Virtual Gourmet

July 5, 2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER



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In This Issue

The Espresso Wars Heat Up with New No-Fail Machines  by John Mariani

by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: The Douro Boys (and one Girl) by Mort Hochstein



The Espresso Wars Heat Up
with New No-Fail Machines

 by John Mariani

        Despite $30 billion U.S. coffee sales annually, most Americans don’t know beans about coffee.
      “Coffee is at least as complex as wine,” insists Andrea Illy, the third-generation Chairman of illycaffè S.p.A., whose grandfather Francesco invented the espresso machine in the early 20th century. “In America people think of coffee as just a drink with food. Even when people here buy our coffee and machines, even restaurants, they usually don’t make it properly and the whole point of good espresso is lost.
      “For years we have tried very hard to educate our customers, but in the U.S. they don’t clean the machines correctly, they don’t heat the cups, they serve it with lemon peel. But now we are about to change that. We have made espresso-making foolproof.”
      I agree with every word of what Illy says.  It is so rare, even in an Italian restaurant in America, to get even a drinkable cup of espresso that I have stopped asking for one.
   At Dunkin’ Donuts, which I think makes very good American-style coffee,  espresso now counts for 10% of their annual sales, but they serve the stuff in paper cups, which is the first mistake in making a decent espresso.  (I will not even discuss de-caf decoctions as coffee at all; it's like the difference between and bull and a steer.
       Until the 1980s almost all espresso in the U.S. was brewed in metal pots with two canisters (right), and it was usually awful, made from cheap, bitter, burnt coffee grounds, which is why it was usually served with a  piece of lemon rind to improve the taste of the sludge.  Believe me, a ten-cent shot of Sambuca did nothing to improve it either. You can make a perfectly nice cup of coffee with such a  machine if you use good ground coffee beans, but it tastes nothing like espresso.
       True espresso (which is not spelled "expresso")  is usually a mix of fine arabica beans with darker, more robust robusto beans, made with a machine intended for two purposes only: espresso and cappuccino, techniques invented in Milan at the turn of the last century. The first espresso machine appeared in 1902.  The story goes that it was a quick shot of coffee before catching the Milan express trains.
      Italy doesn’t grow  any coffee beans but it does import and roast them.  The fellow who makes your coffee in a café or bar is an expert called a barista, and he is as fastidious about the humidity in the air and the correct grinding of the roasted beans as he is about the temperature, size, and shape of the cup. The machines are kept scrupulously clean and serviced. In fact, a service contract is always a part of the purchase of an espresso machine in Italy. An Italian would never be caught dead drinking coffee from a paper cup.  Thus, it is difficult not to have a delicious, well-made coffee in Italy. Believe me, prisoners in the worst jail in Palermo get better coffee than most Americans get here, and that goes for the diluted junk Italian-American restaurants generally serve, even if they bought $10,000 espresso machines--of which there are dozens on the market--and expensive Italian beans. But who usually makes the coffee in an American, even an Italian-American, restaurant?  The busboy, who wouldn’t know good coffee if it came up and bit him on the butt.
      So how do you get a good cup of espresso in America? Stay home!
    The reason is that coffeemakers have indeed made the making of perfect espresso foolproof with their machines, and the good news is that, owing to the world recession, these machines are cheaper than ever.
     In our house we have three espresso machines, and all work beautifully. For more than ten years I have used a LavAzza Espresso Point, which takes little plastic cylinders perfectly packed with the right amount of coffee, through which hot water is expressed into my short, impeccably shaped ceramic espresso cup.  If you leave the machne on during the day, as you should, the top of the unit warms your espresso cups. It is a very handsome machine in gold and silver, and over the last decade, I've had very little trouble with it--a blown fuse I replaced myself and another time a broken computer chip that ran about $150 in repairs. Originally the machine cost me something in the range of $800-$1000, but today it runs about $600-$700.  The capsules cost about 50 cents each, sent in boxes of packets. Compare this with the absurd price for a paper cup of Starbucks' and the machine will pay for itself within a year.
     The literature on the made-in-Italy Point machine claims that "Cleanup is also simple, [as] used cartridges are automatically ejected into a removable storage drawer each time a new one is inserted, so your hands never get wet or dirty when brewing."  This is true, though a few coffee grounds still cause an easy-to-clean residue into the exposed capsule holder.   I have been very happy with the Point machine, but, now that Illy and Nespresso make machines that work even better, and more cleanly, I turn to them, too.
With an array of beautifully designed machines with names like Le Cube and the Essenza, Nespresso, part of Nestlé Nespresso S.A., now has about a 23 percent market share of espresso machines globally. Its products sell in 50 countries, with more than 3,500 points of sale and more than 80 stylish city boutiques selling machines, cups, sugar, and coffee through a club membership. Millions of Club Members purchase monthly supplies of cartridges with names like Lungo, Grands Crus from various coffee regions, and many more, in jewel-bright colors and handsome boxes. Last year Nespresso sold well over 2 billion capsules.
      Nespresso’s newest machine is the Lattissima (right), made by De Longhi, which amazingly makes a first-rate cappuccino in just one step: You place a milk container in the machine, pop in a coffee capsule (which runs about 55 cents each), push one button; the frothy steamed milk fills half the cup, followed by the espresso, which sinks beneath the cap of foam.  It’s an impressive process, with next to no cleaning necessary, and the cappuccino is excellent too. The home unit retails for $699-$799 online, but if you order direct from Nespresso, the machine is currently only $499.  The site also sells all the various accouterments for stylishness, from lovely ceramic and glass cups, trays, capsule drawers, teaspoons, and so on, so you have a complete design center at your behest.  And how does it all taste?  Wonderful, especially since you have so many options for stypes and styles of beans, roasts, and grinds.

       The new Illy Francis Francis X7 IperEspresso machine (below)--a great-looking art deco "R2D2"-like design in various colors--also uses pre-measured plastic cartridges whose precise amount and grind of coffee is controlled by laser. The coffee never touches metal, so the only thing you ever have to clean is the catch tray and the exterior of the machine itself.
     Air pressure forces out a precise amount of coffee in about 18 seconds, with the all-important, perfect layer of light foaminess on top that Italians call the “crema.”
  The Illy Iper gives an impeccable crema, and it simply refuses to dissipate, which is what 99.9 percent of all the espressos you will ever be served in American will do within two seconds.  In fact, you can leave the IperEspresso coffee sitting for ten minutes (by which time it will, of course, be cold) and the crema will still be intact.   And for this kind of no-error machine, you will pay only $395 at the moment (I saw it on the Illy site for $150 not too long ago), which makes it an amazing bargain.
        Illy offers two kinds of capsules--dark roast and the other a bit lighter--and they run about 75 cents each, less if you order in bulk. The company also features its annual signature Artists' series cups, which has included designs by Jeff Koons, Julian Schnabel, and, this fall, a beautiful series by director Pedro Almodovar--the one at right has an image of Penelope Cruz on it from the director's new movie. These series have become collectors' items, and they run at different initial offering prices. Collect 'em all!
   By the way, all these machines make excellent cappuccino, too.
Such innovations are making it hard for anyone to  screw up making a good cup of Italian coffee. Even a busboy can do it.  And about that lemon peel? It’s said people used it in the old days to tame the bitterness of bad espresso. But an old Neapolitan barista once told me with a shrug, “The lemon peel? You dip it in the sweet espresso and give it to a sick child to suck on to calm his stomach."

by John Mariani

      By sheer numbers, there are more Italian restaurants of every stripe in Westchester County than anywhere outside of a major city like New York or Los Angeles, and still they proliferate.  Here are two excellent newcomers, and another in Greenwich, just across the Westchester/Connecticut, each with a good pedigree. (From midtown Manhattan, they are a 45 minute-to-one hour's drive.)

Tarry Lodge
18 Mill Street
Port Chester, NY

The formidable reputations of restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich have had tremendous impact on the success of the newly revamped Tarry Lodge, which occupies  an old restaurant in Port Chester, set just a mile from the border of the Westchester/Connecticut line.
    The building itself is a century old, once a speakeasy then a family restaurant, and its basic structure and interior elements have a period charm that the new owners have exploited to the fullest with beautiful period touches, good lighting, and optimal use of the two-and-a-half level space.
     Since this is now an Italian restaurant, I'm kind of surprised they didn't change the cheery archaic name--maybe to Osteria del Porto?--but no matter. The place looks great, bisected between a bar/dining room (below) with an elevated landing and a slender room as you enter, with more seating upstairs, overlooking the street. At the bar--which they call a saloon--you can have light meal and a quartino of Chianti.
     While it's highly unlikely you'll bump into Mario at Tarry Lodge--both men are  involved in scads of other other enterprises and media--there is a decent chance you will meet Joe, who lives nearby in Greenwich. Chef Andy Nusser has worked at their Babbo, Casa Mono and Bar Jamon in NYC, and he is always here, along with partner and manager Nancy Selzer.
     Those who go to Tarry Lodge hungry for the kind of food served at any of those other restaurants or at Bastianich-and-Batali's deluxe Del Posto may be puzzled by the menu here, which more resembles one of Bastianich's other NYC restos, Becco--fairly straightforward Italian food, mostly familiar, but with more dash. By all means start off with a fine-crusted, thin pizza--they run a very reasonable $10-$14--with toppings that range from classic margherita to grilled ramps, pecorino, and chilies.  But the antipasti are the soul of the menu here, from farro grain mixed with broccoli di rabe, beets, and sweet-sour dressing to octopus with baby potatoes, and a raft of excellent Italian hams and salume.
     The pasta section is mercifully short, meaning they can cook to order--plump tortelloni with peas and pancetta bacon; gnocchi with braised oxtail; mezzalune with fava beans and lemon butter--all simply prepared  with care in every dish. The secondi dishes stay mostly within safe grounds, from a whole roasted branzino with blood orange marmellatta (at $25, a steal); old-fashioned osso buco with green fregola; and a daily special that might be lobster fra diavolo on Monday, and lasagna alla Napoletana on Sunday.
     Desserts like strawberries with mascarpone and panettone pudding with dulce de leche gelato are winners, and at $8, easy to give in to.
     As at the partners' Otto Enoteca in Greenwich Village, the winelist is extensive in well-selected Italian bottlings, although at the beginning Tarry Lodge's list was way overburdened with labels well in excess of $100; now, there are plenty more well below that figure, and they do offer those well-priced quartinos.
      At lunch there a plenty of bargains on the menu, including crispy orata with fennel and orange at $15 and grilled lamb chop with onions at $15.

Tarry Lodge is open for lunch Mon.-Fri, brunch Sat & Sun., and dinner nightly. Antipasti run $6-$10, pizzas $12-$16, pastas $14-$16, and main courses $18-$28.


1 Mamaroneck Avenue

White Plains, NY

    Once you get past Chef Joe DiMaggio, Jr.'s remarkable name (he's Old Number 5's distant cousin)--and you won't miss him because he proudly bestrides the dining room each night--and realize that his experience in cooking is about as solid as his namesake's was in baseball, you can settle down at one of the spacious tables or booths in the huge two-story restaurant and savor what he has to offer,  all at good prices.
     DiMaggio (below) has worked at his family’s hotel in Bologna under  Chef Piero Carbonetti, then under Jacques Maximin at the  Negresco Hotel in Nice, later becoming CEO of Food Innovations, a "Direct from the Source" company delivering hard-to-source perishable ingredients from around the world to chefs within 24 hours. DiMaggio came aboard at Zanaro's a few months ago to pull together a faltering enterprise that could seat 300 but rarely did. Now, the place is hopping weekdays and weekends.
     Zanaro's décor is close to being over the top, with its 40-foot ceiling and wraparound balconies--thanks to its location in the former
landmark Home Savings Bank Building, but the warm colors and the cordial greeting make this a place to take the family or friends to have a darn good time.
     DiMaggios credits his grandmothers for many of his recipes, and they have that homey goodness and wholesomeness that distinguish the casalinga style.  So his bolognese sauce made from three meats takes a full six hours to bring into focus, then it is served atop rigatoni.  His ingredients are the best he can find, including rabbits fed a diet of juniper berries.
       Zanaro's now serves the requisite pizzas, which are well rendered, including a
"Pizza in Purgatory" topped with poached eggs and  pepper oil, tomatoes, basil and Romano cheese. Another comes with artichokes, caramelized onions and sautéed spinach.  The crust is a bit too thin for my preference, but these are wonderful "pies."
     The salads are sumptuous, particularly the one with prosciutto, soppressata, provolone, roasted peppers, and much more.
     Grandma is credited once again with a hefty dish of lamb, beef, and pork meatballs, and spaghettini comes with those same meatballs.  Pasta all'amatriciana is an authoritative balance of spice and sweetness gained from pancetta bacon, red onion, and tomatoes. But the spaghettini alla carbonara would be better, and lighter, without heavy cream mixed in with the onion, bacon, and peas.
     Many items are cooked and served in black clay pots, including seafood fra diavolo, braised short ribs, and chicken scarpariello with sausage and peppers--all very good.
 For dessert you can't go wrong with the lemon-coconut polenta cake and a fine example of the ubiquitous tiramisù.
The winelist could be stronger in a place of this largess, currently with about 50 selections, but they are well priced.
At the moment Zanaro's occupies a unique position as a stellar Italian ristorante in White Plains. But I hear talk that Zanaro's owner, Zane Tankel (with Applebee's and Chevy's franchises) and DiMaggio may take the concept into other venues—not in itself a bad thing, but the more removed a chef like Joe gets from the original ovens, the more diluted food can become. I hope he stays right where he is.

Zanaro's is open daily for lunch and dinner. First-course dishes run $5-$14), pizzas $12-$15, pastas $12-$22 as full portions, and main courses $16-$20.

253 Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich, CT

     The premises of Morello Bistro, like Zanaro's, was once a bank building, this one on Greenwich's main drag, and the restaurant's been through a few transmogrifications since then, first a very fine French restaurant, then a more casual French restaurant, and now, as an Italian-Mediterranean place that seems to have hit just the right mark with the locals, who include residents of some of the wealthiest towns along the Connecticut/Westchester Gold Coast that stretches by the Long Island Sound.
      Morello's owner,  Marlon Abela, runs several fine dining spots in London as well as A Voce in NYC (written about here last week: click), and Morello is close in spirit to the latter, though wholly different in design, which is spread over three majestic levels of tiled archways (done by the famous Rafael Guastavino, who also tiled the Great Hall on Ellis Island and Grand Central Terminal's Oyster Bar).  There are also mezzanine rooms available for banquets. The whole place is quite an eyeful, and you enter through a cozy bar--very popular in Greenwich--into this magnificent space.

     Executive Chef Townsend Wentz (right) has come from stints at Philadelphia's  Four Season's Hotel and Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, then worked at  A Voce in preparation for the launch of Morello Bistro. He works within the inspiration of A Voce, with big lusty flavors, well portioned out. The menu is slightly bigger than it needs to be, trying too hard to please everyone, but from what I sampled one evening, most everything is coming out right, starting with antipasti of crisp fried calamari scented with
oregano, lemon aïoli, and tomato sauce for dipping; grilled octopus salad with frisée, radish, fennel, lemon, and arugula Salad; and truly wonderful sea scallops  with the succulent addition of braised pork belly, ramps, farinata, and thyme.
      The pasta section offers both the usual and the unusual, the latter including potato gnocchi with Speck, spring peas and Moliterno cheese, and pizzoccheri con calamari, made with buckwheat flour.
     Whether you're in the mood for fish or meat, you will be well satisfied with Morello's s
autéed branzino  with caramelized cippollini onions, parsley root, and lemon; a terrific and flavorful 16-ounce roasted veal chop; and the excellent rack of lamb  (left) with fava beans, morel mushrooms, and rich braised lamb sugo.  There is also a Puglian specialty menu here at $38 for three courses.
     One of Morello's strongest points is its spectacular winelist, buoyed by the restaurant's previous incarnation, with  750 selections,  with half of them priced under $90, and  20+ offered by the glass. Monday nights you may BYOB without a corkage fee.
     Dress nice--but not dressy--Morello gets a well-tuned Gold Coast crowd that makes sense of casual chic.

Morello Bistro is open for lunch Mon.-Sat., brunch on Sun., and nightly for dinner. Antipasti at dinner runs $7-$15, pastas (full portions) $20-$22, main courses, $24-$36.



by Mort Hochstein

   In the early eighties, I made my first visit to the Douro region in northern Portugal, the home of Port.  Traveling by night on one occasion, I clung to a tattered safety belt in a battered Volvo station wagon as we humped our way over narrow mud roads. Those twists and turns on unlighted roads that were little more than mud paths were off-putting,  but I might have been even more disturbed  had we been driving by daylight so that I could have seen how precariously those roads clung to the edge of a towering mountain.
     But it was close to midnight and the  light we followed was from our goal, a  winery where we watched laborers and their families   pressing grapes the old-fashioned way, by stomping on them by foot in a concrete pit.
     Purple-footed people still   abound in the Port region, and the  roads I traveled in  this,  one of the world’s oldest wine region,   still twist  and turn and double back  precipitously. But now they   are   paved, almost    comfortable, and   safer, though some of those farm routes  can still  be rattling.  On this journey,  I came not to taste Port but to  explore the new excitement in these steep-walled valleys and mountains where producers are crafting extraordinary table wines and  creating a renaissance in  the Douro.
    Today the region is in flux as  modern wineries, inns, and other tourist accommodations are springing up where once there were only quintas (farms, equivalent to the French term châteaux) and a long hard road to Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, home of the Port trade that dominated the region for so many years. The harshly rugged banks of the Douro River now lead to some 40,000 hectares of vineyards. It is a humbling sight as you travel the river road or on the ancient single-track railway line along the water  to see  vines clinging to terraces carved out of the towering mountains.
    Cargo boats still work the river,  and there are cruises for tourists in the summer. It is a quiet yet exciting landscape where visitors and wine travelers are just beginning to appreciate the majesty of a region less traveled.
   The Portuguese made wines here for several centuries, but they were primarily for home consumption and table wines were almost an afterthought to the business of raising grapes for Port. There has always been a dribble of Portuguese table wine on the world market, primarily in areas catering to Portuguese immigrants such as the ironbound section in Newark, New Jersey, or  along the New England seacoast, where Portuguese fishermen settled.
    Those wines   seldom appear on  wine lists, and it wasn’t until recent years that the Portuguese sent us any notable still wines.  In 1986, after Portugal   joined the European Economic Community, regulations which had favored Port exporters and discouraged the production of fine wine, were revised, giving impetus to   growers to change their sights.
      Miguel Roquette of Quinta do Crasto, one of the region’s leading winemakers, explains the revolution in the Douro: “The big port houses controlled the trade, and it wasn’t until ’86 that the single quintas were able to label and ship their own wines.  We’ve always produced table wine but  largely for local consumption.  Back then it was ‘best grapes for Port and second quality for table wines.’ Obviously this has changed, but we have a long way to go until Portuguese wine takes its place as a legitimate category on wine lists.”
     Roquette is a member of a gang of five Douro-area producers (below) who’ve brought new world marketing techniques, as well as enological and technological skills and traces their wine producing history back to 1756.  They’ve christened themselves "The Douro Boys," a marketing tool that does not do justice to their experience, their age, or the one female in the quintet. Many other producers are taking part in the wine revolution in the Douro, but this quintet has made an impact with  a promotional drive backed up by 21st century winemaking skills.
      Relatively young and well connected, from families with a long history in the Port trade, they are running counter to worldwide trends by eschewing commercially popular varietals such as Cabernet and Chardonnay (does the world need another Chardonnay?) in favor of unknown, indigenous grapes.
    Their wines are based on less familiar warm climate varietals such as Tinta Barocca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga France, Touriga Naçional and two dozen other types that have flourished locally for several centuries.  “Our wine,“ says Roquette, “is made from 30 indigenous varieties, and we feel that consumers looking for new wine styles will find a different sensory experience in these old world grapes.”
   The wines from the Douro vary from producer to producer, but the best are dark red with a hint of spice and layers of flavor from dark cherry to mulberry and earthy mushroom.   The best of them bring prices rivaling super premium Cabernet and several have been elevated to cult status.
      Winemaker  Louis Seabra, who worked at Niepoort, another member of the Douro Boys, hails the change, observing that “This group has been able to bring the land back to the locals and produce wines just as they would have been produced centuries ago.” That’s true more in  theory than in practice since the new crop of winemakers, many of whom trained  in vineyards around the world, have adapted the best of modern viticultural techniques, have recruited New World consultants,  and have equipped their   wineries with technology their forefathers never envisioned.
    Grapes in Portugal, as elsewhere, seem to wear many names, depending on geography.  Tinta Roriz, for example, is more familiarly known elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula as Tempranillo and less familiarly recognized in the south as Aragonez.  The Douro wine list is a forest of new grape names and labels.
     Port aficionados will recognize the name of Niepoort, a long established Port house now making big strides, blending new still wines from a veritable alphabet soup of grape types. Others in the group are Quinta Do Vale Dona Maria, home to winemaker Sandra Tavares,, a former model who is the  lone female in the gang of five;   Quinta Do Vale Mao, and Quinta Do Vallado, which has made Port for more than 200 years.  There are dozens of other winemakers changing the face of the region, but the Douro Boys have jumped into the forefront with their skillful   promotion, traveling the world as a group and speaking not only for themselves, but for the region.

Mort Hochstein, former editor and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, and former managing editor of Nation's Restaurant News, writes  on wine, food and travel for Wine Spectator, Wine Business  Monthly, Saveur and other food and wine publications.



In Kansas City, Missouri,  43-year-old Karen Christine Downs and 25-year-old Kelsee Guestwere were arrested by Platte County police to  face felony child-endangerment charges after allegedly providing liquor and beer to six 13- and 14-year-olds at a birthday party for Downs' daughter, offering $10 to whoever could chug a glass of vodka the fastest, putting two girls in the hospital.


"Chef Graham considers his cuisine to be fine art. His spoons and knives are his brushes, his plates, his canvasses. In my estimation his cuisine is the DaVinci, Michaelangelo and Rembrandt of culinary art with a bit of Monet, Jackson Pollock and Claus Oldenberg thrown in for surprise and humor."—Diane Shrago, “Graham Elliott restaurant,” Splash Magazine.



* In
New Orleans, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots announces its Tastings at the Track Summer Series, in partnership with Dorignac’s Food Center, showcasing  25 top wines for $25 pp, with live entertainment by The Yat Pack. Tix available at Dorignac’s. Visit

* In NYC
Restaurant Daniel is offering a 15th Anniversary Menu for $98 pp Mon.-Thurs. from 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM. Call 212-288-0033.

* Seattle chef Tom Douglas announces his 3rd annual Culinary Summer Camp, in 2 sessions:  July 12-July 16, and Aug.  9-13. Campers will  work closely with Douglas and chefs from his restaurants, in addition to local and international celebrity chefs thru interactive demos and hands-on instruction.  Douglas will lead an elaborate “How to Cook a Duck” demo.  The July session will feature Takashi Yagihashi of Chicago's Takashi; Mirko Reeh, of Reehstaurant in Frankfurt, Germany; and Bruce Aidells of San Francisco.  The August session’s lineup  incl. Holly Smith,  of Café Juanita, and  Gale Gand, executive pastry chef and partner of Chicago’s Tru restaurant. $2,500 pp. Call 206-448-2001.

* On July 14
in Beverly Hills, CA, for Bastille Day, Maison 140  invites Angelenos to an evening of champagne, French wine, Pièce Montée (a traditional French wedding cake), French Cheese and fruit, and more. The evening’s festivities will also include the chance to win an exclusive “Vin et Fromage” wine and cheese tasting at Maison 140’s Bar Noir, hosted by Sophie Gayot of; $85 pp (with $20 donated to The HOPE Program). Party-goers are offered a special $75 “take the elevator home” room rate for the evening. Call 310-281-4000;

* On July 14 in Los Angeles, Ortolan
will be offering a 5-course Bstille Day menu for $75 pp. Call 323-653-3300.

* On July 15 in Los Angeles, the first of
monthly Venetian Dinners will be held at All' Angelo.
 with owner Stefano Ongarao and Chef Roberto Franzoni, $45 +  $28 for wine pairing. Visit; Call 323-933-9540.

* On July 20 in West Hollywood, CA, Los Angeles winemaker Sandy Garber will offer selections from Topanga Vineyards at  Dominick’s, for $65 pep. Call 310- 652-2335;

* From July 17-21 in Kirkland, WA, "Kirkland Uncorked" will showcase some of the newest lifestyle designs hitting the Pacific Northwest in the Seattle Homes and Lifestyles Pavilion, with jazz musicians and bands from Pony Boy Records; he Boat Show; a show of  60+ wines from 20 Washington wineries in the Tasting and Lifestyle Garden. Afterward, visit The Grape Choice Wine Shop featuring bottles and cases of the varietals featured;  Henry Weinhard’s Beer Garden, pouring premium brands of Belgium Wheat, IPA, Private Reserve, and more; tastings from Pacific Northwest’s finest restaurant samplings. Visit

* From July 23-26 in Gunnison-Crested Butte, CO, the 2nd annual Crested Butte Land Trust Wine & Food Festival will showcase hundreds of wines and amazing cuisine with seminars from $35-$50 each.  Examples  incl.  Wine 101 and Blue Chip Wines of Italy; a complete seminar schedule (with more being added as they are booked) is available at

* From July 25-26 in LaFarge, WI, the Kickapoo Country Fair will be the Midwest's largest organic food and sustainability festival. Presented by Organic Valley Family of Farms, Kickapoo Country Fair brings together thousands of attendees for food, music, bike and farm tours, cooking demonstrations, theater, kids’ activities, dancing, author readings, and a keynote panel featuring organic pioneers – Visit, Call 888-444-6455.

* On  July 25, the James Beard Foundation will honor restaurateurs Alex von Bidder and Julian Niccolini and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary Four Seasons Restaurant at Chefs & Champagne® New York, held at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, NY,  with culinary offerings from  30+ chefs, many from JBF Award winning restaurants; and the wines of Wölffer Estate.  VIP  Admission: $350 for JBF Members and General Public. VIP tables of 10: $3,000; General Admission: JBF Members $175, Non-members $250. Call 212-627-2308;

* From Aug. 22-29. Washington, DC's Taberna del Alabardero’s  Chef Dani Arana wil lead a culinary cruise on  The Great Lakes: A Voyage through North America’s Magnificent Inland Sea.Great Lakes, aboard Travel Dynamics International’s 100-guest Clelia II.   During the cruise, Chef Arana will prepare special meals, offer passengers master classes and demonstrations, and conduct wine-tasting sessions as the ship voyages from Toronto, Canada to Duluth, Minnesota. Call 800-257-5767; visit


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." 


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:  Tennis Participation Surges: 27 Million of Us

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. THIS WEEK: A FAIRY TALE IN PRAGUE

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