Virtual Gourmet

June 28, 2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER


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In This Issue

ATLANTA'S NEW RESTAURANTS, Part Two  by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER: A Voce Gets a New Chef by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLARA Rise in Quality and Drop in Prices for 2005 Bordeaux
by  John Mariani


Part Two

by John Mariani

30 Tables
The Glenn Hotel
110 Marietta Street NW

    Some of Atlanta's best and most innovative restaurants are run by Bob Amick and Todd Rushing of the company 3 Concentrics Restaurants, most with numbers in their names, as with ONE. midtown kitchen, TWO urban licks and TROIS.  At 30 Tables (one of the duller names I've heard lately), Chef Daniel Chance, who  has worked with the city's other groundbreaking restaurant company, Buckhead Life Group,  is in charge, so there's a lot of experience floating around the kitchen here.
     The restaurant is located in The Glenn Hotel
in the fast-developing Luckie Marietta District, and upstairs on the roof at 11 Stories you can hobnob with the city's well-dressed natives and visitors for cocktails, light fare, and a grand view of the Atlanta skyline.
      The décor at 30 Tables is done amiably in wood, leather and earth tones, with its own  lobby bar  and deep armchairs where you can have breakfast or late night meals.  It's a very comfortable place, not all that dazzlimng by dazzling by design but without pretension, and that includes the menu, rich in Southern food done with flair by Chef Chance.
     Start off with the anything-but-Southern Asian meatballs with a veal caramel sauce, crème fraîche, and peanuts for a little crunch. More in the local food culture are the crisp, tangy, tempura-fried green tomatoes with an onion vinaigrette and feta cheese (right).  I wasn't thrilled with the attempt at snapper crudo/sashimi here with radish, avocado, and chili, and I wish the crabcake had more big lump crab within its core.
     The two best entrees I tried were a game hen--why don't we see more of this on menus?--with a rosemary jus and a choice of abundant side dishes that include everything from yummy Mexican corn to decadently rich cheddar corn grits with bacon.  I also enjoyed the whole Georgia trout with a perfect accompaniment of charred tomato vinaigrette that enhanced the sweet flesh of the fish.  A double pork chop was good if not thrilling.  For dessert go with the warm chocolate truffled spice cake with saffron ice cream, which put me in mind of autumn and Christmas.
     The winelist cordially offers many wines by the glass and, if you order  two glasses of a single wine, the management will open up any bottle on the list, including several organic and biodynamic wines, if that interests you.

30 Tables is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Appetizers run a likable $6-$13, main courses $12-$36, and portions are all generous here.

St. Régis Hotel
88 West Paces Ferry Road

    Atlantans love nothing more than to name businesses after its Peachtree and Paces streets, which gets tired quickly, but whatever the posh new St. Régis Hotel wants to call its new restaurant is all right with me, and I will not soon forget either the fine cuisine of Executive chef Jonathan Jerusalmy and Chef de Cuisine Mark Alba or the name and address soon.
     The entire hotel, as befits the St. Régis appellation,  has a very high degree of polish, not least in its public spaces and the pool area, and while Paces88 doesn't escape from looking very much like a hotel dining room, its airiness, refinement, lighting, and well-separated tables make it immediately Atlanta's most sophisticated restaurant in years, serviced by a staff that knows they are to be neither chummy nor officious.  The winelist is strong, with sufficient bottles under $50, and the menus carefully balanced between comforting classics with Southern touches and imaginative dishes that require a great deal of finesse, which Jerusalmy and Alba demonstrate in every dish.
     Take a starter like five onion soup baked with Gruyère--a cliché, really, but at Paces88 it glows brightly as a classic that should never be taken for granted.  The Sweet Grass Dairy goat's cheese tart (right), with caramelized onions, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, truffle vinaigrette  is a wonderful lunch beginning or even a main course with a salad, and at $12 a bargain.  Then there's chicken liver pâté, not exactly a bold step but somehow telling of how something seemingly common can be made lustrous again; here the smooth, delicious liver is served with bread and butter pickles, Dijon mustard, and toast.
      At lunch there are sandwiches offered, including a BBQ pork rib version with jalapeño potato bread, slaw and fries, and daily specials like ricotta agnolotti with pignoli, prosciutto, arugula and brown butter.  My favorites among the dinner entrees were the perfectly prepared sea scallops with a wonderful crawfish brandade, pea ragôut, and balsamic butter, just the kind of smart balancing act the kitchen does with such aplomb and flavor.  Duck confit took on further texture and taste from sweet white shrimp, wild mushroom grits and a deep cabernet reduction.  The spring squash, with slowly cooked tomatoes that release their sweet juices, a sprightly fennel salad and artichoke essence all buoy a fine piece of Maine halibut, snow white and nicely flaky.
    Desserts show the same degree of well-tuned attention to detail, color, and essential flavors, not sugary, not overlaid with too many garnishes.
     Paces88 is a real breath of civilized air at a time and in a city that takes casual dining a bit too seriously.

Paces88 is open for breakfast, lunch,m and dinner daily. Dinner starters range from $9-$17, entrees $26-$37.
866 West Peachtree Street, NW

       Chef Keira Moritz, a Georgia native, is among very few women chefs in Atlanta, but by any comparison, she is now one of the best. At Pacci--short for carpaccio--she is serving some of the finest Italian in the city while also offering first-rate steaks and chops, including Kobe beef carpaccio (below) served with tapenade, arugala and parmesan, at this new 114-seat restaurant next to the Hotel Palomar.  The throbbing music has got to go, though.
    As the photo to the right shows, the place has drama--in the walnut parquet floors, Mercury glass spheres, the high booths, the Italian fabrics, and the deep Carpaccio red of the generously proportioned upholstered chairs. There is also a long communal table at the bar area in front of the wine display.
     Vidalia onion soup--the glory of Georgia Allium--takes on a subtle Italian note with truffled crostini and fontina cheese rather than the usual Gruyère.  There is a really terrific duck confit served with polenta and Gorgonzola cheese, with a dollop of sweet Georgia blackberry marmalade.  Moritz's pastas are outstanding, too, from the superb complexity of pappardelle in a true bolognese sauce and ricotta ravioli with Speck, fava beans, and simple lemon butter, to plump, tender potato gnocchi with browned butter, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola--each of them richly flavorful and beautifully knit together.
      For the secondi, I thought the Alaskan halibut got all the help it needed to enhance its subtle flavor, through spring vegetables of favas, corn, heirloom cherry tomatoes and olives, while braised beef shortrib came with an assertive pesto sauce and fine mashed potatoes. Sea scallops were sweet and succulent atop al dente risotto with wild mushrooms and a sweet pea nage--a very beautiful dish.  And her Colorado rack of lamb may well be the finest example I've had in Atlanta in a long time.
        By the same token Moritz is doing some stellar desserts here, that includes a cheesecake-like budino, and rich dark chocolate.
     By the way, upstairs is the open-air AltoRex lounge where Moritz offers more Southern bar food like pork sliders, within view of the Atlanta cityscape.
Pacci is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner antipasti run $6-$12, full portions of pasta $16-$18, and main courses $18-$39.


Ritz-Carlton Hotel Downtown
181 Peachtree Street, N.E.
 Though more centrally located than its better-known Buckhead sister, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Downtown has quietly earned a reputation as a good grill-style restaurant under Chef Bennett Hollberg, and now, with the installation of a stylish new lobby bar called Lumen,  there is every reason to go here for lunch, a pre-theater dinner, or late-meal.
     Flatbreads are becoming ubiquitous in Atlanta, but Hollberg's are some of the best I've had, not too thin, good and crisp, with oxtail and fontina amd tomato toppings. So are the pork sliders (right), which are juicy and plump and make for a great lunch, as do the stuffed tacos.  Well, let me put it this way, having tasted four or five items I was hungry for more, not because I didn't get enough to eat but because the food was good. I will, herefore, simply list the menu items at Lumen. I assume thery are all as good as what I loved at lunch. I don't think you can go wrong. Also, the space has re-designed menus for Afternoon Tea, with five intensely flavorful, unsweetened iced teas: Acai Pomegranate; Marrakesh Mint Green Tea; Hibiscus; Orange Jasmine Mango; and Chamomile Citrus. The guest’s iced tea selection is poured over the cotton candy into the glass.

Smoked Chicken, Provolone, and Arugula Panini                 $8

Bell Peppers, Onion Compote

Blue Crab, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Garlic Crostini          $10

Crispy Fried Calamari, Red Pepper Aioli                    $8

Boursin French Fries                                $6

Mother Hollberg’s Fried Chicken Tacos (below)

Cider Braised Greens, Creamy Bacon Vinaigrette                $8

Southern Style BBQ Pork Sliders, Pickled Sweet Potato $10 (right )
With French Fries $15

Black Eyed Pea and Georgia Smoked Trout Hummus             $8

Assorted Crispy Flat Bread

Chef Selection of Three Cheeses                        $15

Daily selection of Blue, Goat, Hard, Soft and Washed Rind Cheeses

Honey comb, quince paste, Assortment of Bread and Crackers

Oxtail and Wild Mushroom Flatbread                    $10

Arugula, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Fontina Cheese

Vegetarian Flatbread                                $9

Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil leaves





a voce
41 Madison Avenue

      when A Voce opened three years ago, its excellence and reputation were so clearly based on star Chef Andrew Carmellini's canny way of bringing rustic Italian food to a new level of taste (it was one of my "20 Best New Restaurants of the Year" for Esquire) that his leaving last year put  the ability of A Voce to maintain that standard
in serious doubt. You didn't hear much about the restaurant for a while, but now, with the appointment of Chef Missy Robbins, all those who loved A Voce  before should love it just as much in 2009 and well into the foreseeable future.
      I first met Robbins in Chicago and dined very well when she was Executive Chef at the great Spiaggia, under Tony Mantuano, for five years, and before that she had solid experience at March, Arcadia and The Lobster Club in NYC and a stint at Agli Amici in Friuli. She has translated all that learning into her menus at A Voce, which do not attempt to replicate Carmellini's dishes but continue his legacy of bold, gutsy Italian food.  The crowd on the night I visited seemed just as convinced.

      The dining room hasn't changed as far as I can see, and now the summer garden patio, dotted with lemon trees, is an enchanting space to dine (if the rain ever stops in NYC). Inside, the art installation “Falling Twig” is still an impressive piece of work that brings nature into the dining room, along with décor colors of chocolate and vanilla spread over leather-topped tables and  banquettes. What also hasn't changed unfortunately is a decibel level that can be intensely overbearing at the very least. They do have a volume control, however, and you can ask them to turn it down.
      Three of us dug into the extensive antipasti offered here, which include superb charcuterie and breads, along with cassoncini (fried dough pockets) with prosciutto. Swiss chard, and crescenza cheese.  Outstanding is the plate of roasted trumpet royal mushrooms with truffle and hazelnuts in a rich, melting fonduta.
       It used to be that Italian restaurants were at their best with pastas, but across the board at A Voce everything is of the same style and standard of savory cooking. Tacconelle pasta diamonds come with chickpeas, garlic, and whipped sheep's milk ricotta; orrechiette is mixed with braised lamb, fava leaves, and oven-dried grape tomatoes dashed with olive oil--a terrific dish.  I was not too happy with garganelli with braised cuttlefish, garlic, dried chilies, and thyme, because it was sadly fishy and, like a couple of other dishes that night, plenty salty.
     Robbins takes pork tenderloin and wraps it in bacon then serves it with spicy rapini, fennel, and pollen to wonderful effect, and if you want something very simple, by all means go for the grilled lamb chops with lamb sausage, favas, onions, and the mint so beloved in Roman kitchens.  Also order the panelle, a platter of Sicilian chickpea fritters that will always be gobbled up.
     Dolci like Tuscan doughnuts with chocolate sauce; espresso semifreddo with salted caramel and almonds; and vanilla panna cotta with Meyer lemon and a touch of thyme go well beyond the ordinary and show how Italian desserts have improved measurably just in the last five years. But you might want to consider the cheese selection here--three for $14, five for $19--all Italian, all in peak condition.
       The winelist, under Olivier Flosse, is as friendly as the food at A Voce, with at least 18 wines offered by the glass,  65 half-bottles, 37 large format bottles, and fully 50 percent of the list priced under $90, including great buys on wines like  Dolcetto D'Acqui, vigne regali L'Ardi '06 at $32, Barbera del Monferrato, Maraia, Marchesi di Barolo '06 at $35, and Chianti Classico, Querceto,'06 at $52. Each month Flosse also hosts a series of wine dinners.
     Finally, as when it opened, A Voce is priced for right now, with antipasti $12-$16, pastas as full portions $19-$24, and main courses $24-$38.  There is also a new summer lunch menu at $29 for three courses.
      A Voce has a sister restaurant in Greenwich, CT, named Morello, which I will be writing about next week.

A Voce is open for lunch and dinner.


A Rise in Quality and Drop in Prices for 2005 Bordeaux
by  John Mariani

    Despite the global wine glut and bargain prices for just about everything in the market, the prices for the most illustrious Bordeaux wines from the great 2005 are still stratospheric for most buyers. Nevertheless, Château Latour 2005, which was listed around $2000 a bottle upon release last fall, is now selling for about $1500-$1600—that’s a 25 percent drop (Château Pétrus has dropped from $6500 to $4700 and Château Ausone from $5000 to $4100 at New York’s Sherry-Lehmann Wines & Spirits).
     But the 2005 vintage produced 6 million hectoliters, which works out to 800 million standard bottles, according to Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux.  And while the wines were eagerly bought by retailers at very good prices upon release, plenty of the lesser-known names are now being sold at rock bottom discounts.
      I chose a fairly random selection of 2005 Bordeaux, and their availability depends largely on regional distributors in the U.S., so if you can’t find these particular Bordeaux in your local store, you’ll probably find something just as good, because of the high quality of the vintage.
      The weather that year was excellent, and Bordeaux vintners have cut back grape yields, carefully monitor aging, and adjust the wines to the cask, allowing the fruit to shine. Nevertheless, 2005 was a very tannic vintage so that even modest cru bourgeois and haut-medoc wines are going to need time to loosen up. Here are some I was particularly fond of.
      Château Côte Montpézat ($15) is a very old winery at Belvès de Castillon in the A.O.C. region of the Côtes de Castillon, but it’s had new owners since 1989 who have upgraded every aspect of the winery. The 30-hectare vineyard is composed on 20 percent merlot, 20 cabernet franc, and 10 cabernet sauvignon, but in any given year they may vary the percentages in the bottle.
      This was among my favorites in the tasting, a bit looser than the others, with a good, solidly brick-like flavor that is happily characteristic of the region’s wines, a well-knit Bordeaux blend that will be terrific with meats on the grill this summer.
      Northern Médoc’s Château Tour Séran, which last fall was listing at about $25, is now down to $14-$15 a bottle. The blend is a nice, soft 65 percent merlot, 15 cabernet sauvignon, 10 cabernet franc, and 10 petit verdot. The label declares the 17th century chateau was “elevated” to the “most prestigious rank” of a cru bourgeois in 1932, which is not really all that prestigious (there are two “bourgeois” levels, “exceptionnels” and “supérieurs,” above it), but the wine itself has structure, with a pleasing 13.5 percent alcohol, good dark fruit flavors, and a little smokiness that’s very charming. It’s tight, though, so hold onto it for a few years.
      Château Paloumey ($18) is another cru bourgeois from Haut-Medoc, made from 55 percent cabernet sauvignon, 40 merlot, and 5 cabernet franc, and its bouquet is particularly interesting: I smelled lilacs and olives, almost Provençal in style. It is not particularly complex, but it will go well with just about any meats from chicken to hamburgers.
      Château Tour St Bonnet ($12-$14) is also a cru bourgeois from the Médoc appellation, and I found it simply a good red wine of the kind I want with good bourgeois home cooking—stews, braised meats, and mild local cheeses—in Bordeaux or anywhere else.  Food adds a good deal to such wines, and Tour St. Bonnet is not for sipping before dinner. By the way, you can visit and stay overnight at this château (right).
      Saintayme ($21) comes from Saint-Émilion, a small region of more than a thousand crus, including noble wines like Château Ausone and Cheval Blanc. Saintayme is a Grand Cru, and it certainly has the size and vegetal scent of its provenance. On tasting, it was very tight, almost inky, and did not loosen up much with a dinner of roast lamb. At the moment the wine hasn’t revealed more than two dimensions—aroma and tannin—but I’m willing to wait.
      Another two or three years will help most of these Bordeaux to come into better focus.  And at these prices, you can buy up cases of them and drink well for years to come.

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



According to an interview in The Economist, Somalia's Minister of Tourism, Abdi Jimale Osman, says he has not  had a single officially acknowledged tourist in 14 years. No wonder.  For starters, if you check into the Sharmo Hotel in Mogadishu, management advises guests  "to hire at least ten armed guards to escort them from the airport," and the city's cathedral is scrawled with graffiti reading, "Beware of landmines."  But Mr. Jimale insists, “Tourists can still go and see the former beautiful sights. The only problem is they're all totally destroyed. Most of the animals have disappeared too, because we have eaten them.” There are, however, bargains to be found:  In the market, a hand grenade sells for $10, a Howitzer for $20,000, and Mr. Jimale assures visitors, “I'm sure tourists would leave Somalia alive, and I'm hopeful they wouldn't be kidnapped. At least, we would try to make sure they were not kidnapped, although it can happen.”


"They call falafel street food. And fast food. The first time I ever heard its name, at a festival attended on a high-school field trip, a teacher told me, "It's an Israeli hot dog." And yes, you get them fast and eat them fast at stands around the world. But say — just say — you got one that you wouldn't want to wolf while striding down the street, because you owe it more than that, because each bite bursts juicy-chewy-crunchy-hot, then yields a sneaky slow sophisticated spice charge on the double-take. Say both halves of your brain insist that this be eaten sitting down because it tastes not mass-produced but crafted, like the fancy salads at those places you can't afford up the street. Say this falafel overflows almost deliberately, the way some folks drop keys or shriek with laughter when they flirt, and it would not just irk but sadden you to miss a bite. Then it's not street food anymore, is it? Lines have been crossed. It's something else, the sort of hybrid that could be conceived only in Berkeley: sit-down street food." -- Anneli Rufus, "Middle East Meets Far West at Chick-O-Pea's," East Bay Express (June 3).



* Over the weekend of July 3-5 The Willamette Valley’s 150 Days of Wine in the Willamette Valley  will open their doors for special wine events and activities,  “A 4th for the 4th" to benefit Ecotrust’s Farm to School initiative.  Red, White & True Oregon Wines kicks off summer in the wine country and offers a unique opportunity to enjoy Willamette Valley wines. Enjoy classic American summer activities such as picnics, live Bluegrass music, bocce ball, croquet and even a vintage car show.  Visit . . .On July 4 in Woodinville, WA, The Herbfarm’s chef Keith Luce  invites you to join them for two chances to feast and celebrate on Independence Day--Reds, Whites and Brews, a 4-course Patriotic Luncheon ($65 pp) or a 6-course Independence Dinner ($119). Both menus are designed so that guests enjoy the sun by day or the fireworks at night. Call 425-485-5300; . . . On July 4 in NYC, Brasserie 1605 will be offering a $200 package  rooftop fireworks party  incl. champagne, wine, cocktails, beer, and BBQ (Burgers, chicken, hot dogs) cooked up by chefs Ron Pericone and Chris Smith. Call 800-243-6969 or visit . . . in Portland, OR, Departure's two rooftop decks will feature a 4-course "Fire in the Sky" family-style menu, incl. 3 cocktails pp, by Chef Bryan Emperor and outdoor viewing of Portland’s fireworks.    $100 for lounge or dining seats on the East Deck,  $75 for the West Deck, Call  503-802-4641; visit . . . On July 3 in DallasNana,  on the 27th floor of the Hilton Anatole Hotel, hosts its monthly Friday Night Flights promotion with 3 food samplings inspired by the 4th of July holiday and paired with specialty beer by Stone Brewing Company. $20 pJason Armstrong, the Texas and New Mexico Regional Brewing Representative for Stone Brewing Co., will  answer questions, Call 214-761-7470.  Visit

* On July 1 in Saratoga, CA, Plumed Horse Executive Chef/Owner Peter Armellino and Jason Haas, General Manager of Paso Robles' Tablas Creek Wnery will present a $135 six-course menu paired with wines. Call 408-867-4711; visit

* On July 2 in Long Island, NY, OSO Southampton Inn will present an elegant 6 course gourmet dinner  by Chef Bryan Naylor, paired with award winning wines from Macari Vineyards. $75 pp, Call 631-283-1166.

* From July 5-26, in Studio City, CA, in honor of the annual Tour de France bicycle race,  Pinot Bistro is featuring dishes from a handful of French regions with a 4-course dinner, at  $45 pp, $65 with wine pairings. Call 818-990-0500; visit

* In Rye, NY,
La Panetiere is serving a summer $45 prix-fixe 3-course menu (in addition to the a la carte menu) and will change regularly throughout the summer to feature different seasonal, local ingredients.  Call 914-967-8140.

* On July 7 in West Point, NY,
the Thayer Hotel is offering its Quadricentennial Golf Outing at the West Point Golf Course, and  barbecue dinner. $125 per golfer, incl. dinner, or $55 for barbecue only. Call 914-345-0601 or email;

* On July 9 in Cleveland, OH, a 6
-course Stag’s Leap dinner will be held at  Moxie, for  $125 pp. Call  216-831-5599;

* On July 12 in San Francisco,
Zaré at Fly Trap Chef and Owner Hoss Zaré will hold the Joyce Goldstein and Hoss Zaré Mediterranean Dinner Benefit, a 5-course Mediterranean feast, benefiting Meals On Wheels. Call 415-243-0580 or

* On July 13 in NYC, Chefs for Scher at the Bowery Hotel will be held to benefit the Steven Scher Memorial Scholarship for Aspiring Restaurateurs and the James Beard Foundation, hosted byLaurent Tourondel of BLT Restaurants, Franklin Becker of Abe & Arthur’s, Ed Brown of Eighty-One, Scott Conant of Scarpetta, John DeLucie of The Waverly Inn, Bobby Flay of Mesa Grill, John Fraser of Dovetail, Alex Garcia of Calle Ocho, Michael “Bao” Huynh of BarBao,  Stephen Kalt of Epicurean Concepts, Elizabeth Katz of BR Guest Restaurants, Paul Liebrandt of Corton, Marc Murphy of Landmarc,  Nancy Olson of Gramercy Tavern, Ryan Skeen of Irving Mill, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Jean-Georges, and others. Many have donated dinner and packages to the silent and live auction.VIP: $225; General admission: $150; visit or call 800-838-3006.

* This summer in Beverly Hills, CA, Maison 140 features a “Vin et Fromage” wine and cheese tasting series, showcasing 3 different French Rosés expertly paired with artisanal cheeses,  each Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. at the Bar Noir for $35 pp. Call 310-407-7795.


* From July 3-14 in Alexandria, VA,   Bastille Restaurant will pay homage to their namesake with Chef Christophe Poteaux’s 3-course prix-fixe menu.  $35 pp.  Call 703- 519-3776 or . . . On July 12 in Cambridge, MA,  the region’s largest Bastille Day celebration, free and open to the public, takes place in the heart of Harvard Square, incl. the Traditional French waiter’s race;  Live musical entertainment. Sponsored by Sandrine’s Bistro, which offers a $25 lunch and dinner,  and The Harvard Square Business Association. Visit or . . .  In Santa Monica, Mélisse celebrates its 10th anniversary  on Bastille Day, with a 4-course menu priced at $100. Also, during the month of July, the restaurant will offer a $10 corkage fee as well as a 10-course menu of Chef Josiah Citrin’s favorite dishes from the past 10 years priced at $150 pp.  Call  310-395-0881. . . . On July 14 in San Francisco, Chez Papa Resto is serving a 4-course $60 pp Bastille Day dinner. There will also be decorations in the spirit of the occasion and live music on the patio. Call 415-546-4134.


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."  THIS WEEK: PASSPORT CARDS; ISRAEL; DUTCH PAINTING.


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:

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