Virtual Gourmet

August 2,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER


                                  Stanley Tucci as Paul Child and Meryl Streep as Julia Child in the movie "Julie & Julia" (2009)



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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNERPorter House by John Mariani

by Brian Freedman


by John Mariani

335 N. Dearborn St.

      Chicago has a few pretty good Italian restaurants in the "red sauce" category and one great Italian restaurant, Spiaggia. Smack between the two levels is the delightfully happy A Mano, which offers so much more than most competitors in town without the heady highs of Spiaggia. If I lived in Chicago, I'd eat at Spiaggia twice a year and at A Mano once a  month.
     It's a great-looking place, despite being below street level.  The light pours in from above, and the kitchen and dining room are both well lighted to create a cheery atmosphere, helped along by a fine attendant staff. The winelist is categorized as "Lively and Aromatic," "Outsider Grapes and Blends," and so on, and there are plenty of bottles under $50. A Mano aims to please.
     They also offer at lunch "unlimited trips to the antipasti bar" (below) which at $12 is an invitation to steal, with a judicious selection on Italian cheeses and salumi.  At dinner a platter "for the table" runs $15 for three, $28 for six selections. There are also delicious panini and flatbreads, sizzling bruschetta and very good pizzas--among the best in Chicago, a city that sadly venerates the leaden skillet pizzas pioneered here.  Try A Mano's crisp beauty, with prosciutto, or Gorgonzola with grapes and walnuts.
       Chef John Caputo's pastas are rich and carefully cooked al dente, from garganelli with a wild boar ragù, raisins, and pinenuts to spaghetti and meatballs with ricotta salata cheese.  One of the special entrees here is the big flatiron steak with roasted rosemary potatoes and a splash of balsamico, and I urge you to have the daily roasted  fish.
       A Mano is offering the kind of Italian food easier to find in New York, San Francisco, even Atlanta these days, and Chicago's other Italian restaurants should pay attention.

A Mano is open daily for lunch and dinner. Dinner pastas run $12-$17, main courses $17-$24.


161 N Jefferson Street

     Province--with an i, not an e--is one of the loveliest new restaurants in Chicago, quieter than most, more sophisticated than many, with a modern elegance that in no way suggests formality.  In fact, the overall clean, seductive shadowy décor has fantastical elements like a piece of petrified manzanita wood hanging from the ceiling.  an anemone-like chandelier of great beauty. Large windows open onto the street here in the West Loop, and the artwork--like a giant painting of a white eggplant--hangs against vibrantly colored walls.  All this makes for a wonderfully romantic setting and has, compared to most contemporary restaurants in Chicago, Province has a civilized sound level just in case you want to have a real conversation with your friends.
     The menu, by Chef  Randy Zweiban (below), known for being among the first to open a Nuevo Latino restaurant in the city, Naçional 27,  focuses here on Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine, offered in several categories from "bites" and "raw" to "small," "big," and "bigger," so you could make a meal from the top part of the menu and get out pretty cheap if you're not too hungry, though even the most expensive item on the "bigger" section is only $25.
     My favorites throughout this screed included very tasty squash taquitos, though at $3 each, you're going to need more than one.  The fluke ceviche with red grapefruit was an honorable marriage of sea taste  and sour-sweet, and my very favorite dish from the "small" list was shrimp with grits and plenty of manchego cheese.  Pretty close on my hierarchy was the "big" slowly cooked beef cheeks with carrots and onions, a good simple stew with plenty of deep flavors, and a superb rabbit confit with almond emulsion.  On the "bigger" side, the rotisserie chicken was pure pleasure, golden and crisp and juicy, with mole verde as a surprise side, and a good chimichurri-rubbed flat-iron steak with sweet potatoes and house steak sauce, a steal at $22. 
     I enjoyed the delectable match-up of the spiced lemon sour cream pound cake with the lavish addition of lemon yogurt and pear compote, and chocolate is served four devilishly good ways--as dulce de leche, a cocoa sorbet chocolate pudding  and "gooey" muffin.
      Province is unharried and unhurried, which a lot of good restaurants once were in Chicago before flash and noise blasted all that away. So if you want inventive, well-focused food and very fair prices, Province is where you want to be.

Province is open for dinner Mon.-Sat. Food is priced according to plate size and serving.

123 N. Jefferson Street

         Opened last summer, Sepia has change chefs once, the current resident of the kitchen being Andrew Zimmerman, who has a true affinity for the kind of Mediterranean fare and novel ideas that have made this a very successful Chicago spot both for lunch (Michelle Obama has dined here on occasion) and for dinner, when it gets a crowd that obviously comes for the food rather than the mere vibes.
        Watch what you step on at Sepia, meaning that the art nouveau floor tiling is very beautiful to see, and owner Emmanuel Nony has fashioned the rooms, from bar to private dining area, with out-of-the-ordinary good taste in the use of oak wood, brickwork, antique mirrors, mementos from the building's history as a print shop, and evocative black-and-white photos of Chicago ballerinas.  The
floor-to-ceiling wine display holds 800 bottles, most under $75. Oh, and there's "Marseilles soap" in the restrooms, if you care for that sort of thing.
     Zimmerman's résumé has some unimpressive stops along the way, having realized that he was a better cook than the rock musician he wanted to be as a teenager. He's worked at the Park Hyatt Chicago,  MOD, opened the now defunct del Toro, and came aboard at Sepia several months ago.
     The menu is, quite simply, tantalizing, from a terrific  artichoke flatbread with pine nuts and mint to a very juicy porchetta sandwich with arugula--perfect lunch items with a glass from a superior winelist.  Like other places on this list, Sepia does a fine charcuterie plate, with duck pâté and rillettes, and the lovely frisée salad with poached egg is textbook perfect.
      The best of the seafood I tasted was a plate of sea scallops with sunchokes, Serrano ham, and almonds--good crunchiness here--and
very good ruby trout, nice and fat, came with black-eyed peas and delightful candied bacon. Savory chickpea crêpes with Swiss chard and tomato-harissa chutney makes for a good vegetarian option,  and there is a "pinto box" offering at lunch for $12 that includes a salad or soup, choice of three main courses, and a selection of cookies.
     Try to resist the brownie, though tea ice cream does nothing for this splendid example of sweets Americana, and those cookies are equally tempting.
Sepia serves lunch Mon.-Fri, dinner nightly. Dinner appetizers run $6-$15, entrees $19-$30.

The Bristol
2152 North Damen Avenue
Photos by Steve Johnson

     The Bristol describes itself as “A Neighborhood Eatery & Bar,” with a refreshing lack of pretense and a décor of wood and brick walls, bare tables, and blackboard menus that doesn’t stray much from the kind of neighborly places Chicago has always prided itself on. Here at The Bristol, however, the menu goes way beyond burgers and chicken wings while never straying into artifice. Nothing on the menu tops $18, and that’s for a “large dish.”
      Owners John Ross and Phillip Waters, with partner-chef Chris Randel are betting they can keep prices low by not banking on reservations; it’s first-come, first serve.
      You could easily just eat your fill on “bar snacks” at The Bristol, which range from puffy, addictive “Monkey Bread Pull Apart” with dill butter and sea salt ($4) to porchetta di testa ($4)--which sounds better than "pig's head cheese"--with a pesto condiment, and a terrific flatbread pizza topped with bacon and sweet caramelized onions ($7).  There are also salads and sides generous enough for a major nosh, including thick potatoes fried in duck fat with housemade ketchup and garlic aïoli ($5, though they also come with the $10 Bristol burger with Cheddar and pickles), and “Lazy Pierogi” which more like a pasta of pastry strips with onions and butter.
      The “Medium” size dishes start off with a huge, decadently rich ricotta-stuffed raviolo with an oozy egg yolk and plenty of brown butter ($11).  The creamy spread of pork rillettes comes with tangy leeks vinaigrette and good sharp mustard ($11) to be slathered on crusty, toasted bread.
      If you’re still starving, go for the big plates of a duck confit Reuben sandwich with Gruyère cheese and Thousand Island dressing ($10), but avoid the tasteless crawfish and chorizo with white polenta, at $18 the priciest and least interesting item on the menu (actually I think it's gone). For dessert go with the panna cotta buoyed by sweet preserved peaches ($4).
    There’s a solid and well-priced 100-label winelist here, but the real draw are the 70 different beers, best sampled in flights of three.  And the waiters seem very familiar with the style of every beer on the list.   

Bar snacks from $4, salads $7-$9, medium dishes $10-$16, large dishes $10-$18.

graham elliot
217 West Huron Street

     One chef who abandoned Chicago's molecular cuisine is big Graham Elliot Bowles, whose fine cooking I first experienced when he was chef at the Jackson House Inn & Restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont. He relocated to Chicago three years ago as chef at Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel, where he went a bit overboard with razzle-dazzle avant-garde cooking and plate presentations.  Now, at his namesake restaurant Graham Elliot in River North Gallery District, he is showing less exhibitionism and more refinement, breaking his menu into categories of cold, hot, sea, land, and sweet with no descriptive fanfare. He calls it a “bistronomic restaurant,” that combines fine cuisine with “humor and accessibility.”
      He’s right on both claims: The food is some of the most exciting in Chicago, and the place is comfortably casual, with soft lighting thrown by shaded ceiling lights, cushy leather, booths, brick walls, wood columns, and beamed ceiling, left over from its 19th century warehouse setting, and well separated tables.
     There are still a couple of dishes that try too hard to be noticed, as when Elliot places a lavender marshmallow into a perfect spring pea soup with pea tendrils, pink peppercorns, and crème fraîche ($10).  The marshmallow goes gooey and tastes sweeter than the peas themselves. And the cocoa nibs on the white sashimi of tuna with crispy plantains, whipped avocado and passion fruit ($10) are just plain silly (just scrape them off, because the dish is otherwise a good one).
     Elliot’s true brilliance shows in combinations like his kung pao-style sweetbreads with broccoli florets, peanut brittle, black sesame, and a shot of chili oil—a witty take on a Chinese-American standard.  His sea scallops, plump and sweet on their own, are enhanced texturally and in flavor by the accompanying potato salad, fried pickles, ham hock, and cornbread sauce. He encrusts skate with pine nuts, then serves them with a polenta cake, baby arugula, and a delightful raisin vinaigrette ($29).
     It’s impossible not to swoon a bit over his crispy pork shoulder with farro grain, dandelion greens, picked ramps, and a sweet-sour cherry mostarda ($29), and his Colorado lamb (the menu’s most expensive dish, at $33) is succulent, perfectly grilled to rosy rare and served with chickpeas, preserved lemon, fava greens and a pomegranate yogurt.
      The winelist is surprisingly short—just 50 selections, but they are from some of the best boutique vineyards.
     You might opt for the fine artisanal cheese plate with kumquat preserves, but don’t miss out on the deconstructed shortcake of pound cake with peaches, strawberries, lemon curd, and vanilla ice ($9). It’s as summery as a dessert can be.
   Inside tip? An easy cab ride from downtown that won’t cost you and arm and a leg, like so many Chi-Town restaurants.

Appetizers, $10-$15, main courses, $29-$33. 5-course tasting menu at $75.



10 Columbus Circle (near Central Park South)

    The well-named Porter House New York has achieved what so many other steakhouses around NYC have not--a reputation based on much on its service as on its food and atmosphere.  Let's face it, the hyper-masculinity of the old line steakhouses in NYC, with their grumpy old man waiters who haven't the slightest interest in you beyond your tip, is still entrenched to the degree that your being recognized as a V.I.P. by the management is your only guarantee of anything but rudimentary hospitality.
    This is the polar opposite of the way everyone is treated at Porter House, which begins with a good-looking young greeting at the reception desk and bar and flows into the waitstaff and wine service in the vast, beautiful dining room overlooking Central Park, which no restaurant--except the others in the Time-Warner Centre, like Per Se and Masa--could possibly match.
     But the glowing force for hospitality here is owner Michael Lomonaco himself, as ebullient in person as he has been on his TV show, "Michael's Place."  His approach to solid American cooking dates back to his experience as chef at NYC's `21' Club and Windows on the World (where he escaped within five minutes of the 9/11 disaster).  You can also bank on him being at Porter House six days and nights a week, so not only consistency but oversight is guaranteed, and it shows in every dish that comes out of the kitchen and in the way it is served--not tossed on the table as at so many other steakhouses.
    Lomonaco, with chef de cuisine Michael Ammirati, is not trying to re-invent the wheel of a genre menu that has proven amazingly durable. He's only refined it. So you begin with unstintingly fresh shellfish--oysters, clams, shrimp, mussels, and lobster--or a classic Caesar salad. There are also corn-fried oysters with ancho chile mayo and jalapeño pickles, an excellent crabcake, seared sea scallops with capers and brown butter, and a superlative beef tartare. Everything is of top quality, right down to the bread (not a given in most steakhouses), and the side dishes, like Parmesan-dusted asparagus, fabulously crunchy onion rings, four- cheese macaroni, creamed spinach, and great potatoes--mashed Yukons, hot, meaty French fries, and crisp made-to-order chips. You could make a meal out of these items, even if you're a vegetarian.
    But this is a steakhouse, so how does it measure up? I don't think there is any better in New York. It's in the quality of the meat itself, of course, but also in the cooking, and Porter House's porterhouse for two ($45 per person) is one great piece of beautifully charred beef. The cowboy ribeye ($45) is the richest and most marbled of the steaks here and the one chefs themselves invariably prefer. The lamb t-bone is from Colorado and you get two hefty chops, seasoned with rosemary and olive oil, for $42--you may well take one home.  The $44 veal porterhouse is massive and has a little lemon zest to it.

     There are four sauces to accompany these cuts, and they are worthwhile in small dabs: you don't want to mask the flavor of those meats, but the Béarnaise is worth a tablespoon or two on the side.
     The notion that you couldn't possibly want dessert after this kind of a meal is not without merit, but you should at least share one, maybe the superlative  "Old School" hot fudge and whipped cream sundae, and a delightfully retro "Grown-Up's Root Beer Float," made with small batch root beer, vanilla ice cream, and caramel liqueur.
     Porter House has a very fine winelist, though there should be more wines under $50.
    By the way, Porter House may offer the best deal in town, resgtaurant Week or no Restaurant Week: Every day it offers a 3-course Park View Lunch at $24 and 3-course dinner at $35, and the place is always packed as a result.
     So when people ask me for the best steakhouse in NYC, I have to shrug and say, "You will get a great piece of meat at any of the well-known NYC originals, from Peter Luger to Ben Benson, from Smith & Wollensky to the 2nd Avenue Palm. But for looks and a panorama to die for, along with great service, I always recommend Porter House first." That's not likely to change.   

Porter House New York is open daily for kunch and dinner.




The Ancient Art of Israeli Winemaking

by Brian Freedman

    Of all the up-and-coming wine regions across the globe, and for all the press and praise that’s regularly lavished on them (or, at the very least, on their potential), the Middle East remains, remarkably and stubbornly, below the radar. The irony of this is two-fold: The history of winemaking in the Middle East can be traced back thousands of years, with constant references to wine in the Bible and other national epics, so it should come as no surprise that grapevines have the potential to flourish in several parts of the region. And many of the wines themselves, especially from Israel, are every bit as good as those from more famous—or, perhaps, press-ready—places. (Other issues concerning the Middle East tend to grab the lion’s share of press coverage and popular attention; as a result, the quality of the wine tends to be overshadowed, or not even considered.)
    The Middle East, it can be argued, is the cradle of world winemaking. In 2000, the Jewish Museum in New York held an exhibit called "Drink and Be Merry: Wine and Beer in Ancient Times." The museum’s website introduced the show as follows:   “Wine and beer are among the oldest alcoholic beverages known, originating in at least the sixth through fourth millennia BCE in the lands of the ancient Near East. From there they spread westward, first to Greece and then to the Roman Empire. Mesopotamia and Egypt were known as beer-drinking lands, since they were rich in the grains used to make beer, while grapes were difficult to cultivate in their hot, dry climates. However, in the land of Israel, Greece, and the Roman Empire, wine was the primary drink. In fact, the land of Israel played a significant role in wine production from early times.”
    From ancient roots to more recent times, the wines of the Middle East have seen a remarkable drop-off in popularity and consumption in the wider world. Of course, in Muslim nations, alcohol is forbidden.  But now, it seems as if this is about to change, because these days, with winemakers from both Israel and Lebanon in particular honing their skills in the great wine regions of the world before returning to their respective homes, and with the adaptation of more modern methods both in the vineyards and in the wineries, there is a serious renaissance happening in this ancient land. And the wines, when made well and allowed to express the unique terroir from which they come, show fabulous potential in many cases and, in some, have already managed to achieve something awfully close to excellence.
    Like most Americans, my first experience with Israeli wine was a bottle of sweet kosher red—not exactly an experience I’d ever want to repeat, and a miserable hangover to boot for a 12-year-old. But the assumption that all or even most Israeli wine is embodied in the sweet kosher stuff is tantamount to believing that all American beer tastes like Bud Lite—which, of course, it doesn’t.
    This was recently made deliciously clear at Zahav, one of Philadelphia’s top restaurants and a haven for lovers of the food and wine of the region. Chef-owner Michael Solomonov and wine program director and co-owner Steven Cook have assembled a wide-ranging wine list that touches on regions throughout the world, but that has a wonderful core of Israeli wines.
    It seems as if, as is the case with so many up-and-coming wine-producing countries, the best Israeli wines are those that eschew the overuse of new oak and overripe fruit and instead allow the terroir to shine through. From the generally volcanic soils of the Golan Heights to the limestone-rich land of the Judean Hills, Israel is home to enough interesting, potential-rich vineyard sites to really warrant exploration and ultimately expression—which, happily, is exactly what’s happening.
    The Flam Sauvignon Blanc – Chardonnay 2007, for example, while perhaps a bit too expensive (a constant problem in up-and-coming wine regions all over the world), is nonetheless an excellent example of what this land can express when allowed to speak without an obscuring mask of oak. There’s a spicy chick pea note on the nose, as well as a charmingly transparent whiff of green apple.  These lead to a palate of well-balanced acidity and lightly grilled green bell peppers, then on to a pepper and grapefruit pith finish.
    Of course, not all oak is used indiscriminately; when used wisely, as it is in the Clos de Gat Chardonnay 2007, it has the potential to create a wine of great power and beauty. This one, a shimmering rich gold color in the glass, starts off with notes of grilled peaches and hints of tropical fruit. And while it’s a bit too buttery on the entry, solid stone fruit and a line of steely acidity and minerality take over, providing an excellent sense of balance to the creamy pineapple flavors.
    But at the tasting that Zahav set up for me at least, it was the reds that really stood out. The almost Loire-like tobacco, green vegetables, and dark berries of the Margalit Cabernet Franc 2005 Binyamina vineyard from the Shomron region (a blend of 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon), screams out for food, perhaps a dry-rubbed barbecue preparation. The age-worthy, Bordeaux-style Clos de Gat 2004, from the Ayalon Valley, with its graphite, cedar, currant, and smoke notes, shows amazing restraint and promises 3 – 7 years of evolution ahead. More modern Tabor “Mes’ha” 2005, from the Galilee, possesses a spicy Shiraz drama that jumps right out through the graphite of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the rounder fruit of the Merlot, resulting in an ancho-spiked chocolate character that’s darn near addictive. All of these wines, despite their differences in style, are excellent.
    Sweet wines, too, are having their day—and not the same ones that caused me such a headache all those years ago. The Carmel Late Harvest Gewürztraminer 2006, from the Sha’al vineyard in the Upper Galilee, is heady and perfumed and, despite its slightly low acidity, nonetheless delicious, its lychee and super ripe white peaches carried on a lighter frame than you’d expect. And the Tabor “Mes’ha” Dessert Wine 2005, produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, benefits from a scaffolding of minerality and well-considered vanilla to hold up its grapier core. With a peanut-butter dessert, or, keeping it vaguely regional, perhaps a sesame or almond semifreddo, this would be a welcome end to any meal.
    And that, above all else, is what strikes me about today’s Israeli wines: Their versatility with food, the range of styles in which they are made, and, most important of all, their vast potential. Because as enjoyable as so many of them are right now, it seems as if they will only continue to improve, and, hopefully, begin to play the role they so richly deserve to on the international stage. Or, at the very least, at more dinner tables around the world.

Brian Freedman is a food and wine writer, wine educator, and food and wine consultant. He is Director of Wine Education for the Wine School of Philadelphia, contributing editor for Philadelphia Style Magazine, wine columnist for Affluent Magazine, and writes the blog for His web site is


The F-Word is apparently not "Fresh"

According to a London newspaper, "F-Word"  chef Gordon Ramsay, who has declared
that "Using fresh ingredients is the only way to guarantee a great taste and I can't understand how on earth people can ignore fresh food," was outed for serving trucked-in food at some of his restaurants. The newspaper reported that a "backstreet kitchen provides the coq au vin and smoked fish cakes that he sells at big markups in his posh London eateries," and that "A Ramsay spokesman said the dishes were prepared by Ramsay-trained chefs, then `sealed and transported in refrigerated vans' to a restaurant and three pubs with small kitchens, where they are cooked `to order.'"


In Naples, FL, Meredith Hart Mulcahy was arrested after allegedly assaulting her 71-year-old common-law husband after he complained about her undercooked potatoes and burnt bread because she was drunk, at which point Ms. Mulcahy threw a phone at him.


* From now thru Labor Day in NYC new chef Fausto Ferraresi at Macelleria is now offering special Lobster Nights on Fri.-Sun, at $22, incl. 1 1/4 pound lobster, Italian cabbage salad, and corn on the cob. Call  212-741-2555.

* In NYC at Daniel, Chef Daniel Boulud introduces Rajeev Vaidya as new Head Sommelier, with a series of Wine Dinners on Wednesday evenings in August. The 4-course summer menus will be accompanied by wines selected by Raj just for these occasions at $290 pp. For details, click here.  Call  212-288-0033.

* On Aug. 8 the 4th annual Holly Hill Inn Harvest Dinner at Happy Jack Pumpkin Farm in Frankfort, KY, will be held, with  chef/owner Ouita Michel.  $35 pp.  Call 859-846-4732.

* On Aug. 13 in Chicago at The Ravenswood Billboard FactoryShare Our Strength's Taste of the Nation® is the nation's premiere culinary benefit will be chaired by Chef Mindy Segal (HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar) along with 25+ of Chicago's best chefs including mk's Chef Michael Kornick, mixologists (led by Bridget Albert), Craft Beers, entertainment and much more. $125 pp. For tix go to:

* On Aug. 13 in Woodinville, WashingtonThe Herbfarm’s first-ever 100-Mile Dinner launches  and continues through the end of the month, with a tasting dinner of 9 courses, 6 wines, and a range of hot and cold beverages, all from ingredients grown  within of 100 miles from its kitchen. Visit  or by call 425-485-5300.

* Beginng Aug. 15 on Waikiki, Table One at Halekulani in the atrium of Orchids restaurant of the Historic Main House, Chef Vikram Gargoffers a 5-course  for $95 pp or 7-course at $125, with additional selections of internationally acclaimed two-tier wine pairings. Table One accommodates 4–6 guests and requires 48-hours advance reservations with lunch service available upon request. Call 808-923-2311;

* On Aug. 16 in Arlington Hts, IL, Chef Susan and Michael Maddox's Le Titi de Paris will celebrate the 37th Anniversary of the restaurant by hosting the Third Annual Alumni Chef's Dinner, with guest chefs will each making a signature dish for the Tasting portion of the dinner.  Call 847-506-0222; visit

* On Aug. 20 in San FranciscoPerry’s on Union Street 40th anniversary will feature celebrity bartenders, a reunion bash for all those that have worked at the restaurant throughout the years, and food and beverage promotions. An all-star lineup of San Francisco personalities, who in past anniversary celebrations have included Diane Feinstein, Bill Walsh and Huey Lewis, will be mixing drinks behind the bar. On Aug. 23, the celebration will culminate with an afternoon block party on Union Street, between Buchanan and Laguna Streets, open to the public. Call 415-922-9022 or visit

* From Aug. 28-30 the 6th annual Epicurean Classic takes place on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in St. Joseph, MI, with over 45 cooking demos, 16 cheese/wine/beer tasting seminars, 6 Guest Chef Dinners, the opening Great Lakes Great Wines BBQ Reception, the Grand Reception and the daily Tasting Pavilion. Some of this year’s featured artisans incl. Curtis Stone, Jean Joho, Gale Gand, Takashi Yagihashi, Tom Valenti, Anna Thomas, Jennifer McLagan, Giuliano Hazan, Brian Polcyn, Eve Aronoff and Mary Sue Milliken. Visit  or call 231-932-.0475.

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:  OYSTER HOTEL REVIEWS VERSUS TRIPADVISOR;  SUMMER GEAR; DEALS ON THE HIGH SEAS


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Bloomberg News, and Diversion.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. It was a beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

© copyright John Mariani 2009