Virtual Gourmet

July 26, 2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

                Ernest Hemingway, Sherman Billingsley, owner of The Stork Club, NYC, and John O'Hara, circa 1935


Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on

SUBSCRIBE AND UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish to this newsletter--free of charge--by clicking

In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER:  Sora Lella by John Mariani

Jealous Bitches and Smoking Loons Go for the anti- wine snob market by  John Mariani




by John Mariani

     From all the hyperventilated media reports about Chicago being America's capital of molecular/sci-fi (or whatever you want to call it) cuisine, the fact is that the city has but three restaurants--Alinea, Moto, and Schwa--doing that sort of thing, with no particular effect on the enormously wide-ranging diversity of the city's gastronomy. And even in this lousy economy, plenty of exciting new restaurants, none in the molecular genre, have opened in the past year that deserve their success.

660 N.State Street

   The protein combo of fish and meat is nothing all that new in American gastronomy,  but Ajasteak does it very well without straining to get to the point. The sushi is kept on the left side of the menu, the steaks and meats on the right, with some Asian-inflected bahn mi sandwiches thrown in for good measure by Chef Josh Linton, who has managed to congregate many of the current foodie obsessions in one place, not least an array of nouvelle burgers like the mushroom-and-caramelized onion burger with truffled pecorino cheese, and a no frills wagyu burger with shallot marmalade and lotus chips.  The best way to go this route is with the three Kobe sliders--blue cheese-onion, bread-and-butter pickles, and yellow mustard.
     Set within the Dana Hotel and Spa, Ajasteak is a shimmering, two-level dining room with a sleek long bar and floating sushi bar. So you can bank on pristine sushi and beautiful dishes like hamachi with avocado (left), as well as good beef, though too much emphasis is put on the wagyu and Kobe products, priced by the ounce, which in recession-dark 2009 now almost seems like leftover decadence from 2008. For the gargantuan eaters, two can share a $98 36-ounce (non-Kobe) porterhouse.   I also recommend the braised short ribs with Asian pear and wild mushrooms, and a really wonderful lobster Cobb salad generously tossed with blue cheese, bacon, and avocado. Don't fail to try the crispy pickles too.
      There are sake flights available and special cocktails, and the winelist is well fitted out to the kind of food served here.  Desserts are fun, gooey, good fun, like the Oreos chocolate cookies plumped with white chocolate mousse and a glass of milk from a local dairy on the side.
Ajasteak is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Dinner sushi is priced by the piece, with appetizers $7-$18 and entrees $21-$98.

845 W Fulton Market

    Paul Kahan is rightfully one of Chicago's most highly regarded chefs, first for his hip, modern American Bauhaus restaurant Blackbird, still going strong, then for avec, a very casual, wood-sided eatery styled around small plates of charcuterie and wine.  Now comes The Publican, in the Fulton Market District, which builds on the avec theme with big plates of hearty American and European food, which Chef Brian Huston turns out with great aplomb within a gymnasium-sized room with long polished wooden tables that is supposed to evoke a German beer hall. Indeed, beer is a very big component of the service here, with dozens of examples from Europe, many on draught,  each described in impassioned detail by the beer guy here who is happy to do flights, if you wish. The specialty is a an array of Belgian Trappist and Abbey beers
     Kahan describes The Publican's food as “pristine product, simply prepared,” the menu presented in sections: Fish, Meat and Vegetables, each laid out from lightest to heaviest fare.  Thus, you might start off with fresh oysters or halibut crudo; heavier would be the welcome Lake perch fry (a Midwest tradition) or sardines with golden raisins, pine nuts, bacon and olives. As at avec, there is plenty of aged ham. served with goat's butter and bread, and you can even chow down on spicy pork rinds or rich potted rillettes, steak tartare, or a fat boudin blanc sausage with apple and mustard--all great beer fare.
     The roast chicken has already gotten local acclaim as one of the best in Chicago, and don't forget the unusual vegetables, like collard greens with ham and hominy. Just about everything on the menu is listed with its source, which might be local or far away, as long as it's the best Kahan can procure.
     There's an early dinner menu here served from 3:30 to 5:30 with many of the smaller items from the regular menu.

The Publican is open Mon.-Sat. for dinner and on Sun. for brunch and dinner. Dishes are in categories of fish and meat and vegetables, running from small plates at $3 up to main courses up to $27.

51 West Hubbard

      Hub 51 makes everything stark simple, starting with the name that tells you the address.  Their website is linked to Facebook and Twitter, and as soon as you enter the big, swirling atmosphere of young people carefully dressed up to look super casual, you know this is either your kind of place or not.  The vibes are, in fact, infectious, and the much-put-upon young staff works hard to keep smiling, just as the kitchen sweats hard to keep up with the orders, and the bartenders to keep shaking cocktails.
      The restaurant management's pedigree is substantial: R.J. Melman and his brother Jerrod are the sons of master restaurateur Rich Melman, whose Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has for decades been the most innovative dining group in Chicago, with concepts ranging from the grand seafood restaurant L20 and the swank Everest to the tapas bar Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and Asian place Big Bowl. Both the sons have worked for the parent company and combine different experiences to have come up with Hub 51, which is very much their restaurant.
     Sure, the menu is way too large but from the many items I tasted, the food is carried off with dash and good flavors. The modern, whaddayou-wanna-eat?, diner-like menu  begins with sushi rolls, then moves on to "cool plates" that include a really good ahi tuna poke with avocado and rice crackers, even "truck-stop charcuterie platter" with beef jerky.  The "What's Hot" category has everything from miso soup to really good chicken nachos, and then there are four salads, and an array of soft tacos and enchiladas (I found the pulled pork example pretty bland), "Two-Handed Sandwiches" that lists an open faced BLT you have to use a knife and fork to enjoy entirely, and then bigger platters that are anything but simplistic.  The overnight-braised short ribs with root vegetables and pan jus are delicious. Next time I will try "The Dude" 18-ounce ribeye with parmesan mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms.
     Then there are the more-or-less tongue-in-cheek "house rules," which include "Music is at the volume we like. Ear plugs Available on request" (you'll need them!!!); "No espresso. Starbucks down the block" and "Guys, no tank tops. Trust us, we're doing you a favor." It's a fun place with food far better than you might expect.

Hub 51 is open for lunch and dinner daily, brunch on weekends. Appetizers $4-$$13, main courses $12-$35.

Part Two of Chicago Dining will appear in next week's issue.



by John Mariani

Sora Lella
300 Spring Street (near Hudson St.)

 In 1959  actor Aldo Fabrizi’s sister Elena opened the original Sora Lella on Rome’s Isola Tiberina, soon becoming one of the neighborhood's chic ristoranti.
    This year the idea was exported to NYC's SoHo, by Elena’s grandsons, Mauro and Simone Trabalza, along  with partner Fabio Maltese.
    The colors and lighting fixtures are similar to the Roman model, without the antique wooden ceilings, but with wall racks of wine, and it is one of those rare new restaurants that has kept tablecloths as part of the pleasure of dining out. It's warm, friendly, and easy to drop into on a whim or after a movie. (They might want to think about changing the waitstaff's hideous black shirts and unknotted white neckties.)
     Exec chef Mauro Trabalza is enthusiastically reproducing many of the best-loved dishes from Rome, starting with polpettine della nonna--grandma's veal meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce, the very essence of casalinga cooking and good to share with another person as an antipasto.  All the pastas are truly sumptuous, including one that dates to 1961--tonnarelli alla cuccagna, a squared-off egg pasta with sausage, cured pork belly, walnuts and a little heavy cream, which makes for a very dreamy dish.  Also delicious are the ravioli and spinach ricotta (also thanks to grandma's repertoire) with a veal, porcini, tomato and besciamella sauce; fresh fettuccine with sweetbreads and parmigiano; and paccheri all'amatriciana, a Roman favorite of flat noodles with spicy tomato and bacon sauce, doused with good pecorino cheese.
      For secondi I recommend the silky and succulent roast rolled breast of veal with argodolce baby onions, and the pan-seared filet of beef in a red wine reduction with mashed coconut potatoes, an oddity that tastes pretty good.   If you in the mood for seafood the pan-seared monkfish with a sweet Frascati wine reduction and a grape-tomato sauce with fresh caponata and toasted almonds is the most complicated of the three dishes offered, but it comes off well. in savoriness, layers of tastes, and textures.

        Desserts are all made on the premises, from a chocolate "salami" roll with almonds and caramel to some excellent gelati that includes my favorite--cinnamon with honey.
      Despite the hundreds of Italian restaurants of note in NYC and although many serve Roman-style dishes, Sora Lella is as close as you'll come to a true experience alla romana in this town.

Sora Lella is open for lunch and dinner daily. Antipasti $9.50-$26, full portions of pasta $17.50-$22, main courses $22.50-$36.



Jealous Bitches and Smoking Loons
Go for the anti- wine snob market

by  John Mariani

   Wine labels have a long tradition of illustrious family names like Rothschild and Mondavi, while others like Far Niente and Cloudy Bay evoke the romance of wine. But in the last few years wineries aiming at those who wouldn’t dream of spending more than $12 on a bottle have been giving their labels odd, funny, even ridiculous names like Fat Bastard, Woop Woop, and Red Bicyclette that sell oceans of cheap wine.
      One of the biggest success stories of the decade has been Australia’s seven-dollar Yellowtail—named after a yellow-footed rock wallaby--which launched in 2001 and within three years became the most popular imported wine in the U.S., now with about 8 million cases sold annually.
      There is, of course, a reverse snob factor in all this, aimed at what has been called the “Joe Corkscrew” segment of the market. So, the less pretentious the name, and the better the price, the more likely someone new to wine or not willing to spend a lot on it is to take a chance on something around ten bucks. Oh, then there’s “Two Buck Chuck,” correctly named Charles Shaw Chardonnay, which took the top prize for quality wine at the 2007 California Exposition and State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.
      I’m afraid I am not the target audience for such wines, but in a recent tasting of several weirdly named bottles, I found that I might very well become so.  The current state of viniculture and winemaking is so well geared to making good wine around the world that through blending from different vineyards, quality wines are now available at very reasonable prices.  In fact, the term “premium wines” in supermarket categories now refers to a 750 ml bottle priced above $7, which strikes me as a tad low.
       So what did I find tasting these wines? Plenty to praise, even if they had cost double what they do.
      Jealous Bitch Chardonnay 2007 ($11) from Australia is so-called because, as the label notes, winemaking can be a “dog-eat-dog” profession, so they stuck an open-mouthed terrier on the front. With a hefty 14 percent alcohol, this is a true New World chardonnay—big, full of vanilla, and oak but still tasting of the varietal itself. It’s not to my style but I could easily drink it with spicy grilled seafood or something like a Caesar salad.
      Now to whom do you think the makers of Cupcake Vineyards aims its California Central Coast Chardonnay 2007 ($11). Might it be ladies who lunch and women who don’t drink cocktails at cocktail hour?  It has a little sweetness to it but it’s not cloying, so it will go with a lot of food. In fact, winemaker Adam Richardson says its goes great with “crab cakes, seared Ahi tuna on waffle crackers or fresh-baked French bread and cheese.” I had it with pine nut-studded veal meatballs in a tortilla, and it worked fine. I’d even drink it at an art gallery opening—notorious for lousy white plonk.
      The too-cute name Peachy Canyon Winery may be a turn-off to guys, but its 2005 Paso Robles Zinfandel Incredible Red ($11) has soft tannins, a lot of pleasant vegetal notes, and an easy-to-drink 13.9 percent alcohol, so it’s not going to tire your palate after one glass. I’d certainly knock it back with barbecued pork or beef, for it can take those smoky, sweet, vinegary flavors.
      A silly tale on the back of Smoking Loon insists its name comes from a legendary California interloper who sneaks in and out of towns then fades away, “leavin’ no trace ‘cept the lingerin’ sound of his eerie, loon-like cackle.” Whatever. The winery’s 2007 Pinot Noir ($10) is a damn good example of this finicky varietal, with real pinot noir flavor and good texture, with medium color, and an affable 13.5 percent alcohol. I’m finishing the bottle tonight with roast loin of pork dashed with a little soy and hoisin sauces.
     Mello Max Natural Sweetness Merlot 2006 ($8) from Chile tasted about the way it sounded—sticky sweet, muddy, and possessed of a terrible musty aroma. But what do I know? The label states, “For years, wine snobs have been pushing their sour harsh wines.  Now Mello Max gives you the freedom to drink Merlot the way you like.” Go right ahead, but include me out.

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.



A Paris study has found that a 42-year-old Washington State woman almost had to have her leg amputated because she was on a grapefruit diet. The study, published in the Lancet, concluded that the  woman tipped her hormone balance by eating a grapefruit a day while dieting while on oral contraceptives.


"Anyway, before the flight back [to London], I sat in the lounge staring out of the window while they fed the pilot black coffee. I was trying to think of things that made sitting in the lounge staring out of the window seem less onerous and, naturally, my thoughts turned to Silvio Berlusconi, and what it must be like having the absurd little Eyetie maître d’ bounce up behind you with amorous intent. The most riveting international news of the past month has been that Noemi Letizia, his chubby, barely legal inamorata, was known by her ex-boyfriend as his `little anchovy'. Which is, without labouring specifics, unarguably the most unpleasant, unflattering and unromantic pet name ever given as an inducement for frolicks and congress. So I whiled away the time concocting gastronomic nicknames for the dirty duce himself. She could call him `my truffle': an expensive, smelly fungus. Or `Fanta': saccharine, effervescent and an improbable orange colour. Or the `pepper grinder': comes with a flick of the wrist, and mostly over the linen. She says she calls him `Papi', which is too spookily Humbert Humbert for words, but being a bimba, I’m sure that she usually reverts to calling him `Apollo donkey c**k'. Bra-burning came to Italy only because you didn’t need them with plastic t**ts."--A.A. Gill, Times of London (6/7/09)


* Sandy Lane in Barbados has enhanced their summer 2009 travel packages to incl. complimentary nights valid  through September 30. Guests who book the “Gourmet Challenge” package will receive 2 nights’ complimentary stay when they book a 7-night stay; 3 nights complimentary on a 10-night stay; and 4  nights complimentary on a 14-night stay.  The package includes a wine tasting with the resort’s Wine Sommelier, a cooking demo, and a special tasting menu from Sandy Lane’s Culinary Director and Head Chef Grant MacPherson. All children age 12 and under visiting Sandy Lane through Dec. 16, will receive complimentary dinner. Visit;  Call 246-444-2001 or toll free at 866-444-4080.

* For the sixth consecutive year the Hôtel d'Angleterre in Geneva, Switzerland, will host its annual summer spectacular with 5 chefs from London's Tamarind Restaurant for a 3-week extravaganza between July 27 to Aug. 15.  Diners can extend their evening with an overnight stay.  The  Tamarind package includes one night's accommodation for two, buffet breakfast, and a 4-course Indian dinner for two. Call 800-223-6800 and in Europe call 00 800 2888 8882;   Visit

* Patina Restaurant Group, which  incl. Brasserie, the Sea Grill, and Naples 45 in NYC,  and Patina, Pinot Bistro, and  Zucca in California, is hosting its first national Tomato Festival this summer, now on the West Coast, and Aug. 1 on the East Coast, until the tomato season ends. Special menus will feature heirloom and local vine-ripened tomato varietals in liquid and solid form, including creative and delicious cocktails, appetizers and entrees. For a list of participating restaurants, with menus, please visit

* In Washington, D.C. Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak now offers Classic American Suppers that change nightly, priced at $50 pp. Sun.-Wed., $60 Thurs. & Fri., $70 on Sat., for 3-course menus  through Labor Day.  Call 202-944-2026.

* On July 29 in NYC, BAMcafé at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan magazines, in partnership with the  Good Beer Seal, July Good Beer Month, and will throw a sudsy soiree  complete with Gramercy Tavern homebrew and weiners, beer cocktails and the marriage of Brooklyn-brewed beer and Queens-raised pork. $45 (half price when you subscribe to Edible Brooklyn, Edible Manhattan or Edible East End). Visit  or

* From July 31-Aug. 1, in San Martin, CA, the 3rd Annual CordeValle Guest Chefs’ Culinary Weekend will be held. Chef Luca Rutigliano, at CordeValle Resort will host Chef James Sakatos from The Carlyle in NYC, and Chef Oliver Ridgeway from  Inn of the Ansazi in Santa Fe, with  wines from Quintessa,   $1090 per couple, incl: 2 nights’ accommodations; BBQ dinner and golf event;  wine reception and dinner; Call 408-695-4500;

* Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort  Casino in St. Maarten welcomes couples with its “St. Maarten Seduction” romance package, valid  thru Dec. 19, incl. Bottle of Champagne and Belgian chocolates upon arrival; Ocean view accommodation;  dinner for two, one glass of house wine pp; Daily breakfast;    $20 match bet at Golden Casino. $199  per night, with a 3-night minimum. Call 800-223-0757 or visit

* The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau,  brings back Miami Spice for its 8th year,  Aug. 1 - Sept.  30, presented this year by Stella Artois, the event features more than 90 of the city’s  fine dining restaurants, incl. SRA. Martinez, Hakkasan, Chef Allen’s, Eos, Wish, Ola, and Asia de Cuba, offering 3-course lunches at $22 and 3-course dinners for $35. For updates on participating restaurants, special previews, menus and sponsors, visit

* Starting Aug. 1, China Grill Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale will offer diners an option to choose between half and whole orders of the existing sharing plates--giving everyone a chance to sample a wider variety of dishes without breaking the bank. Later this summer, the Las Vegas location will be making the same menu change. Call  305-534-2211/Miami; 954- 759-9950/ Ft Lauderdale.

* From  Aug. 1- 31 in NYC  Las Ramblas  owner Natalie Sanz will be offering several  cavas at  $7 per glass and less than $25 for many bottles, with  special tapas.  Call 646-415-7924; Visit

* In Harbor Springs, MI, Boyne Highlands Resort  has introduced a line-up of 3-course dinners highlighting Michigan beers and wines planned through September.   Beer dinners $30 pp, wine dinners $40.  Upcoming dinners feature Arcadia Brewing Co. on Aug. 3; Blackstar Farms on Aug. 10;  Mountain Town Brewing Co. on Sept. 8. Call 231-526-3059; visit

* Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley, CA,  has announced a month-long school backpack collection drive during August, organized to provide backpacks for underprivileged children via The Berkeley Boosters/Police Activities League (PAL). Spenger’s will give away a $10  dining certificate in exchange for every new or good condition backpack dropped off, good towards lunch or dinner at Spenger’s. Visit or call 510- 845-7771.

* On Aug. 2 in Los Angeles, Wally’s Wine & Spirits, with the support of Los Angeles magazine, will host Wally’s 6th Annual Central Coast Wine and Food Celebration, to benefit the Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund at UC Davis’ Department of Viticulture and Enology on Sunday, with 60+ Central Coast wineries, chefs incl.  Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza by Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali, La Brea Bakery, Spago Beverly Hills, Lucques/A.O.C. /Tavern, Campanile, Comme Ça, the Hungry Cat and Sushi Roku, et al. $95 pp in advance and $125 at the door, Call 310-475-0606 or thru

* On Aug. 6 in Cleveland,   Moxie will host a 5-course dinner pairing Nickel & Nickel wines with Executive Chef Jonathan Bennett’s cuisine.  $99 pp. Call 216-831-5599;  www.moxietherestaurant.

* On Aug. 8 at the Historic Custom House Plaza in downtown Monterey, CA, The Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association is celebrating its 17th Annual Winemakers' Celebration, with 50+ wineries,  in educational displays, barrel building demo by Seguin Moreau Cooperage, wine auction, and taste local restaurant delicacies while listening to the great sounds of the Dennis Murphy Band. $45 in advance, $50 at the door. Visit; call 831-375-9400.

* On Aug. 9 in Yountville, CA, Chef Michael Chiarello of Bottega and NapaStyle will host an afternoon Napa Valley mid-summer Zin n' Ribs celebration with  a party on the lawn outside Bottega,  'Meet & Greet' book and bottle signings with Chef Chiarello;  Cooking demos by Chef Chiarello and a special guest chef; a variety of wines and sodas incl. uding Chiarello Family Vineyard’s Zinfandel. $30; $15 (under 21), children 6 and under are free. Proceeds benefit Clinic Ole and Land Trust of Napa County’s Connolly. Tix may be purchased at

* On Aug.  9 in  Bridgehampton, NY, a 2009 GREAT CHEFS DINNER to benefit  The Hayground School’s Jeff’s  Kitchen and The Jeff Salaway Scholarship Fund. $125 for cocktail party; $500 for cocktail party  and dinner, with courses by Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin), Joseph Realmuto  (Nick & Toni’s) and Claudia Fleming (North Fork Table & Inn). Call 631- 327-0573;

* From Aug. 10-23 restaurants in the Greater Houston area help fight hunger during Houston Restaurant Week 2009, with over 50 restaurants serving a 3-course meal for $35 pp. Restaurants will donate $5 from each meal sold directly to the Houston Food Bank. Visit

* On Aug. 12 in NYC, Saul Restaurant will be celebrating Julia Child with a tributary dinner, recreating dishes from Julia’s iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. $65 pp, $45 wine pairing. Call 718-935-9844.

* On Aug. 13 in Schaumburg, IL, Shaw’s Crab House and Lynfred Winery, Illinois’ oldest and largest winery, host wine 5-course dinner prepared by Chef Juvenal Reyes, with Sommelier Steve Tindle pairing Lynfred wines. $89.95 pp. ; visit; Call 847-517-2722 (Schaumburg), visit the website at

* On Aug. 14 Cetrella Restaurant in Half Moon Bay, CA,  will host a 4-course Ridge Vineyards Wine Dinner  $95 pp. Call 650-726-4090.


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: The Coast of Summer in New England; Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Last Minute Summer Deals; Kremlin Treasures at the Sackler in D.C.


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