Virtual Gourmet

July 20, 2008                                                                             NEWSLETTER

        Swanson TV Dinner, circa 1965

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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNERLa Zarza by Edward Brivio

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Serendipity--Five Wonderful Wines for Summer by John Mariani




by John Mariani

Having last week written about new restaurants in London, it's worthwhile to chat about some established places and to suggest how to stay put in London without breaking the weak U.S. bank.

St. JOHN Bar & Restaurant Smithfield
26 St John Street
020 7251 0848

     It is easy enough to understand why St. John is one of Londoners' most popular restaurants, even though it's not easy for most Londoners to get there, since it's located over in the old meat district. No pun intended but the place is bare bones, rehabbed out of a Georgian townhouse attached to a smokehouse, with walls of white tiles and brick  beneath 20-foot high skylights in the atrium.  The front room is piled with charcuterie and breads, bottles of wines, and a blackboard menu as an addendum to the seasonal menu. The chairs are basic, the tables simply set, and the menu changes all the time depending on what's good in the market. Service, by cheery British girls, couldn't be more amiable, and trust them to tell you what's best that day. And the prices are more than digestible for Yanks--Starters run from $12-$22, main courses $27-$44.
     Trevor Gulliver, Chef Fergus Henderson (formerly an architect), and Jon Spiteri opened the place in 1994, with the simple and very direct idea to offer good English meats and fish, along with plenty of offal, headcheese, terrines, and old British desserts.  It might have been a gamble at the time, but the sterling quality of their ingredients and the provenance of their meats carried them not only to enormous favor but also right through the Mad Cow scare without a tremor. Year after year now, St. John consistently ranks at or near the top of both foodie and critics' polls.
      I suspect those rankings have more to do with affection for St. John and for Mr. Henderson (right), who is truly one of the nicest people in the food world, and author or two fine books based on the menus at St. John's--Nose to Tail Eating and Beyond Nose to Tail.  But I also understand that many people might eat here and wonder what all the fuss is about.  The food is very, very simply prepared--always of top quality--so if you're looking for culinary creativity, this is not the place for it.
     It is the place for starters like grilled langoustines, rolled pig's trotters ansd thick bacon, and good old-fashioned potted beef, as well as now famous roast marrow bone and parsley salad--food as Anglo as one can find in London, which is otherwise awash in French restaurants these days.  These are hearty dishes, accompanied by slabs of good crusty country bread and butter, and a winelist that encourages trying uncomplicated vins du pays at convenient prices.
      The day I dined at St. John recently they had calf's liver, perfectly cut and cooked rosy pink, with plenty of sweet caramelized onions; a pigeon and trotter pie was all right, nothing more, but the braised hare was delicious and a guinea fowl with Jerusalem artichokes impeccably cooked golden brown and succulent. A green salad came in handy for the digestion after the heaviness of this fare, but it did not stop us from ordering the crumbly Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese, the steamed date sponge pudding with butterscotch sauce, or the rice pudding and jam. We could hardly have been happier, and bantering with the waitress added to a feeling of good, old-fashioned food-drink-and-conversation.
       The days when London food was considered dreary ended more than a decade ago, but I can easily imagine that the kind of food served at St. John, if not prepared with close attention and respect, could easily tend towards the dull.  As it is, Henderson and his staff treat every ingredient so that, in the words of the great British food writer Jane Grigson, "What each individual country does is to give all the elements, borrowed or otherwise, something of a national character." St. John is as proudly British as can be.

     St. John is open Mon.-Sat.


15 Lowndes Street
020 7235 5800

    Upon opening in 1995 in Knightsbridge, Zafferano immediately became one of the first  modern Italian restaurant in London, and it got a very tony crowd right from Day One; they have never gone away. Since then Zafferano has won a Michelin star, for it's the kind of Italian restaurant Michelin inspectors love--very posh, very slick, and extremely expensive:  A two-course dinner will run you about $69, three courses $89, and four $109; lunch for three courses is $89. Then add in a highly marked-up winelist, and you're dining at the top end of London restaurants.
      Is it worth it? Not so much anymore, meaning that many other fine Italian restaurants have opened all over London, but few run prices this high. Certainly Cecconi, The River Café, and Locanda Locatelli are in the same bracket.  But other Italian restaurants, like Oliveto, Olivomare, Assaggi, and Via Condotti deliver consistently good food at lower prices, with less swank. With the U.S. dollar weaker than ever, you must choose between high polish and plainer surroundings without giving up good taste.
       On the day a guest and I arrived without a reservation for lunch, the hostess was quite accommodating, saying that they were in fact completely booked but that if we were out by 1:30, we could have a table, which was fine with us. There was no attempt to rush us, and I must say there is a temptation to linger in the lush ambiance of the renovated Zafferano. The clientele also offers a good glimpse of the Knightsbridge and Belgravia swells, all dressed up for lunch before or after a day's shopping at Harrod's nearby, some with well-scrubbed children in tow.
      The winelist is very rich both literally and figuratively, so it is not easy to find a good bottle under $75 here, with most of the better wines well in excess of that.
      The menu offers lots of old favorites but with enough stylish dishes to balance things out.  Thus, gnocchi with Speck and taleggio cheese made for a good starter, and matagliati with saffron and shreds of braised pork cheeks was hearty enough for a main course.  Venison comes pan-seared, with polenta and mushrooms, but was pretty tasteless, lacking any gaminess you expect in such a dish. Equally bland was halibut in a potato crust--now something of a cliché--with balsamic-drenched onions.
     I will go back to Zafferano for a full-blown dinner some time but not before the dollar rises enough to allow me to do so or if my English aunt (should I acquire one) takes me there for a bite some day.

Zafferano is open for lunch and dinner daily. On weekdays lunch runs $59 for two courses, $69 for three, and $79 for four. On Sat. & Sun. for lunch and each evening for dinner the tab will be $69, $89, $109.

. . . And the Best Small Hotels in London


22 Jermyn Street

by John Mariani

     Henry Togna, like his father before him, runs 22 Jermyn Street with a studied nonchalance that raises the bar for boutique hotels to the point where you feel pampered in the nicest, rather than the most contrived, ways. You get to know the small staff within moments of your arrival, requests are acted upon immediately, and the efforts of the concierge and manager to help you out around town go far beyond those of jaded concierges at large hotels who may well have acquired their new Rolex watch as a gift from a grateful restaurateur who garners plenty of business from the hotel.
      The rooms at 22 range from the cozy (intimate is a nice word, too) to the spaciousness of a city flat, 13 suites and double rooms, all done in the best of taste, fitted out with fresh flowers, fresh fruit, stacks of newspapers and magazines, and access to whatever you need for business transmissions. Some have fireplaces. One has a fold-out double bed, ideal if you've brought a child or two to town, and there is a splendid Penthouse Suite.  Located in a townhouse, it is a very quiet space, set just beyond the circus of Piccadilly and the traffic-riddled streets that surround it.
     Jermyn Street itself is, of course, a length of fine men's haberdashers, shoemakers, and shirt-and-tie boutiques in London--Church's, Charles Tyrwhitt, Daks, Lobb, and many more-- along with the darling Paxton & Whitfield cheese monger, the back door of Marks & Spencer, and the ever-packed, decidedly  immutable  Wilton's  restaurant.  Mr. Togna (Tone-yah) and his staff will happily advise you on entrance to any of these places, and he seems to have both the clout to get you a difficult reservation in a fine restaurant as he has the good sense to dissuade you from going to a highly-touted but truly awful one.
     There is no dining room at 22, though room service is available, and breakfast is served. Mr. Togna's own London Restaurant Guide--six pages of recommendations he has personally and regularly dined at--is invaluable and far more up to date than any of the published books on the subject. He also seems to have better taste than most of London's restaurant critics.  There is also a Children's Newsletter that will put you in touch with everything to entertain children of any age in London.

      Room rates are currently running $400-$900 per room.

The Stafford
Saint James's Place
020 7493 0111

by Mort Hochstein

 When I checked into The Stafford, a discreetly located hotel just a few blocks away from Piccadilly, just off St. James Park and a short stroll from Buckingham Palace on one side and Fortnum and Mason on the other,  I was greeted by staff members who seemed to know me even before being introduced. In my room, I found personalized stationery with my London address and phone numbers, even a batch of personalized business cards.  From the welcome at reception  to such  touches in our rooms, the Stafford exudes warmth and an  attention to detail that makes the hotel  very special.

    The Stafford looks like many of the finer, small hotels of London, a simple entrance, a doorman, small. well-staffed reception and concierge area and pleasant sitting rooms off the lobby. What appealed to me was the instant feeling that I would be happy to stay here again and again, and that this truly was the  comfortable small London hotel I’d been looking for over the years.
        The Stafford’s American Bar, with walls and ceilings overflowing  with    miniature airplanes, plaques, autographed photos, club ties, cricket  bats, gloves,  football helmets, baseball caps, company and military insignia, all  donated by guests,  reminds me of the bar at Club 21 in New York. I don’t think I ever saw the lounge area unoccupied, and the bar at night was always jammed with smart Londoners, their conversations  rife with talk of weekends at country homes, yachting trips, and the escapades of nobility.
       Winding our way through the main house, we proceeded to the brick paved courtyard, flanked on one side by a bloc of carriage house accommodations, flowers on balconies and  tables for outdoor dining. Our accommodations were the kind   you hate to leave, bright, airy room, huge beds with layers of pillows, marble fireplace, and marble bathroom with tub and stall shower, elegant, comfortable  chairs,   computer accessories and wireless Internet, CD player, more electronics than a home office, and good views of a special corner of London.
     The real joy of The Stafford for me was its wine cellar, a seemingly endless warren of dusty cells stretching under the courtyard, rich in rarities from an era when London importers received   wines in casks and bottled and labeled them on demand for their customers. Gino Nardella, the veteran Stafford sommelier, told me there were 20,000 bottles in his caves; I  was so impressed by the sheer variety of legendary labels  and numbers, many, many of them going back to the late 1800’s,  that I would have believed him if he had told me there were twice that number.
     Ranging from the ancient to the new, Chef Mark Budd’s  menu is hardly the sort of antique-laden list you might expect at a hostelry of this age. At lunch there is, of course,  always a serving trolley with lamb en crôute or roast beef, but Budd is not wholly tied to tradition.  Given a challenging list  to chose from, we  started with grilled Orkney scallops ($34), large and wonderfully sweet;  fat spears of tender asparagus, dressed in a black-truffled sabayon sauce, and a half dozen native Colchester oysters ($32), a very special species, served on ice with a light cucumber and oyster juice jelly and dotted with oscetra caviar. The Colchesters, new to me, were firm and fleshy almost meaty, succulent and tasty,   and redolent of the cold waters northern waters where they   have rested the night before.
   We also shared roasted Bresse chicken ($56),  a wonderful bird plated with braised lentils and spring vegetables, foie gras and truffle ravioli, and Wild Scottish turbot ($70), a delightfully firm- fleshed fish, accompanied by  Calacanaise, a seldom seen sauce from Brittany, composed of  crème fraîche enriched with morsels of oyster and shrimp. Our third main was the least fussy,   a simple, if you can apply that term to one of the great treasures of the sea, Dover sole ($70), grilled just to the point of tenderness,and allowed to stand by its flavorsome self sans accoutrements other than just a little tartar sauce on the side that remained untouched.
      With all that richness, we had little appetite for dessert.  We sipped our evening coffee, nibbled at a few cookies, dipped   spoons in sherbet and happily retreated to our comfortable rooms in the Mews, there to rest happily,  preparing for  the next day when we would explore the shops and museums, galleries and parks, all within walking distance of this hidden gem.

Current room rates are $650-$800.

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.



La Zarza
166 First Avenue

by Edward Brivio
Photo by Bobby Pirillo

      A new addition to the ever-growing roster of top-notch East Village restaurants is La Zarza with its snug interior and well turned-out Spanish and Argentinean specialties. The dusky, den-like dining room features a predominance of dark, chocolate-brown wood, from the “railroad-tie” walls and tongue-in-groove floors, to small, sturdy tables and trim, comfortable chairs.  Candlelight only adds to the downtown boite setting. Exposed stone walls, as well as brick ones, add a bit of the grotto to the already rustic yet relaxed ambiance.  Space is tight--one way to hold down prices for its mostly young, neighborhood clientele--and the winelist is quite affordable  ($56 is the highest price bottle).

      Start with the quince-glazed, braised short ribs, all deep, dark brown, falling-off-the-bone, beefy goodness, or paradigmatic empanadas porteñas (do they make them this good in Buenos Aires?)—just thin, deep-fried, crackly crust and savory filling, the chicken was good but the spicy beef is what you should order—or ceviche of langosta (Maine lobsters do profit from a lime juice bath), the flesh was firm enough to register as cooked, but not having been subjected to heat left it as fresh and supple as the sea. Popcorn, however, no matter how well- and home-made, did not seem to me a worthy or suitable accompaniment.
      We loved our waitress, professional, friendly, but not overly chummy, and with a good grasp of the menu. When asked which she would recommend, the Patagonian rib-eye, or the grilled skirt steak, she quickly spoke up for the humbler cut of beef, and by-god she was right. The skirt steak was perfectly grilled, tender, and with an intense beef flavor. I’ve never had a more flavorful steak. All that was needed were a classic chimichurri sauce and a handful of grilled asparagus. Don’t miss the paella de la Zarza -- shrimps, clams, mussels, scallops, chicken and lobster over rice with a wonderful, pronounced chorizo flavor.  Most diners were sharing theirs, and there certainly was enough for two, but we finished it all –the rice was so tasty-- as well as the steak.
      It won’t be easy, but make sure to keep a little room for dessert. We didn’t, but still couldn’t pass-up either dulce de leche crème brûlée, or panqueqes--just about perfect, wafer-thin crêpes filled with dulce de leche.
      The small, thoughtful wine-list is full of bargains (for a second, I thought I was back in Rome). Our choice, a Finca el Caprio, 2005 Zumaya crianza, for just $39, a big fresh mouthful of 100% Tempranillo fruit with enough structure to keep it interesting, was emptied all too soon. There is a Sangria menu as well.

Appetizers: $8 to 14; entrees: $16-25; desserts: $7.

Edward Brivio is a freelance writer living in NYC.



Serendipity--Five Wonderful Wines for Summer

by John Mariani

     I have no idea how many wines I taste each year, but most of the time I’m tasting several of the same region or varietal for the purposes of this column.  And when I dine at home I will usually pick from those groups I wine I really liked.
     But the most satisfying thing about drinking wine is the discovery of a wonderful bottle you had not expected much from or you knew nothing about. Particularly in summer when I’m not ready to break out a bottle of Lafite-Rothschild to go with the hamburgers and hot dogs out on the grill, I like to pick rather willy-nilly a bottle that I’ve never tried.
      If it turns out to be awful, down the drain it goes. If it turns out to go well with food on the grill, I’m content.  And when I find it is much better than I expected, I am downright exultant. Indeed, these are really the wines I want to tell people about—none of them very expensive.  Here are five I’ve really enjoyed this summer.
      Pacific Rim is far too general a name to encourage high expectations, but I found this Washington winery turns out marvelous single vineyard rieslings,  particularly their 2007 Solstice Vineyard (right) from Yakima Valley.  According to the biblical language on the label, “15,000 years ago, the Missoula Floods ripped across the Pacific Northwest.  Colossal walls of water  carved the landscape with ten times the strength of all the world’s rivers. Volcanoes erupted with lava and ash. The soils of the Yakima Valley were born.”
      That’s a lot for a vineyard to live up to, but I thought this was one of the best American rieslings I’ve tasted in a long time.  With 13.5 percent alcohol and only 1/14 percent residual sugar, this is a semi-dry Riesling whose light sweetness buoys the fruit in the wine, without that fruit punch cloyingness you find in so many New World rieslings.  At $32 a bottle it’s a steal, and if you don’t drink it this summer, it will only get better with time.
     And for an informative, entertaining, and humorous look at the varietal, check out Pacific Rim’s website for their booklet on the subject.
      Enzo Bianchi is a winery in San Rafael, Mendoza (below), that shows how quickly modern Argentine wines have developed, in this case with help from California winemaker Bob Pepi, who founded Pepi Winery (since sold) and now owns Eponymous. The Enzo Bianchi 2003 is simply labeled “Red Wine,” a big blend of Cabernet and other varietals, with plenty of tannin (it’s aged in oak 21 months) and dark fruit that makes it an ideal wine for any red meat cooked on the grill, particularly seared beef.
      Two other cabernets, from California, impressed me for their richness, their complexity, and their brightness. Winemaker The 2004 Hess Collection Mount Veeder ($50) comes from the coolest southern-most section of Napa Valley, whose volcanic soil and scarcity of water forces the vines to achieve an intensity vines from hotter, wetter microclimates rarely show. Dave Guffy likes to “walk the vines,” meaning he keeps a focus on their healthiness and how the grapes are developing during the harvest. Hess makes It’s a tight wine but it blossoms quickly, and seems almost chewy with fruit at 92 percent cabernet sauvignon, 5 percent petit verdot, 2 percent cabernet franc, and 1 percent merlot.
      Softer but just as rich is Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($27) made in Yountville vineyards. The balance of toasty coffee notes and black cherry flavors. At 14 percent alcohol, it won’t blow you away, and the mix of 79 percent cabernet sauvignon, 9 percent petit verdot,
6 percent syrah, 2 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent merlot, and 1 percent carignan gives it all kinds of lovely nuances.
      Lighter on the nuances but still a very good example of cabernet franc, the 1997 Beringer Third Century ($75) is winemaker Ed Sbraglia’s commemoration of Beringer’s three centuries’ history. The wine has a touch of cabernet sauvignon in it to give it a little heft, but this is a superb example of the soft, pretty medium-bodied charms of cabernet franc, a wine that is as much of an enhancement with hamburgers and hot dogs as it is grilled chicken and meat-and-vegetable kababs.

John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and some of its articles play on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.



A 413-pound prison inmate in Bentonville, Arkansas, lost 100 pounds eating prison food at 3000 calories a day. He thereupon filed a federal lawsuit contending that he felt faint after exercising and that “about an hour after each meal my stomach starts to hurt and growl. I feel hungry again.”


"The first time I sucked down Scott Conant's baby goat was in 2000 at City Eatery, a hapless restaurant on the Bowery that probably never should have existed. In fact, he's pretty much written it out of his résumé. The goat, however, was stupendous—crackling clumps of dark meat, so flavorful that a tiny shred filled the mouth like an exploding M-80."—Robert Sietsema, "Getting My Goat," Village Voice (6/24/08)


* From July 25-27 the inaugural Crested Butte Land Trust Wine & Food Festival will showcase hundreds of wines and cuisine with seminars ($30 each), dinners, and a grand tasting in Crested Butte, Colo. Chef events incl. Andrea Frizzi of Il Posto (Denver) and Tim Egelhoff of Timberline (Crested  Butte); Elise Wiggins of Panzano (Denver) and Leo Novak of Rustica and Fete  Catering (Crested Butte); Richard Sandoval of Tamayo, Zengo and  La Sandia (Denver) and Chef Mike Marchitelli of Marchitelli’s  Gourmet Noodle (Crested Butte); Tyler Wiard of Elway’s (Denver) and Chef Jason Vernon of Soupcon (Crested  Butte). A full schedule and event info is available at

* All' Angelo in Los Angeles introduces an "angelic" deal --Wine & Dine menu, a 4-course dinner prix fixe offered for just $39 every Mon.-Thurs., accompanied by a rotating Wines of the Week, 6 wines by the glass for $6 each.  Call  323-933-9540. . . . Also, on July 28 All’Angelo will hold a 
wine dinner showcasing the wines of Luigi Coppa at $150 pp.  Visit

* On July 26 in Beverly Hills, CA,  Two Rodeo and LearnAboutWine present STARS of France - the second in this summer's premier three-part series, celebrating the finest wines from around the world. Sommeliers will pour over 40 top-flight French wines and champagnes from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Loire Valley. Fine French cuisine will be served Recording artist, Rosey; to  benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation.  $99 for first 50 guests to register online (; $140 at the door.

* From Aug. 4-Sept. 14 Patina Restaurant Group announced that they will host its first national Peach and Plum Festival featuring a range of peach and plum varieties in both sweet and savory forms, as well as in beverages.  For participating restaurants visit

* NYC’s Tabla announces the arrival of its new Street Cart, an outdoor, take-out food stand located in front of the restaurant on Madison Avenue at 25th street. The cart offers an  array of Chef Floyd Cardoz’s New Indian “street foods,” such as sold from the street carts commonly found in Chef Cardoz's native India, the stand will be open Mon. – Fri.

* From July 31-Aug. 3 in Steamboat, CO, this year's Wine Festival at Steamboat, sponsored by The Porches, celebrates 500 wine tastings, pairings, gourmet dinners, seminars and culinary competitions, with featured guests incl.  Christian Chambers, Synergy;   Stephen Kautz, Ironstone Vineyards; Doug Krenik, Master Sommelier;   Susie Mayr, Folio Fine Wine; Chris Rowe, Old Bridge Cellars;   Ann Thrupp, Fetzer Vineyards; Mark Chandler, Executive Director, Lodi Winegrape Commission;   Dave Philips, Owner, Michael David Winery.  $65 pp. Visit

*   From Aug. 7-9 the Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits Festival features culinary demos, a wine auction that benefits local charities, chefs incl. Michael Cimarusti, Providence, LA; Joseph Manzare, Globe and Zuppa, SF;  Marco Stabile,  Ora D’Aria Ristorante, Florence, Italy;  and Christoph Wagner from Lech, Austria.

* From now until Aug. 31, The French Riviera’s Château de la Tourhas offers a summer promotion pavkage, a 2-night stay in a Deluxe Room with sea view; choice of either buffet or continental breakfast,  welcome gift and bottle of Champagne, dinner for two in the Chateau’s Restaurant “Le 10,” incl. wine, and 2 round-trip boat passes to one of  the Lérins Islands (Îles de Lérins).  €775 (approx. $1,220).Visit

* Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, VA, is currently celebrating the history of the grape in Virginia with The Wine Escape package: 2 nights’ accommodations,  plus a wine tasting, a local vineyard tour, and a 5-course dinner at the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, Fossett’s by Executive Chef Craig Hartman. Available thru November 2008. Rates start at $1175 on weekdays and $1235. Visit or call 1-888-778-2565.

* On Aug 2 & 3 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will present the 5th Annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans, pitting 20 chefs, each nominated by the governor of the state he or she represents, against one another for the title of “King or Queen of American Seafood.” For details, visit

* On Aug.  8, Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, MA, will hold a Spanish wine event with the wines of Rioja paired with a 4-course dinner,  with remarks by Rioja Brand Ambassador and Sommelier Lisa Carley.  Also,  a silent auction featuring rare wines, and a Chocolate + Rioja dessert extravaganza sponsored by Richart Chocolates!  $125 pp.  Go to:

* The 16th Annual Winemakers’ Celebration in Monterey Wine Country is Scheduled for Aug. 9, at the Historic Custom House Plaza in downtown Monterey. The festivities exclusively feature 45+ Monterey County wineries/ Silent auction, and a chance to win a 5-day stay at the Pueblo Bonito Resort in Cabo San Lucas. Tix: $35 pp or $40 at the event.   Designated driver tickets $15. Call 831-375-9400, or visit online at

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with three 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: THIS WEEK: Estate Concordia Eco Tents, St. John, USVI


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contrinbutor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


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). THIS WEEK: A Report on The Four Seasons Jackson Hole. 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,  Naomi  Kooker, Suzanne Wright, John A. Curtas, 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 Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

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

My 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

© copyright John Mariani 2008