Virtual Gourmet

May 3,  2009                                                                  NEWSLETTER

Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times" (1936)



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A PROUD ANNOUNCEMENTThe American Society of Magazine Editors handed out its National Magazine Award in the Leisure Interests category, which "recognizes excellent service journalism about leisure-time pursuits" to Esquire Magazine's "The Esquire Almanac of Steak" (Sept. 2008), to which I contributed two articles, "The 20 Best Steaks in America" and "Outback Steakhouse: The Review." You can read all the articles in the section at this link:

In This Issue

Dining Out in PHOENIX by John Mariani



Dining Out in PHOENIX

by John Mariani

    Phoenix may not leap to most people’s minds as a gastronomic capital, but in fact I find consistently that, together with Scottsdale, the city offers an exceptionally broad array of restaurants of every stripe, from downhome Mexican eateries to lavishly appointed resort dining rooms.  In fact, I think the combination of the two cities offers more culinary excitement than any other city in the southwest; only Las Vegas is in the same league. (In next week's issue, I will be writing about the restaurants of Scottsdale and other locations in the area.)
    Some of the Valley of the Sun’s restaurants have by now become classics, from the evocative old Durant’s, which since 1950 has been dishing out mesquite-grilled chicken, calf’s liver and bacon, and juicy Prime rib, to the always inventive Vincent Guérithault’s on Camelback, whose eponymous owner was a pioneer of French-Southwestern cuisine (and with whom I wrote a cookbook, see below).
      Nobuo Fukuda’s 16-seat Sea Saw has a solid claim to being the best Japanese restaurant in the Southwest (along with a 2,400 selection winelist), just as Pizzeria Bianco has been hailed as making some of the best pizza in the United States.
       There have been a few notable demises recently: The over-the-top posh Mary Elaine’s in The Phoenician Resort has been replaced by a J-G Steakhouse (the J-G in question being Jean-Georges Vongerichten), and the fine Spanish restaurant Marquesa at the Scottsdale Princess is being turned into, guess what? Bourbon Steakhouse, run by Michael Mina. Here are some of the more individualized restaurants of the moment.

f course, no one going to Phoenix/Scottsdale will want to miss out on the city's strong Mexican food culture, well served at the the stark, no-frills Carolina’s (two stores) where at breakfast you can chow down on machaca with egg burros and green corn tamales for very little money. Then go hike up Camelback Mountain.

3118 E Camelback Road

NOCA, an acronym for North Camelback, the main drag that runs through Phoenix, is a casual, drop-in kind of place with terrific food by Chef Chris Curtiss.  Set in the Biltmore Plaza shopping mall with the look of a high-end luncheonette—bare tables, simple chairs, counter service, stainless steel-backed open kitchen, and a neon green sign out front--Noca nevertheless is a very canny exemplar of casual American dining.  Curtiss, who comes out of fine San Fran restaurants like The Fifth Floor and Masa’s, serves a highly sophisticated menu at remarkably moderate prices—main courses start at $23 for a tasting of vegetables and top out at $34 for a generous rib-eye with sauce bordelaise.
    In between are some great dishes, including some of the best, juiciest skate tail I’ve ever had, with mushroom raviolo, sautéed spinach, and wild mushrooms.   His training shows in his precision with classic items like his creamy torchon of foie gras with apple jam, almonds, and toasted brioche, others delightfully original, like kampachi (Hawaiian yellowtail) with a ginger-flecked crème fraîche, avocado, and a subtle, smoked paprika oil.  He, like every chef these days, serves pasta and does it well, especially his spinach mezzaluna ravioli with ricotta, mascarpone, pecorino and a reduction of balsamic. His pork tenderloin with crisp but melting pork belly, coriander-scented spaetzle, and Golden Delicious apples makes even sun-burnt Phoenix taste like winter.

Noca's appetizers run $12-$18, main courses $23-$31. Open for dinner Tues.-Sun.

The Farm at South Mountain
6106 South 32nd Street

  Unique in the region, and truly rare anywhere in the U.S., is Quiessence near Tempe—a far too snooty name for an extremely amiable farm-location restaurant whose mantra is “hand-crafted cuisine,” which means the ingredients used by Chef-owner Gregory LaPrad (right, with chef de cuisine Anthony Andiario) come as much as possible from his own garden or from artisanal farmers nearby: his lamb is raised less than a mile away.
       The spacious, open dining rooms, looking out over the farm (there are al fresco tables here too), is modestly rustic, the service staff very knowledgeable about everything on your plate and in the wine bottles from a superb list, and there are several price and course options here, from a six-course $75 tasting menu to a “Recession Fighting Menu” that features a $10 breakfast special, a $15 “Burgers & Brew” lunch, and a 3-course $29 dinner.
     I was happy to have LaPrad cook for our table, and out came la platter of housemade salumi, terrines, and cheeses –he carries nearly artisanal 20 cheeses at any one time—followed by fabulous swordfish grilled over pecan wood to obtain a light, nutty smokiness, with romano beans and a romesco sauce.  His rabbit stew with aromatics and red bliss potatoes was bourgeois cookery at its best, and I can’t think of a lovelier way to end a meal in such a lovely setting than with his warm, apple toffee cake with butterscotch sauce and vanilla whipped cream.
     I can think of only two other restaurants in the U.S. with the kind of deeply entrenched "farm-to-table" commitment Quiessence has—Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico, NY, and The Herbfarm outside of Seattle. Many restaurants now claim the phrase, but few do so with this kind of honest conviction.

Quiessence is open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat.; Dinner appetizers run $8-$16, main courses $27-$29. Six-course tasting menu $75.

2814 N. 16th Street

 One of the best Mexican restaurants in Phoenix is Barrio Café, run by the ebullient and intensely authoritative Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza (below) and her partner Wendy Gruber.   Three colorful dining rooms and bar make up this engagingly funky place whose menu pictures a red-faced bandito who looks as if he’s waited too long for his food. Be patient: this is truly excellent, very authentic Mexican food, the ingredients for which Esparza, who is nothing if not ebulliently serious about her cooking, goes everywhere, from Arizona to Mexico, which she visits once a month to gather things like fresh seasonal oregano.
     Barrio Café carries 250 tequilas, and the margaritas are impeccably made, as is the creamy, rich guacamole, which she mixes with pomegranate seeds, adding a nice sweetness and texture to the blend.  Tequila and garlic also lace the delicious shrimp quesadillas, and the house specialties here are tortas topped with items like slow-roasted Mayan-style achiote-spiced cochinita pibil (pulled pork), which is juicy and well-seasoned.  The festive chiles en nogada—poblanos stuffed with chicken, onions, pecans, and fruits--a dish often only prepared for celebrations, are lavished with a rich almond sauce dotted with pomegranate seeds.
      BC notes on its website that its food is not deliberately chile-hot, for Esparza wants the myriad seasonings and spices she sues to reveal them selves in her cooking, and, once you meet her, you'll trust your appetite to her and learn a lot in the process.

Barrio Cafe is open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat.  Appetizers run $10-$15.50, main courses $18-$26.



by John Mariani


113 Macdougal Street (near Bleecker)

    It would be farfetched to call Keith McNally a genius restaurateur, but he certainly does have the touch for charming the media and attracting the kind of people who absolutely, positively have to get a table in his restaurants, which include Balthazar, Pravda, Morandi, Pastis, Schiller's Liquor Bar, and Lucky Strike, most of which have had a long life and packed houses, no matter if the food is particularly distinctive or exciting. All are casual; one, Balthazar, is huge, and most serve more or less a French bistro menu with American items. (Morandi is Italian, Pravda a caviar-and-vodka bar.)
    The prospect that a Keith McNally resto is about to open will be tracked relentlessly by the foodie media, not least New York Magazine, which posted weekly notices of the resto's impending opening. As McNally's website notes, he arrived in NYC from London in 1975 and "got fired from every job he ever held." In 1980, along with his then-wife Lynn Wagenknecht (who now runs the execrable Café Cluny) and his brother Brian, opened Odéon, one of TriBeCa's first good restaurants, followed by Café Luxembourg (1983), and Nell's (1986), from which he separated himself to open Balthazar in 1997, by which time he had acquired a rep for attracting the fashion and media crowd, the models and actors.
     There's no question that Balthazar was his masterpiece--a big, brightly lit, convivial brasserie evoking Parisian models like Bofinger and La Coupole. What set Balthazar apart from his former partners' places was that, despite the difficulty of getting into Balthazar and other of Keith's restaurants, the reception and service were always very cordial, despite having to deal with egos demanding tables and special attention.  As does any sensible restaurateur, McNally (below, at Balthazar) allowed easy access to regulars, VIPs, and celebrities but never in the obnoxious way that made the rest of his guests feel belittled or even unwanted, as was the case with his brother Brian's notorious 150 Wooster or Graydon Carter's elitist Waverly Inn.  If you got a rez at one of Keith's restaurant, it will be honored and you will always be  treated right.
    So now comes Minetta Tavern, which had been a fairly scruffy fixture in Greenwich Village (where McNally and his family live) since 1937,  and has, over the years,  fed everyone from Ernest Hemingway and Dylan Thomas to E.E. Cummings and Ezra Pound.  McNally's partners are his longtime chefs from Balthazar, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr,  who describe Minetta  Tavern as  a "Parisian steakhouse meets classic New York City tavern," which I think is entirely apt. The place has been cleaned up and restored without destroying the antique look of the place. Indeed, if you'd never been to Minetta Tavern you would think everything is as it's always been, complete with black-and-white photos of eminent and forgotten New Yorkers, from Rocky Marciano to Mayor Bob Wagner.                                                      
photo: Keith Hamilton
     There are comfortable booths, dark wood wainscoting, a scrubbed mural of Olde New York, and even tablecloths, so the Tavern has retained the raffishness it had developed all those years ago, even if its reputation for food had never been particularly high. A 1971 restaurant guide called Minetta "a middle-class haven from the Mardi-Gras bacchanalian swarm of MacDougal Street," when dinner for two, with cocktails, wine, and tip would run about $23. Today $23 will almost get you a cheeseburger ($16) and French fries ($8), which are actually very decent prices these days.  Appetizers run $10-$16 and entrees $16-$32 (with a côte de boeuf for two people at a not unreasonable $90); there is both a bar menu and supper menu, too.  The winelist is admirably heavy with good regional bottlings under $50, and when the second of two bottles of the same wine came to our table a bit off--but not at all turned--McNally himself apologized and took it off the bill without our asking. Service throughout is cordial and knowledgeable; none seems starstruck, despite the occasional sightings of people who go by one name.
     And so we began  with a very good, rustic oxtail and foie gras terrine with buttery poached leeks and good country bread. Also delicious was a filet of trout meunière with crabmeat and brioche croutons, and although it was mightily fatty--not a demerit--a pig's trotter was succulent and perfectly cooked, given some zing from Dijon mustard, lentils, and an herb salad. If you're not too hungry, two could share this rich dish. 
Creamed, saffron-yellow billi bi soup--an old bistro item rarely seen anymore--was good in itself, though the mussels were much too large and unwieldy; at least one of them didn't smell so good either, but that can happen anywhere.  A mesclun salad with goat's cheese was about average. The Minetta Burger with cheddar cheese and caramelized onions is just fine, if not outstanding, though my friend and food/wine writer Peter Meltzer said he'd had the more impressive "Black Label Burger" ($26) made from a "selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts" on another night.
       I was very happy with a Tavern steak with very good pommes frites, and, under the "grillades" section the lamb saddle "tranche" had precisely the right flavor and chewiness it should possess. Stuffed cabbage, at just $8, was terrific. The only real disappointment was a side order of potatoes aligot, an Auvergne classic that should be gooey, stringy, and intensely rich with melted Tomme or other cheeses and a little garlic flavor; instead Minetta's was pleasant but more like potato purée with a little cheese whipped in. The cheese selection, by the way, is excellent here and in perfectly ripe condition.
     For dessert don't fail to have the marvelous Grand Marnier soufflé, which is a paragon of these puffy little miracles, and much better than the only O.K. pot de creme (a tad gummy).
     McNally has managed not just to restore Minetta Tavern as the best French bistro in the Village but he has done so with respect for the restaurant's legacy.  That it for the moment attracts a new crowd of people who might someday have their photos on the wall here is a lot of fun, too, but only as long as McNally and his staff keep the rest of us happy with good food, wine, and service.

Minetta Tavern is open for dinner nightly. Soon to be open for brunch.



Police shuttered a T.G.I. Friday's in NYC's Financial District after finding workers there had been selling drugs in the restaurant for seven years, often to Wall Street traders, brokers and bankers.  "It was common knowledge that after work, if you needed martinis, mozzarella sticks or marijuana, this was the place to go," a source told The NY Post. "It's the place with the three M's." According to a policeman, "You went up, you order your drink, you put down whatever you want - $20, $40, $60 - the guy doesn't say anything to you. He pulls out the drugs, he puts it in a napkin, he puts the napkin up on the bar, you take the napkin."


"When it comes to cooks, I'm with Julius Caesar (as sampled by Shakespeare): `Let me have chefs about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men such as sleep at nights.' Yond' Ramsay may not have a lean and hungry look (you'll forgive me for tinkering with the Bard on this one; there's not one of us who can't be improved by a little temperature subbing), but nor is he a lardbucket, and such men, as Tana will verily agree, are dangerous. No, just as you can’t put too much faith in a bald barber or in a psychiatrist whose jacket does up from the back, so you cannot fully trust a professional cook with a Body Mass index anywhere near whatever nonsense the powers that be classify as `normal'.”—Matthew Norman, “Corrigan’s,” The Guardian.



To all public relations people: Owing to the amount of press releases regarding Mother's Day dinners, I regret that it is impossible to list any but very special events.

* On May 2, in NYC, in partnership with Danny Myer’s Union Square Restaurant Group, Eleven Madison Park and Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon, Esquire Magazine hosts the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby at Eleven Madison Park and will host 250 guests for a day of great horse racing (“The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports”), classic Maker’s Mark Mint Julep cocktails, a Kentucky inspired menu by Chef David Humm, Cigars by Nat Sherman, and classic Kentucky Derby attire. There will also be an auction that will benefit the N.Y. Horse Rescue. Guests will be invited to dress up for the Derby and enjoy a day watching the 12 different horse races that take place starting at 3 pm.Tix are $250 pp. and can be purchased by emailing:

* In Carmel, CA, a “Wine Collector’s Package” has been created by L’Auberge Carmel, Aubergine restaurant and Michaud Vineyard that incl.: One night stay in a  queen guest room; 4-course  dinner for two;  Michaud Vineyard Gift Box featuring three specially selected wines;  European style breakfast.Prices start at $525, valid Sun.-Thurs. until June 30.  Call 831-624-8578 or visit

* On May 3 in Houston, SOS Taste of the Nation Houston will take place at the Houstonian Hotel Club & Spa, serving food and wine from 50+ of Houston’s  restaurants and chefs, which benefits the Houston Food Bank.  $100 and $200 pp. Call 713-355-7766 or visit

* On May 6 in Worthington, OH,The Worthington Inn holds its "First Wednesday of the Month" 4-course Wine Dinner. $70 pp. Call  614-885-2600.

* In Newton Highlands, MA, 51 Lincoln will serve "30 Days, 30 Ways with Soft Shell Crab Primes," which are only in season in May. Call 617-965-3100; visit

* Aer Lingus Vacation Store is offering the "Ultimate Affordable Luxury" package incl. round-trip Premier Business Class airfare to Dublin, 6 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, full breakfast, full-size rental car with unlimited mileage and GPS Navigation, dinner at Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt; Waterford Crystal Entrance and Exhibition, and Shannon Region Discount Booklet.  Available June 1-March 31, 2010, from $2,999 pp. from NYC,  Boston, DC, and Chicago and from $3,099 from San Francisco. Call 800-495-7632; visit:

* On May 7, "Farm to Plate" in Austin, TX, is Sustainable Food Center’s 2nd annual fundraiser featuring the food and wine of Central Texas, with over 20 chefs and 10 wineries participating,  at Barr Mansion and Artisan Ballroom. Tix $85, Tables of 8 at $800. Visit

 * On May 11 in NYC, wine from Molon Lave Vineyard, a Virginia based winery, will be officially launched at the Greek Consulate at a reception to celebrate the opening of the Martha Graham New York season.  The wine bottles feature a specially created label by international artist of Greek origin, Philip Tsiaras.  Molon Lave will be donating all of the wine to be served at the Martha Graham Gala on May 14th at New York University.  Call 212-319-7561.

* On May 11 the 28th Sherry-Lehmann/Kevin Zraly Master Wine Class will be a tasting of the ‘Super Second Pauillac’--Château Pichon-Longueville Baron with guest of honor Christian Seely, Managing Director AXA Millésimes, at
Gilt Restaurant in NYC.  $250 pp.  Call 845-255-1456 or email

* On May 12 in San Francisco, The Rosé Avengers & Producers  will  hold their annual rosé tasting, "PINK OUT! SF" at Butterfly Restaurant with 40 participating wineries. A trade and media tasting runs from 3:30-6 pm, followed by the consumer tasting from 6:30-8:30. Consumer tix $35 in advance from;  $45 at the door. Call 800-497-3376.

* On  May 13, the  Argyle Steakhouse in Carlsbad, CA, presents a taste   of  4 premium  Glenmorangie  selections  along  with  steaks and cigars,  with  a  hand-rolled  cigar  before  retiring  for dinner in the Clubhouse Library.  $130 pp. Call 760-603-3773.

* On May 13 Castle Hill Inn & Resort in Newport, RI,  presents a Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars wine dinner with  Jeff McBride, VP and GM at Stag’s Leap  and Chef Jonathan Cambra’s 5-course dinner.   $160 pp. Packages begin at $722.60.  Call 401-848-0918.

* On May 13 at Brooklyn's BAMCafe, Edible Brooklyn,  Edible Manhattan and Edible East End, with support from the Long Island Wine Council and the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, will be holding its 3rd annual sipping soiree: Brooklyn Uncorked,  at the  Brooklyn Academy of Music. $40 pp; $20 for those who purchase a subscription to Edible Brooklyn. or

* On May 14 in Los Angeles, the 7th Annual Wine Aficionado Dinner benefiting the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program will take place at the Walt Disney Concert Hall: “2005: Vintage of the Millennium (so far!),” features 3 flights, from the great 2005 vintage. Also, a live auction. $1,250 pp or $10,000 per table of ten, Call 323-330-0520 or email to

* On May 14,  the “2009 Taste of Spring” Food & Wine Benefit to benefit the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute will be held at NYC’s Midtown Loft with honorees Wendy’s  - Supporter, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption ; Cyril Renaud – Chef / Owner, Bar Breton and featuring restaurants Barbuto,     David Burke Townhouse, Jean Georges, Singapore Sling,  and Zarela. Ticket levels  from $100-$2,500, Sponsorship levels $5,000-$50,000. Visit

From May 15-17 the 2009 “Lodi ZinFest – Wine, Food, and Fun at Lodi Lake” in Lodi, CA, celebrates the Zinfandel grape, incl.: Vintners’ Grille at Lodi Lake with local vintners as they share a selection of Lodi’s with  cuisine; ZinFest Wine Festival will feature 50+ wineries with food from the region’s best restaurants, live music; noted wine specialists and chefs will offer something for everyone at the ZinFest Wine & Cooking School; Winery Open Houses; Visit or call 209-367-4727.

* On May 15 The Fifth Annual Greater New York Wine & Food Festival presents "Chefs Uncorked: Big Talent, Small Bites" Kick-Off Party in the Grand Ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown, NY.  Chefs incl.  David DiBari of The Cookery;  James Rosenbauer of Bistro Z ; David Haviland of Equus at The Castle ;  Vincent Barcelona of Harvest-on-Hudson;  Anthony Goncalves of Restaurant 42;  Doug Nguyen of Wasabi;  and Debbie Lovrich of Woody's Parkside Grill.  $60 pp. VIP $90. Visit

* On May 16 & 17 The Historic Inns of Spring Lake in New Jersey are hosting 3rd annual "AUTHORS & INNS TOUR" of 11 inns ($15 pp) featuring celebrity chefs/restaurateur’s cookbook signings. Guests staying at any of the Inns for the weekend receive a complimentary Tour Ticket as well as admission to the Private Culinary Appearances on Saturday, May 16.  Manhattan Lifestyle Reporter Wanda Mann is Mistress of Ceremonies for the weekend. Call 732-859-1465; visit

  * On May 17 the music, dance, culture and cuisine of Sicily  come to the streets of San Diego 's Little Italy as part of the 16th Annual FESTA celebration on  India Street. The highly popular FREE family event features  authentic Sicilian food and entertainment, with 4 stages featuring a wide variety of  Sicilian and Italian entertainment. Food booths will line the streets and a wine and beer garden.  Visit www.sicilianfesta.

* From May 15-17 in Philo, CA,  The Anderson Valley Winegrowers Assoc. will hold the 12th annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. Featured speakers incl. Rusty Gaffney, author of PinotFile, Dan Duckhorn of Goldeneye Winery and Duckhorn Wine Company, and Joe Phillips, MS, sommelier at Bellagio Las Vegas. BBQ at Husch Vineyards with 40+ wineries,  and will food and  wines from around the state. Entertainment by Mendocino County artists, silent auction to benefit local charities.Visit or call (707) 895-WINE.

* On May 17 the music, dance, culture and cuisine of Sicily  come to the streets of San Diego 's Little Italy as part of the 16th Annual FESTA celebration on  India Street. The highly popular FREE family event features  authentic Sicilian food and entertainment, with 4 stages featuring a wide variety of  Sicilian and Italian entertainment. Food booths will line the streets and a wine and beer garden.  Visit www.sicilianfesta.


NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with four excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: In Search of Value: What;'s the Best Way to Stretch Value This Summer?


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor 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:    Tips on (Tennis) Tipping.

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. 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 2009