Virtual Gourmet

May 31,  2009                                                                  NEWSLETTER

Wrigley's Doublemint Gum Ad by Otis Shepherd, circa 1938



ARCHIVE:  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

Las Vegas: CHECKPOINT CHARLIE--Restaurant Charlie/Bar Charlie
by John A. Curtas

NEW YORK CORNER by John Mariani





Restaurant Charlie/Bar Charlie
The Palazzo Hotel and Resort
3325 Las Vegas Boulevard South

        “Why wouldn’t we be?” is the answer Charlie Trotter gives me when I ask him if his Las Vegas location is going to weather the economic storm and stay open. “Business is down in Chicago and everywhere about 20%,” he continues, “and private parties have disappeared (people won’t book because they think it’s bad form), but we’re working harder and trimming labor costs and still think Restaurant Charlie provides a serious value for the level of cooking we’re doing.”
    After half a dozen meals here in the past year, I couldn’t agree with him more. So far, Trotter (below) has been an every other month visitor to his Las Vegas outposts since they opened, but leaves the day to day cooking to a rotating team of chefs from his namesake restaurant in Chicago."Many things have handicapped RC since it opened in March’08 – not least the bottom dropping out of the economy almost immediately after it opened its doors.  It also doesn’t help that the restaurant is practically hidden behind a double bank of escalators just off the casino floor at The Palazzo. But finding it isn’t exactly hard, and once you do, you will enter The World Of Charlie T. – handsomely represented by three distinct rooms.
     To your right is Bar Charlie,  the domain of Hiroo Nagana,  a Japanese chef of supreme confidence specializing in hand-made, mostly raw seafood and vegetable delicacies served kaiseki-style as a succession of small plates. In appearance, Bar Charlie resembles a long, low, black lacquered, 14-seat sushi bar (displaying no fish however). Had it opened three years earlier, it might now be spoken of in the hushed tones reserved for Masa in New York or Urasawa in Los Angeles.   As luck would have it, this stylish, innovative concept (for Vegas anyway) of quality over quantity has had to struggle to gain acceptance with the Las Vegas convention crowds – and the American food writing press.
     Those who take the plunge are amply rewarded with artfully composed creations that change daily -- like kampachi with pickled pork belly and kumquat, or Charlie’s take on egg drop soup (with lobster and sea urchin), or crispy abalone with fennel and saikyo miso – each a combination of Japanese refinement and American earthiness.
   Likewise, a dish of small, fried, five-spiced globe artichokes -- dressed with thick streaks of honey, mint sauce, pine nuts and shiso leaves, or Tasmanian ocean trout -- compacted into a perfect, one-bite cylinder, draped with pickled fennel and salmon roe and garnished with a fresh-made barley “chip” – are tiny masterpieces of composition and explosive flavors.
    The quality of the seafood here will also take your breath away, and the complex recipes always highlight the main ingredients without overwhelming them. Those impeccable ocean ingredients and the thought that goes into these arcane combinations are what you’re paying for. In a town of expensive restaurants, Bar Charlie is at or near the top. But for those seeking the pristine and the inventive, in all things seafood, it is a must-stop on any gourmand’s journey.
    Speaking of journeys, this is Trotter’s second to the High Mojave Desert. When he made his first foray into Las Vegas in 1994-1995,  at the MGM, his food was a dead ringer for the avant-garde dishes that catapulted him onto the national scene in 1989. The problem was he wanted to duplicate both his food  and the mandatory prix fixe format of his Windy City original, which
back then in Vegas was a no-no, given the "anything-goes-and-give-me-anything-I want" attitude of your typical Vegas high roller.
    Both Trotter’s food and his attitude have softened over the past fifteen years, and his Las Vegas outpost can be enjoyed as a tasting extravaganza, or a cherry-picked à la carte experience. Either way, you will find plenty of awe-inspiring eats on the menu.
    Before the meal starts though, a cocktail at the eight-seat, L-shaped bar is practically mandatory. Whether your libation tastes run from the vintage (a true Pimm’s Cup) to the modern (a Japanese Sunshine made with Dreamy Clouds Nigori sake, Okunomatsu soju, fresh grapefruit and orange juice and candied orange), there is a hand-made cocktail to suit your tastes – or the bartenders will gladly whip something up on the spot. They make all their garnishes, syrups and mixes in house and change the 16-drink list seasonally, so pleasant surprises abound at the bar as much as they do on your plate.
    From whatever your aperitif, it’s a short stroll into the 80-seat dining room – highlighted (literally) by a Chef’s Table looking down on both the room and the kitchen.
    Start with either hot or cold apps and focus on such ingenuities as Dungeness crab salad with sake and rice milk (really a foam), or a terrine of Maine skate wing with celery root, pearl onions and seaweed.  I’ve even found myself taken with his warm salad of heirloom beets and pickled egg – which is really saying something for someone who has advocated a “ban the beets” boycott in restaurants throughout the land.
     Equally compelling are warm items like a tart of lobster with Spanish chorizo and black trumpet mushrooms and caramelized onions – the flavor of each ingredient strongly in evidence – or a tempura-fried Icelandic langoustine with cockles, celery, atop a Yukon Gold potato base and sprinkled with just enough roasted shallot vinaigrette to make a difference.
     To say the cooking here is almost perfect is an understatement; to call it sublime is much closer to the mark. Almost nothing comes to your table looking like you think it should, that “flan” being a reconstructed one – with chunks of lobster sitting on a millefeuille disk, surrounded by mushroom essence – both as sauce smudges and foam.
    Entrées disconcert as well, but in delicious ways: I expected fried sea bream with citrus, chile and cilantro to be garnished with same; instead all three had been whirled into a deep green, speckled emulsion of such intensity that it should supplant hollandaise or beurre blanc as every chef’s fish sauce.
    Sea scallops are properly sweet and simply napped with a parsley emulsion, and the simple square of Casco Bay cod tastes like some guy in a Nantucket rain slicker just hauled it off his boat.
     As a finale, there are Vannessa Garcia’s desserts. Only 26 years old, and with only in-house restaurant training to guide her, this James Beard nominee is a savant with sweets. Her platings might give a classicist pause – so jumbled do they appear – but after a moments reflection you will appreciate the abstract impressions taking place before you. And like an impressionist, her riffs on a theme are rooted in a deep appreciation of classical forms.
    For example: her goji berry ice cream with quinoa, persimmons, spiced cranberry and orange sauce – where quinoa provides the bass notes for tart and sweet flavors to play off of. In another, Garcia’s semolina “pudding,” sort of a crumbling corn bread with a higher education,  is garnished with infused blueberries surrounding a tarragon semifreddo and a lime-basil sorbet. In both cases, what appears decomposed is anything but, and, as in an abstract painting, a lot of thought and composition have gone into making it look so haphazard.
There's also a cream cheese brown butter tart, sour cream sorbet, blueberries, and tiny basil (left). Best of all, Garcia’s creations will knock you over with their intensity.

     Expect to pay at least $200/person at Bar Charlie. In the main restaurant, dishes can be ordered à la carte, and prices range from $20-$32 for appetizers, and $38-$75 for main courses. The restaurant is open for dinner only.

Since 1995 John A. Curtas  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


by John Mariani


     It is almost impossible to cover Italian restaurants in NYC because the good old ones endure and the new ones pop up like spring arugula.  NYC has plenty of superb, high-end ristoranti like Barbetta, Del Posto, and Alto, Babbo, San Pietro and others, and scores of lovably old-fashioned places like Patsy's, Mario's, and Rao's. But increasingly NYC is getting more and more evocative, often regional trattorias with owners and chefs wholly committed to serving the same food you'll find in counterparts in Bari, Pescara, Bologna, and Genoa.  Some of these stellar trattorias I have already written about in this newsletter, including Il Poeta, Zero Otto Nove, Felice, Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto, Nizza, and others. Here are two new ones I am very, very happy about.

1574 2nd Avenue (at 81st Street)

     People who continue to snub the Upper East Side about a lack of good restaurants are the same ones now claiming there are dozens on the West Side. Neither gripe is even remotely true.  Opus is one of many good restaurants on the  UES that rank with the best trattorias in New York--certainly better than so many newcomers on the Lower East Side or NoLita. And Opus is a trattoria, although those who recall the enchanting Lentini down the block will find the menus similar: well, they should, for the Lentini Brothers, Enzo up front, Giuseppe in the kitchen, ran Lentini for ten years before running out their lease. Rather than keep the old name, the brothers decided to give a boost to their charming new eatery by giving it a new name; many of the favorite old dishes remain intact, along with an admirable appeal to those who must eat gluten-free, with a whole section devoted to such dishes, including pastas, here made with cornmeal flour rather than wheat.
     There is another Lentini n the background here--the boys' mamma, Angelina, whose marvelous "overnight fava bean and chicory" appetizer is her recipe; she is also said to make  her own limoncello liqueur. Otherwise, you are in her sons' hands, and they are adept at welcoming regulars and first-timers with the same warmth of Puglian hospitality.
      The menu is an ideal size for a trattoria--two sides of a single page, with 5 raw bar items, 9 antipasti, 3 soups, some salads, 12  pastas, 16 pizzas, and a dozen main courses. The food here is full of simple, pure flavors, not least in Mamma's fava and chicory antipasto, followed up with a delicious caponatina of diced baby eggplant, raisins, pignoli, onions, and tomatoes providing an authentic zestiness of the South.  Grilled octopus (below) are tender and absorb flavor readily. I asked Enzo which of the pizzas he recommended, and, after a few shrugs and hand-wringing, he said to go with a classic margherita with tomato, mozzarella, and basil; he could not have chosen better among his favorites:  this was a very good pizza (easy for four people to share as an appetizer), bubbly, charred, the crust not too thin, just nicely chewy.  Other variations are topped with rich gorgonzola, fontina, parmigiano, and basil; tomato sauce, ricotta, sausage, and olives, and other items.
      I enjoyed three of the four pastas we chose, beginning with good old spaghetti and meatballs--a dish now having something of a renaissance in New York--the meatballs of medium size, light and juicy, in a fragrant tomato sauce with al dente spaghetti.  Tagliolini with anchovies, pignoli, and chile peppers in chicken broth packed a fiery wallop I thoroughly enjoyed, but this is not for the timid of palate.  My favorite of all the pastas was a plate of perfect gnocchi, full of potato flavor, very tender, very light, with sweet sausage and porcini in a tomato sauce.  The only disappointment was linguine with white clam sauce, not because there was anything wrong with the clams, served on their shells, but because the broth needed more punch, more garlic, perhaps red pepper flakes.  You could always ask.
     For the main courses we had a nicely cooked, simple roasted branzino with black olives, wedges of tomato and basil; a pounded loin of veal, fried alla milanese till crisp, then topped with slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Impeccably and quickly cooked sea scallops (above), nice and sweet, came with a shiitake sauce, and although it was kind of a guilty pleasure, I couldn't help stealing morsels from my wife her plate of thin veal scaloppine topped with melted Gorgonzola and parmigiano cheese.
     The winelist at Opus is about 125 selections strong.
     Next time someone complains about good restaurants on the Upper East Side, just say "Opus," and enlighten them to at least one among many.

Opus is open daily, from 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.;  Antipasti run $8-$15, pizzas $15-$19, pastas (whole portions) $16-$20, and main courses $18-$35.


2888 Broadway (at 112th Street)


       The West Side, which ignoramuses used to decry as Siberia but who now contend is lined with good restaurants, may now add to their list of the latter the year-old Campo on Morningside Heights, and the restaurant is going very strong in a neighborhood that has been so gentrified in the nicest possible way that strolling down Broadway or eating outside of Campo are two of the most delightful ways to pass an early summer's evening in NYC.
         Years ago when I was  grad student at Columbia, this neighborhood was not just Siberia; it was No Man's Land, so I couldn't be happier to see the throngs of people now shopping at boutiques, buying flowers, and eating at the new places like Campo, which clearly caters to the neighborhood.  Anyone seeking excellent, true trattoria fare should cab it up here or take the Broadway Express and get off at Cathedral Parkway (and check out how the construction of St. John the Divine is going).
       Opened by
restaurateur Jeremy Wladis of The Restaurant Group, Michael Wetherbee, former G-Manager of Fireside at the Omni Berkshire, and Executive Chef David Rotter (formerly of Gonzo, Picholine), Campo is wide and long, and the outdoor tables are convivially taken up with people enjoying the summer's night air. Inside, set on two levels, with a long bar up front, everyone seems to be having a grand time laughing and conversing, which is quite easy to do because the noise level is not all that high.  Walls are of brick and wood, tabletops a pretty gray-white marble, and some colorful old posters and photos hang here and there. The service staff is fleet-footed and extremely cordial, and the food comes out apace, just as it does in a trattoria in Italy.
     The winelist could use some seriously bolstering--it's just plain short and weak--but there are plenty of signature cocktail you should try here, including the Columbia, made with rum, blueberry and pomegranate juice, limoncello, and lemon juice, and the Summer Smash, with citron vodka, muddle oranges, and strawberries.
       This is Chef Rotter's place to shine after having broad experience in various cuisines, not least learning to make grilled pizzas, made famous in this country at Al Forno in Providence.  His are delicious--we shared one with fig and prosciutto, arugula and a drizzle of balsamico--though be aware these are very, very thin, which to my mind takes away from the flavor and texture of somewhat thicker dough.
     There are a lot of ways to begin here, and I could see many patrons sharing dishes. Don't miss the special housemade mozzarella and fried green tomatoes with tangy red wine vinegar, sweet balsamic, and shallots (below)--a terrific dish with crisp textures and sweet-sour flavors and creamy cheese.  The meatballs here, in tomato sauce, will be battled over at your table, I assure you; they are just the right size, a little more than a mouthful, the components of meat just right.
      There is a judicious selection of 10 pastas, one a ravioli of the evening, which on my visit was a hearty plate of mushroom ravioli. Rigatoni arrabbiata was properly pungent with chile peppers, onions, and tomato; the gloss of egg yolk with well-cooked pancetta, crunches of black pepper, and parmigiano made for just about the best spaghetti alla carbonara I've had for a long time in NYC.  Also very good was a perfectly chewy risotto with duck confit, roasted butternut squash, and wild mushrooms--not easy to do with a crowd so large as was in evidence that evening.
     Stay simple after all this lavish Italian food: The roasted branzino was very juicy, stuffed with herbs and citrus, blood orange, and fennel--a very real southern Italian rendering.  Marinated skirt steak had the right char and chew, and you can bet we fought over the mound of truffled fried potatoes that came with them; not one escaped the plate.  Good quality, well grilled, medium-rare lamb chops were every bit as savory, with roasted garlic cloves we just plucked from the head, and I was very happy with the simplicity of chicken cooked "alla mattone" (under a brick) to flatten it, then grilled with black peppers. And it was a Murray's organic chicken. which is no cheap bird.
      We almost resisted dessert, but upon gentle urging gave in to a chocolate molten cake and some sorbets (Ciao Bella brand), which we could easily have done without.
        Italian trattorias like Campo and Opus can be found in other cities, believe me, but nowhere will you find so many so good and so now widespread, east side, west side, and in the outer boroughs.  Not many cities in Italy can say that these days.

Campo is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly; Antipasti run $5-$10.90, pizzas $9.90-$14.90, pastas $10.90-$15.90, and main courses $15.90-$19.90.




"`Have you seen my new purse?'" asked Laurel Hood, my winemaker friend from Oregon, pointing down at her feet. Beneath the long wooden communal table at Boulettes Larder, a bath rug of gray dreadlocks covered Laurels boots.
  "`Oh, that’s Boulette,'" said our waiter, setting plates of poached partridge eggs in front of us. `She’s a puli.'
   "The mascot, a Hungarian water dog, belongs to Amaryl Schwertner and her partner, Lori Regis. They conceived this Pandora’s pantry of artisanal foods, a showcase for unequaled local and global ingredients, transformed by Schwertner into magical dishes.--
Patricia Unterman
, "Classy meals served with clarity at Boulettes Larder," San Francisco Examiner (2/27/09).


"Real men drink red wine and look good doing it, but nothing ruins happy hour or date night like a purple wine-smile. To avoid these embarrassing moments, Wine Wipes proprietary blend of ingredients gets red wine gunk off your mouth and teeth with a simple swipe. . . . Although it hasn’t been scientifically proven, experience has shown us that men tend to get the dreaded purple teeth look more severely than women. You can even share it with your date for a few extra points. Wine Wipes are convenient, affordable and necessary for anyone who’s ever had a dirty mouth."--Press Release about Wine Wipes.


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

* On May 31 in Los Angeles, Corkbar hosts a tasting of 3 Rhône-style (Syrah, Grenache, Mouvèdre) and 3 Bordeaux-style (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) wines, paired with small plates and charcuterie.  $35 pp. . . On June 4  Corkbar holds an event to benefit the Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York, with host Rosario Dawson; other celebrities expected. $35 pp. with raffle. Open wine bar and hors d’oeuvres provided. Visit . . .  On June 19 Corkbar will welcome Winemaker Ethan Lindquist of Ethan Wines for a tasting of his limited production, just released vintage out of the Central Coast. $19 for a flight of 5 wines.  Visit

* From May 31– June 8th in Cape May, NJ, the Cape May Restaurant Week will be held. For full listing  of restaurants participating on the website for the event, visit:

* On June 1 in NYC, the Murphy-Goode Winery has a “Really Goode Job” for the right person. The Sonoma County winery is looking for an outgoing, web-savvy, articulate communicator to tell the story of the great mountain vines and artisan winemakers of California, by meeting with Murphy-Goode winemaker David Ready, Jr., at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. in Grand Central Terminal.  A videographer will be on premise to tape 60-second application videos for those who stop by to submit. “A Really Goode Job” will pay $10,000 a month for a 6-month contrac, incl. that housing in Healdsburg, CA. Visit Call 212-655-2300.

* On June 2 in NYC, Adour Alain Ducasse at the St Régis will be hosting Olivier Zind-Humbrecht from the Alsacian estate Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, with a selection of their renowned single-vineyard white wines, paired with Chef Joël's seasonal creations. $315 pp. Call  212-710-2277.

* On June 2 in NYC at City Winery, Wine & Spirits Magazine holds its "Top of the List tasting" of  100 wineries, based on the Restaurant Poll Issue, to benefit NY / NJ Baykeeper.  An opening panel discussion  led by Joe Bastianich, Bernard Sun, and publisher Joshua Greene will cover two decades in the restaurant business. Some events only open to trade and media.  Oyster Bar, Convivio, Milos and River Café will serve food;  live show by the Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout band. Live Show for General Admission; Hirsch and Flowers Vineyards tasting; Dominus Estate, with Christian Moueix; Veuve Clicquot, with winemaker Cyril Brun. For infoand tickets,

* In Chicago MK restaurant holds "Wine on Wednesdays" from 6-9pm in the lounge, at  $25 pp. Call  312-482-9179;

* On June 5 in Santa Barbara, CA, Miró restaurant at Bacara Resort & Spa showcases Santa Maria’s celebrated Ambullneo Vineyards and Special Guest Chef Ed Brown from the  restaurant eighty one in NYC for a 5-course dinner at $125 per person; $100 per person for Bacara guests. A special $199 room rate is available to guests attending the dinner. Call 805-968-0100;

* On June 5 in DallasNana hosts its monthly wine and food flight trio, "Friday Night Flights," at $20 pp. for 3 wines paired with 3 dishes created by Executive Chef Anthony Bombaci. Call  214-761-7470.  Visit

* In Tarrytown, NY, Bistro Z at the new Doubletree Hotel  is taking part in  “Entrée to Hope,” with The Food Bank for Westchester; Grace Church Community Center; and Literacy Volunteers of Westchester. From now through the end of June, these agencies are joining together with Bistro Z and other Westchester restaurants to raise money to provide food, shelter and education to the county’s neediest residents.   Diners will receive a check presenter at the end of their meal encouraging them to donate $1 per entrée. Call 914- 631-5700.

* On June 7 in NYC,  the first annual Paella Parade will take place outdoors at the new South Street Seaport location of New York Water Taxi Beach. Spanish chefs and restaurateurs from the tri-state area will unite to showcase  their Paella making skills, accompanied by wines from leading Spanish winery El Coto de Rioja. $25 pp.  Proceeds will go to Action Against Hunger and the Wine Course at the Department of Hospitality Management at New York City College of Technology. Visit

* On June 8, 2009, Mélisse in Santa Monica, CA, will be offering a 4-course menu featuring Krug champagnes, incl. Krug Grand Cuvée,  1998, 1985, and 1982. Owner Olivier Krug, will be present at the dinner to speak about each wine.  $150 pp.  Call 310-395-0881 or visit

* On June 8 in NYC, Convivio  offers a 5-course artisanal beer dinner, with Southern Italian food by Chef Michael White. Italian brewmasters Leonardo diVincenzo of Birra del Borgo and Teo Musso of Birrificio Le Baladin will discuss their beers, pairing beer with food and their latest projects. $110 pp. Call 212-599-5045;

* On June 8 The Art Institute of Chicago and  Mon Ami Gabi in Oak Brook, ILL, continue their season of French Master’s Dinner series featuring Cezanne with a wine reception, slide presentation by an Art Institute of Chicago lecturer and multi-course dinner  prepared by Chef Bruce Williams with wine pairings. $75 pp. Call 630-472-1900; visit . . . Also, on June 15 Mon Ami Gabi features a "25 for $25 Wine Tasting" from several different regions of France.

* On June 8 & 9 The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association hosts the 26th annual Lone Star International Wine Competition  at the Grapevine Convention Center in Grapevine, TX,  with 500+ wines from around the world and judged in 30+ categories.  by a panel of restaurant owners, sommeliers and other wine experts from Texas. Visit or call 817-404-0570.

*  On June 11 in Beachwood, OH, Moxie will hold a "A Pairing of Duckhorn Vineyards Wines with a Daring Five-Course Food Presentation, " at $99 pp. Call 216-831-5599.

* On June 12 in Boston,  the twelfth annual Chefs in Shorts© event brings together a group of the area’s leading chefs who will fire up the grills and create their favorite dishes during this outdoor, summer-in-the-city barbecue, incl.Toby Hill, 606 Congress, Rachel Klein, Aura Restaurant/Tamo Bar, Rodney Murillo, Avila Modern Mediterranean, Dante de Magistris, dante and il Casale, Harjit Singh, Kashmir, et al. at Seaport Boston.  $60 pp. to benefit The Greater Boston Food Bank. Visit

* On June 12 in NYC at the Astor Ctr., the Southern Foodways Alliance and the State of Mississippi celebrate the life and work of Craig Claiborne, with panelists David Kamp, author, The United States of Arugula; Jacques Pepin, author of more than twenty cookbooks; Pete Wells, dining editor, the New York Times; food by Ann Cashion,  Johnny's Half Shell, D.C.; John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford, MI; Taylor Bowen Ricketts,  Delta Bistro, Greenwood, MI; A complimentary event, "Craig Claiborne and the Invention of Food Journalism," will be held June 11, at the New School and will feature, among others, Betty Fussell and Molly O'Neill. For details: Admission free; visit

* From June 13-14 in NYC, the Seventh Annual Snapple Big Apple Barbecue Block Party returns to Madison Square Park,  bringing  together the country’s top pitmasters to cook up their award-winning food for over a hundred thousand barbecue enthusiasts. Admission to the event is free, with  live music, seminars and cooking demos. BBQ available at  $8 per plate. Proceeds  support the Madison Square Park Conservancy. During the festivities, on June 13, Wyatt McSpadden, author/photographer of Texas BBQ will share the stage with author Calvin Trillin on a panel titled, “Texas: The Barbecue Empire.” Author Lolis Eric Elie will moderate.

* On June 13 in Cleveland, Wolfgang Puck is returning  for the 2009 Five Star Sensation  that will benefit the Ireland Cancer Center of University Hospitals Case Medical Center, to be held at the site of the future University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center at Chagrin Highlands in Beachwood, OH, serving food by 35 chefs from around the nation and 40+ vintners from premier wineries from around the world. Visit

* On June 13 the Geat American Food and Music Fest will be held at  Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, hosyed by Bobby Flay, with Food Network stars Guy Fieri, Anne Burrell, and Aida Mollenkamp, along with Bay Area chefs Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, Bruce Aidells, sausage and meat king and author; and A16’s Nate Appleman. Also, Katz’s Deli (NY), Pink’s Hot Dogs (LA), Barney Greengrass (NYC), Graeter’s Ice Cream (Cincinnati), Southside Market & Barbecue (Texas), Anchor Bar (Buffalo, NY), Junior’s (cheesecake; Brooklyn), Zingerman’s Deli (Michigan) and Tony Luke's Cheesesteaks (Philadelphia), and Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery. Also, “Best of Bay Area” food purveyor tent hosted by Slow Food SF, and music by Little Feat, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Marshall Crenshaw. Visit

* On June 14 The Wine Media Guild of New York, an association of over 40 professional wine writers, will hold its annual dinner at Del Posto restaurant in NYC, when members and guests bring amazing bottles of wine from their cellars. This year the Guild  is opening the 4-course dinner  to a limited number of non-members to readers of John Mariani's Virtual Gourmet (John is a member of the Guild) to attend at the Member price of $95 pp and may bring one guest. Deadline: Reserve by June 5. To reserve go to Brown Paper Tickets:

* From June 15-21  chef Sandro Fioriti of Sandro’s will celebrate his 25th anniversary in  NYC with $25 three-course special anniversary menus highlighting signature dishes such as carciofi alla romana (artichokes with mint and wine), carciofi giudea (fried artichokes), puntarelle, spaghetti cacio e pepe (with pecorino romano and pepper), spaghetti carbonara, bucatini all’amatriciana, torta di mele (apple tart) and torta di ricotta (cheesecake).  Sandro’s also offers its Dow Jones Pasta Index special with pastas priced at the first three digits of the day’s closing of the Dow Jones Index’s while the Dow is below 10,000.  Call 212-288-7374.


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:


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: A Report on The Four Seasons Jackson Hole. Click on the logo below to go to the site.

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