Virtual Gourmet

June 7, 2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

                                      Farmer's Market, Amagansett, NY (2008) by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery


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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER: Bedford Post Inn by John Mariani

by Mort Hochstein


by John Mariani

     The usual barrage of food, wine, drink, and travel books comes over the transom here, and most get tossed on a pile. The truth is, most of them are little more than variants on a slew of books that have been published before.  Is there really any need for another book on how to taste wine?  There must be 50 of them out there already.  Or pickling? Or another vodka book? Or another memoir of a year spent in Southern France? The books I like are the ones that don't simply re-cover the same territory or that have a value as something I can settled down with and read (which I'm told some people still do, even if it's not on a two-inch digital screen). Here are some of the new books of spring/summer 2009 I have enjoyed and intend to keep on the shelf.

THE FOIE GRAS WARS by Mark Caro (Simon & Schuster, $25)--A controversial subject handled with candor and solid research. Caro takes seriously both sides of the question of whether foie gras is the result of a brutal and inhumane processing of animals or a very well-designed, efficient, and very humane processing of ducks reared for their fattened livers. There is so much craziness and mis-information on the animal rights issue that it takes Caro to sort out what is true and what is absurd.  This may be a book way too long but it should be definitive for a long time to come.

THE CITY TAVERN COOKBOOK: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine by Walter Staib (Running Press, $35)--No one has done more to research, develop, and promote the 18th and 19th century food culture of America than German-born chef extraordinaire Walter Staib, and the wide variety of dishes from the colonial and federalist period recipe books have been refined for today's cooks, from goose and turnips and roasted oysters to apricot tea cookies and cranberry bread.  Beautifully illustrated, with a fine foreword by historian David McCullough about the original City Tavern where Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington did indeed dine.

TAKASHI'S NOODLES by Takashi Yagihashi (10 Speed Press, $24.95)--As one of the progenitors of electrifying fusion cuisine, Takashi Yagihashi has at his namesake restaurant in Chicago shown his other, simpler side with wonderful comfort food that includes irresistible noodles dishes, like duck nanban soba, tsukeoen ramen, rice noodle pho, and many many others in this lovely book--all easily reproduced at home in clear, easy-to-follow instructions.

MONA LISA'S PAJAMAS: Diverting Dispatches from a Roving Reporter by Craig A. Copetas (Sterling, $24.95)--"Roving" does not begin to describe Craig Copetas's reporting career, which in this book takes him from European vineyards to French beret makers, from a Greek who makes Spartan swords to a Russian golfer whose clubs are made from old nuclear missiles.  Culled and revised from stories originally in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News (where he is now special correspondent), these reports are as much true travel stories as they are character portraits done with the wit, insight, and extraordinary professional experience that brings them to life in the way journalists like A.J. Liebling, Johnny Apple, and Ernest Hemingway once did.

IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME: My Adventures in Life and Food by Moira Hodgson (Doubleday, $24.95).--Moira Hodgson has always been one of the most engaging food writers  and one of the very few whose restaurant reviews have been as entertainingly readable as they are accurate.  As the daughter of a British Foreign Service officer, she led something of the life of a Graham Greene heroine, and she is as much at home writing about Chiapas, Mexico, as she is New York's Chinatown.  She seems breezy but behind that is a significant attention to the right word and phrase, and her story of cooking for her dying father--"Food for fun. Food for love. Food for keeping death at bay"--is both heartrending and heartwarming.

From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America by Richard Mendelson (U. of California Press)--Cogency is not the natural bent of historians, so I commend Richard Mendelson, a wine law specialist in Napa and owner of Mendelson Wines, for telling just enough, in under 200 pages (with another 100 of notes and citations) about the often murky story of how Americans went from being winelovers to Prohibitionists and from producers of poor wine to makers of great wine, advances always entwined with blue laws, health laws, and an enduring horror of the influence of any and all alcohol on society.  This is not a ripping yarn but it does, for the first time, show just how important legislation, advocacy, and moralism have to do with making a beverage most of civilization has drunk with joy and benefits.

 TEXAS BBQ: Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden (U. of Texas Press, $39.95)--Wyatt McSpadden is a photographer first and a BBQ lover second. At least I think so, having chowed down with him in Texas. On every page of this stunningly beautiful book Wyatt gets behind and beyond the sophomoric squabbles about regional 'cue and focuses in on how it's done in Texas by men, and a few women, for whom the process of smoking meats is much more than the job of a cook, showing it to be central to American, specifically Lone Star State, food culture.  You look at these photos, you smell the smoke, you feel the heat, and you want to get in your car and drive.

GREAT YEAR-ROUND GRILLING IN THE NORTHEAST by Ellen Brown (The Lyons Press, $19.95)--If happen to live in the Northeast and you can't make it to Texas for 'cue, Ellen Brown's new book (part of a series on regional grilling) will probably sate your hunger throughout the summer. With a lot of grilling books out there (see below), none has ever paid much attention to the Northeast, where there is not only good BBQ but excellent grilling concepts (the two are often exclusive) that date back to the Native Americans and Pilgrims and evolved into taking the form of dishes like grilled oysters, maple-glazed cedar=planked salmon, Philly cheese steaks,  venison steaks with red wine sauce, and butterflied leg of lamb.

. . . And Don't Forget!

The Second, 10th Anniversary, revised edition of Grilling for Dummies by John Mariani and Marie Rama, with new recipes by Galina Mariani (Wiley, $21.99) has just been released.

by John Mariani


954 Old Post Road
Bedford, NY

Mr. Gere Builds His Dream Restaurant

    When celebrities tie their names to restaurants it’s almost always about the money and rarely about the food, as ventures like Roy Rogers, Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips, and Britney Spears’ short-lived NYLA prove.  The rare exceptions would be Robert DeNiro’s involvement in several Nobu restaurants and Tribeca Grill in New York and the late Paul Newman’s in The Dressing Room in Westport, Connecticut.
      Now, actors Richard Gere and his wife Carey Lowell have opened the eight-room Bedford Post Inn and spa on an historic 19th century property in Bedford, New York, about 45 minutes’ drive from Manhattan in Westchester County, with two restaurants, the casual Barn and the more upscale dining room called The Farmhouse. The couple lives nearby and they drop by the inn often, which has given the enterprise a glamorous buzz heretofore unknown in the conservative bedtime communities around Bedford. On weekends, it’s tough to get a table here.
       But after visits to both the restaurants at the Inn, I have to applaud the Geres for opening a first-class dining venue and hiring a superb young chef, Brian Lewis (below), himself Westchester born, whose résumé includes stints at impressive restaurants like Jean-Louis in D.C., Lutèce and Oceana in NYC, and Vu in Scottsdale, AZ.
       The premises of both restaurants reflect their bucolic surroundings: the 50-seat Barn (which serves breakfast and lunch only) is appropriately rustic, with wood beam ceilings, tile floors, bare wooden tables, and an open kitchen and fireplace.
       The Barn (below) serves a menu that goes considerably beyond the usual country inn clichés of chowder, fried shrimp, and lobster rolls by offering perfectly cooked, meaty Scottish langoustines with saffron risotto; an appetizer of creamy polenta is blended with porcini mushrooms and leafy mâche salad; and a juicy grilled hanger steak comes with spinach, mushrooms, and French fries. There is a hamburger here, made from “natural beef,” which may explain its lack of fat-rich flavor.  For dessert don’t miss the plate of fresh baked cookies—good with the freshly made cider.
     If you go upstairs (dinner only, closed Monday) you’ll find the quite beautiful Farmhouse dining room (below), which might have been a set for Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in the 1948 movie “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” with wainscoting, buffed wooden floors, antique tables set with breadbaskets, and well-spaced tables laid with soft linens, fine stemware, and good silverware. The lighting might be turned up a tad so you can read the menu more easily.
     Mr. Lewis works in a thoroughly modern and vibrant American style, incorporating global influences into his menu and cooking very much by the seasons.  Right now you may begin with a superb, silky citrus-cured wild King salmon belly with radish escabeche, spring’s wild ramps, and an olive salsa verde. Gently cooked, then thinly sliced   Maine scallops in a dashi seaweed broth with pickled daikon radish, shiitakes, and asparagus.
     There is also a section of handmade pastas, the best of which is the ravioli with three fillings—creamed spinach, ricotta speckled with mint and lemon zest, and an oozing soft cooked egg, all glossed with brown butter crispy breadcrumbs.  Skip the bucatini all’amatriciana with a pancetta-riddled tomato sauce of no distinction and little bite.
     The main courses are equally split between sea and land options, and I heartily recommend the sautéed Maine halibut—so often a bland fish, here very flavorful, enhanced with artichokes in a classic barigoule sauce, topped with sweet basil and the tang of preserved lemon.  Branzino was impeccably grilled, served with a ragoût of lily family vegetables—ramps and garlic, with aïoli-slathered toast.  A wagyu beef tenderloin with peas, bacon, and potato robiola cheese fonduta, was pleasing enough, though the wagyu breeding didn’t deliver much in the way of heightened flavor.  My favorite entrée was “John Boy’s Chicken,” crisply roasted and accompanied by a morel mushroom risotto, Speck bacon, and pistachios. (The John Boy in question is a former Wall Street broker who, after 9/11, sought a quiet life raising chickens and pigs in the Berkshires, supplying the Inn with many of their ingredients.)
      If you have to choose between desserts or cheese, I urge you to opt for the latter—not because the warm flourless chocolate cake with orange caramel and the warm huckleberry corncake with spiced Port wine and mascarpone gelato aren’t homey and delicious, but because the array of a dozen farmstead and artisan cheeses France, Ireland, Switzerland, California, and New England are kept in perfect condition, with unusual varieties like Valençy, Fosterkäse, and Valdéon, all brought in from the Plum Plums cheese shop in Pound Ridge.
     My only real criticism of Bedford Post Inn is its exceptionally pricey winelist, with very few bottlings under $50, and scores well over $100. The mark-ups themselves are not out of bounds, but even in Westchester’s affluent enclaves, this is not a neighborly approach in 2009.
     Otherwise, the Geres have given the area a very fine, very amiable restaurant well worth a drive from the Tri-State area and by their presence provide everybody with a cordial touch of Hollywood glamor.

In the casual Barn, fixed price Market Menu, $29. Appetizers $8-$13, main courses $15-$22; In The Farmhouse, Chef’s Tasting Menu $90 ($150 with wine pairing), Appetizers $12-$19, main courses $29-$45.

This article also appears in Bloomberg News.



by Mort Hochstein

     Francis Ford Coppola, with entries in the wine business, movies, resorts, and retailing, as well as other endeavors, is an innovator who packs a good story into whatever he does.   Coppola’s theatrical flair endows many of his wines with a  plot, and though hardly as ingenious as the movies he makes, the story becomes part of the package.
      Consider his diamond Collection Magenta Label Alicante Bouschet.    A bare handful of California producers make an Alicante, which was the family wine for Coppola in his youth. His grandfather Agostino had made Alicante in Calabria and continued to make it when the family moved to the United States. The senior Coppola and many of his fellow immigrants  bought California grapes from railroad car lots shipped  to  dealers in New York and New Jersey and other centers for home winemakers. At one time there were 30,000 acres of Alicante in California supplying that market, but today there are barely 5,000 acres of the grape.
    As winemaker Corey Beck tells it, Coppola remembered his grandfather’s Alicante and asked Beck if he could recreate it.  Beck located  a vineyard planted to Alicante in the early 1900’s in the Central Valley and produced  an inexpensive red that lived up to   Coppola’s memories. His 2007 Alicante, at  a suggested retail price of $16, is a  jammy red meant for drinking today, matching well with pizza, sausages, pasta and red meat. It’s got a lot of flavor, red plums, cranberry and spices and, of course, the story to go with it.
    While Champagne producers have long made available  single-servings of sparkling wine in a bottle known as a split, Coppola has advanced  the concept. For the sparkling wine he produced to honor daughter {and fellow director) Sofia, he created  fashionable    pink cans, enough to quench one drinker’s thirst and allow a person to enjoy a bit of bubbly without opening a full-sized bottle.   In stores they sell at a suggested retail price  of $20 for a carton of  four but are also popular served individually in clubs and at poolsides where glass can be a liability. It’s packaging that blows away the stuffiness and elitism  associated with wine and makes it appealing to a generation that takes its drinks on the run.
   Coppola also transported  a long-time concept from restaurants to  other public venues. Questioning why a customer could not buy a glass of wine without the issue of bottles, glasses and corkscrews, he came up with his takeaway “Wine-by the glass.”  It’s a 187- milliliter bistro-style glass with a peel-off lid. selling for about  $5  in stadiums and arenas in California, with an eventual national roll-out envisioned.  Coppola is as proud of his basic level wine-to-go in a glass and his bubbly in a can as he is of  his top-drawer Rubicon.
   The Rubicon is part of the legend for Coppola. In 1975 he acquired one of the most historical properties in Napa-- Inglenook--and renamed it Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery, honoring Gustave Niebaum, Inglenook's founder. Coppola's original plan was to make only a limited amount of wine, but his Rubicon (first produced in 1978),  a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, soon became a trophy wine, despite a price tag that has soared to  $140.  He expanded the line with less expensive wines, Coppola Rosso and Bianco, Zinfandel and Black Label Claret, using purchased fruit, and  they retail for less than $20 a bottle.  With grapes from the estate, he made more expensive wines, Edizione Pennino Zinfandel, RC Reserve Syrah (yet another story, since it is named after his son Roman) Cabernet Franc, and a white blend, Blancaneaux,  taking the name of his resort in Belize.
   The estate  became a tourist mecca, crowded with visitors more interested in the "Godfather" movie  than enjoying a historic California property.  When he saw an opportunity to acquire another site steeped  in California history, Souverain, he bought the facility and moved the bulk of his wine empire to the Sonoma winery, while continuing to make  his flagship wine, Rubicon, and the RC line in Napa. He renamed his original property Rubicon Estate,  and inaugurated a guest program of personalized visits, including valet parking at a $25 tab.
       “Wine,” Coppola is fond of saying, “is like greatness in a person. To be great, it must  go beyond pleasure and  ascend to levels of complexity. It has to be unique and must possess its own individual personality. . . .  A great wine is like a film with so many levels of meaning that you must go back and examine it again and again.”

         Though he pursues the Holy Grail of great Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa, his Sonoma estate offers several lines of more accessibly priced wine. Those bottlings, sourced from a variety of California growers, range in price from the Director and Director‘s Cut labels at about $30,  Votre Santé in the high twenties, the  Diamond series (right) in the high teens  and the more popular priced  Rosso and Bianco wines in the low teens. Something like a multiplex, showing wines for every taste and pocketbook.

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.



Hilda Maciel, a chef at the Las Palmas restaurant in Calexico, Mexico, discovered what she believed to be an image of the Virgin Mary on a griddle she was cleaning. The next day Rev. Gerardo Fernandez of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church confirmed the image was indeed a true likeness of the Virgin Mary.

 Visitors have flocked to the restaurant to view the griddle, now enshrined in the stock room, including several Mexican wrestlers booked to appear at a Las Palmas swap meet.  as a special promotion.

     photo: T. Krainin


“On my return to the city [from Connecticut] after a number of visits, I tried to stay in touch with this fairyland. . . Still, the memories surfaced, one with the fragrant resonance of a Madeleine: an afternoon rencontre with a brilliantly ripe red tomato that still smelled unselfconsciously of its vine and the field.  Aiden and I feasted on it, with slabs of crusty bread, good butter, a little mayo, salt and pepper.  Nothing more.”—Alison Humes, “Fairy Land,” Conde Nast Traveler (March 2009).



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 June 11-13 in NYC, The Association for Community Employment Programs for the Homeless  and The SoHo Partnership will host The SoHo Stroll, during which participants will have exclusive access to discounts and promotions in participating stores, restaurants or neighborhood businesses, ranging from discounts to free samples to complimentary cocktails, incl.  Barolo, Centovini, DELICATESSEN, Dos Caminos SoHo, Eileen's Special Cheesecake, Elizabeth, Grand Bar & Lounge at the Soho Grand Hotel, i tre merli, L'Ecole: The Restaurant at the French Culinary Institute, La Esquina, Lure Fishbar, Mezzogiorno, Naked Lunch, Via dei Mille and Vosges Haut-Chocolat.  A $20 silicone bracelet qualifies strollers for discounts and promotions. Visit

* In NYC, starting June 6, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square will be hosting on the first Saturday of every month a "Chocolate Camp for Kids," at Brasserie 1605, a confectionery making class for children ages 10 to 16.  $25 per child. Call  212-315-6000.

* On June 8 in NYC, chefs from around the country will appear at Rockefeller Center Plaza  for the 24th annual Chefs’ Tribute fundraiser, “Street & Savory--A Global Street Food Festival" to benefit Citymeals-on-Wheels.” Kelly Choi, host of Top Chef Masters, will emcee. Nick Valenti and Patina Restaurant Group host the annual event, with more than 40 chefs, incl. Daniel Boulud & Jim Leiken, DBGB Kitchen and Bar I ; Larry Forgione, Monkey Bar ); Charlie Palmer & Christopher Lee, Aureole; Alfred Portale, Gotham Bar & Grill; Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Vong/Spice Market/Matsugen; and Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto--all in NYC--and Roy Choi, Mark & Caroline Manguera, Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go and Joachim Splichal, Patina Restaurant Group from L.A.; and Charles Phan, The Slanted Door/Out The Door/Heaven’s Dog in San Francisco. General admission: $600; Benefactor: $2,500 (inc.s 2 VIP early admission tix); Grand Patron: $5,000 (incl. 4 tixs); Very Grand Patron: $10,000 (incl. 6 tix); Call 212-687-1290.

* From June 8-12 in San Francisco, Urban Tavern  has announced a  “pay what you think it’s worth” promotion to herald the  new summer 3-course lunch menu.  Customers will  pay what they think it’s worth. In addition, 5 hours of free parking while dining will also be valid. Visit; call 415-923-4400.

* ON June 11 in Traverse City, MI, Trattoria Stella will hold its 4th annual Old Mission Peninsula Wine Dinner. Proprietor and Sommelier Amanda Danielson plans this event every year to " . . . showcase the best wines grown on Old Mission Peninsula alongside a world-class 7-course menu created specifically for the individual wines chosen" by Chef Myles Anton. $80 pp.  Call  231-929-8989.

* On June 14 in San FranciscoCOCHON 555 holds the only heritage pig and chef competition in the U.S., a Taste Network event featuring 5 Chefs, 5 Pigs and 5 Winemakers working together to raise awareness for heritage breeds. The chefs incl. Nate Appleman, Staffan Terje, Ravi Kapur, Ryan Farr, and Peter McNee; winemakers incl. Krupp Brothers, Hirsch Vineyards, Elk Cove Winery, Arcadian Winery, K Vintners, Ghost Horse World, Chase Cellars and Patz & Hall. Taylor Boetticher will perform a whole pig breakdown. To be held at  The Fairmont San Francisco. Visit

* On June 14 in Houston, a "Farm to Table Dinner" featuring the Wines of Soter Vineyards in the Willamette Valley of Oregon will be held at Catalan Food and Wine with  Chef Chris Shepherd preparing a Seasonal Menu from local farmers; James Cahill from Soter Vineyards to discuss the wines. $135 pp. Call 713-426-4260.

* On June 15 in Chicago, Chalkboard will host Mac McDonald, Winemaker and Owner of Vision Wine Cellars for a 4-course wine and reception. $100 pp. Call 312-477-7144.

* On June 15 in NYC, il Buco chef Chef Ignacio Mattos welcomes South American Chef Francis Mallmann, celebrating his new cookbook, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, written with Peter Kaminsky. 4-course dinner,  $90 pp. $115  with signed cookbook. Call 212-533-1932;

* On June 16 in Boulder, CO, The Kitchen [Upstairs] holds its Monthly Wine and Beer Class: Rediscovering Local Cuisine, at $60. Call 303-544-5973.

* On June 17 in Rye, NY, at La Panetière restaurant Chef Tony Esnault will be guest chef for a 5-course dinner at $78 pp, $40 extra with wines.  Call 914-967-8140. He will also lead  cooking demos from June 17 – 19 at 11:30 am.

* On June 17 in Philadelphia,  the 4th Annual Great Chefs Event to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer will be hosted at Osteria restaurant, feauturing Tom Colicchio, Michael Symon,  Bobby Flay, Jeff Michaud of Osteria, Daniel Stern of Gayle/Rae Restaurant; Brad Spence of Vetri; Clark Fraiser & Mark Gaier of Arrows/MC Perkins Cove/SummerWinter in Maine; and Paul Kahan of Blackbird/Avec in Chicago, et al. VIP tix $400 pp; regular tix $250. Call 866- 333-1213.

* On June 17 in Boston, Chef Anthony Susi of Sage Restaurant is celebrating 10 years of modern Italian cuisine with chef friends, incl. Ana Sortun, Oleana; Andy Husbands, Tremont 647; Anthony Caturano, Prezza; Charles Draghi, Erbaluce; Daniel Bruce, Meritage; Dante de Magistris, Restaurant dante; Jody Adams, Rialto, and many others. $30 pp. To benefit the Union Park Neighborhood Association. Call  857-350-3434.

* On June 17 in NYC, Marco Canora and Paul Grieco of Hearth restaurant will be slow-roasting a baby pig from Bev Eggleston’s Eco Friendly Farms in Virginia, prepared in the Tuscan tradition, it will be stuffed with pork sausage, and carved table-side by Marco while Paul pours some of his favorite wines and beer. $42 pp  for 3 courses, + $18 for beverages. Call 646-602-1300;

* On June 18 in Berkeley, CA, Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto holds a “One Fermented Evening” 4-course dinner prepared by  Chef Devon Boisen, showcasing  wild salmon paired with a selection of California wines.  $69.95 pp. Call 510- 845-7771.

* NYC's Hakubai Restaurant in The Kitano Hotel has introduced a health-focused lunch and dinner menu, Kenbi, featuring ingredient rich in minerals and nutrients which are known to prevent degenerative diseases and slow down the natural aging process. The menu, by Executive Chef Yukihiro Sato, features classic Japanese ingredients known to promote health and beauty both internally and externally. Hakubai’s Kenbi Lunch is priced at $39 pp. and the Kenbi Dinner at $55.  Call 212- 885-7111.

* On June 18 in Schaumburg, ILLShaw’s Crab House and the ChicaGourmets! are hosting a 4-course dinner featuring Collins Caviar and Sparkling Wines of the World,  prepared by Executive Chef Arnulfo Tellez, and Juvenal Reyes. $89 pp. Visit ot call 708-383-7543.

* On June 20 in Tremont, OH, the 8th Annual Tremont Trek: 2009 Home Tour will take place as a fundraiser for Tremont West Development Corp., offering guests rare peeks into six private homes in Cleveland’s historic Tremont neighborhood, while enjoying a progressive dinner party as they sample food and services provided by several restaurants and retailers  incl. Bistro on Lincoln Park/Chef Pete Joyce; Fahrenheit Chef Rocco Whalen; Fat Cats and Lava Lounge/Chef Ricardo Sandoval;  Parallax Chef Zack Bruell;  Prosperity, Dish Deli & Catering, and Lago;  and the Post-Trek party, a finale of sorts at Paul Duda Gallery/Robert Hartshorn Studio, where guests gather for dessert tastes from Grumpy’s, Lilly Handmade Chocolates, and A Cookie and A Cupcake. Tix $100 pp in advance, $110 at the door. Call 216-575-0920.

* On June 20 in Westport, MA, Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery will host a local wine & food festival fundraiser with lLocal food, wine and beer,  with proceeds  to support the preservation of farm land in Westport, through the Westport AgCom. The event will also feature, Buzzards Bay Brewing, Running Brook Vineyards and Travessia Urban Winery, all of which source from the small town of Westport. $45 pp. Visit

* In Canada a 4-day/3-night “Route de Vin” package wine-country odyssey begins with a stay in Toronto, at the hotel Le Germain; transferring by private sedan to the town of Jordan, at the Inn on the Twenty; wine tasting at Cave Spring Cellars; dinner at On The Twenty; and more. From US$1,575 pp. Call1-800-ONTARIO, or visit

* On June 20  Neighborhood Restaurant Group of Alexandria, VA, will host its own Virginia Farmland Solstice Supper on Loudon County Farmland, with winemaker Dennis Horton of Horton Vineyards. Guests will also have a chance to meet and mingle with local farmers Ellen Polishuk of Potomac Vegetable Farms, Chip and Susan Planck of Wheatland Farms, Rob Moutoux Jr. of Moutoux Orchard, Barbara Lamborne of Greenstone Fields and Georgia and Zach O’ Neal of Tree and Leaf Farm, followed by a 4-course dinner  by Chef Chittum, nominated for the Rising Culinary Star of the Year award by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Visit

* On June 22, in Miami Beach, Blue Door at Delano presents a 6-course wine dinner featuring the wines of Duckhorn and the  cuisine of  executive Chef Maria Manso,  priced at $150 pp. Call 305-674-6400.


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: 36 Hours in Nepal; Good Design at MoMA; Travel Medicine in Budapest


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).

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, Bloomberg News, 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