel & Winery in South Africa  is featuring  a Wine & Whale Package, which consists of 3 nights in a Standard Luxury Room, breakfast daily, a half-day private Constantia Winelands Tour, incl, a private wine tasting with a wine steward at the Steenberg, a full day Hermanus whale watching tour, with entrance to the Old Harbour Museum and the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, a 3-course dinner at Catharina’s Restaurant and free transfers to restaurants and shops, Valid from Sept.-Oct. 31; $701 pp. Call 0 21 713 2222 or e-mail or visit

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with two 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."  To go to his blog click on the logo below:


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). Click on the logo below to go to the site.



MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,  Suzanne Wright, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Brian Freedman, and Dotty Griffith. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin .

John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, Diversion.,, and Cowboys and Indians.  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 Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press), and other books below..

 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. It was 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

yyy u7o9o ee
rer rr ryh

 © copyright John Mariani 2008