Virtual Gourmet

August 23, 2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

                                                         "Eat More Fruit" ad, circa 1948



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In This Issue

HOW I LIKE TO EAT  by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER: Capsouto Frères by John Mariani


HOW I LIKE TO EAT  by John Mariani

"Well, I believe in the soul,  the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good Scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days."--Crash Davis (Kevin Costner, above, with Susan Sarandon) in "Bull Durham" (1988).

    Noble sentiments all! And when I like to eat I want to eat the way I like to eat. For instance. . .

-I want my prime rib of beef with a rib—the only part of the rosy slab I’m really interested in, with its brown, fat-riddled ridge of meat to be gnawed from the bone.

-I want a tablecloth—Frette linen, cheap cotton, even paper, I don’t care—because it’s clean, soft, absorbent, easily crumbed, and reflects light, and because they’ve been in use since Roman times as requisite to a good meal.

-I want light, so I can see my food and everyone coming and going in the social beehive of activity in a good restaurant.

-I want thin stemware, because thinness is to a wineglass what silk is to women’s lingerie—a sensuous boost to one’s tactile senses.

-I do not like dishes whose sauce consists
of tiny dripped dots  that add no
flavor to anything despite the
six ingredients
they are made from.

-I want "cold" food close to room temperature, "hot" food more warm than scalding, cheese at 65 to 70 degrees, and ice cream that is just staring to melt.

-I want a hamburger that is no larger than a hockey puck, no thicker than the bun it’s on, a juicy ratio of lean to fat, a barely warm center, a sizzling hot exterior, and nothing more than ketchup and a slice of American cheese on top of it.

-I want white wines at 55 degrees and red wines at 65 degrees, not at room temperature that might register at 80.

-I loathe any music at dinner where the principal sound is the bass and drums, the lyrics repeat themselves 50 times, and the singer sings in a falsetto.

-I do not want to know my waiter’s name, do not want the menu descriptions further described to me, and don’t give a rap what the waiter’s favorite dish is. And
my eyes glaze over when the waiter announces the “bread service,” the “salt service,” and the “little something to cleanse the palate.”

-Waiters who disappear at 9:30 to go have a smoke out back should not be let back into the building and promptly fired.

-Root vegetables, except potatoes, should never be served after April 15.  It’s bad enough to have to eat beets in January.

-I think poi is disgusting.  So are stuffed grape leaves.

-I never eat lunch before noon or dinner before seven, even when I’m in the Midwest or Florida.

-Any meal that takes less than two hours and more than three is to be avoided.

-The very worst thing anybody can do at a dinner table—and this includes belching!—is to use their cell phone or Blackberry.

-I can forgive a beautiful woman anything
at dinner except her ordering salad
as a main course.

-The most wonderful part of the dinner ritual I’ve ever seen is how a few old-time steakhouses (like Spark’s in New York) roll up the soiled tablecloth after the main course while simultaneously rolling on a new one for dessert and coffee.

-I think wasting food is a venial sin, so even if it is just not done in France, I always ask for a doggie bag.

-Never take the recommendations of—in this order—physics teachers, math teachers, or dance teachers. Foreign language teachers are O.K.

-I eat sushi with my fingers, as is perfectly proper in Japan, rather than try to balance it between chopsticks, which is just plain dumb.

-I always order the wine made
of the region I am visiting.

-I will not eat pork cooked to 160 degrees in order to kill off any parasites whose chances of being in good pork is near zero. Good pork should be pink.

-Although it’s death to discuss politics  at the dinner table, the following subjects should also be absolutely off limits: “American Idol,” golf (unless it’s at a golf club), Conan vs Letterman, any medical condition, and pets.

-I would rather wait till dinner than have brunch. As Heywood Hale Broun once observed, "I'm sure there are some perfectly nice people who eat brunch, but I don't want to know them."

-The only thing worth eating in most airports
is Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels.

-Everything on a plate should be edible except the plate.

Guilty pleasures:
Carvel vanilla ice cream with U-bet chocolate sauce
Yoo-hoo chocolate drink
Kentucky Fried Chicken
corn chips
mint jelly


by John Mariani

451 Washington Street (at Watts)

212 966 4900

  The frères in question are Jacques, Albert, and Samuel—and they have run this big, jaunty, wholly romantic  brasserie since 1980, transforming an old downtown warehouse into one of the loveliest settings for dining in New York, with its vast ceilings, burnished woodwork, lace curtains, and genuine bonhomie.  (O.K, it's probably time to get rid of the droopy potted window plants.)  The dining room seats 100 easily, with a patio outside for more.
    Capsouto Frères was among the first restaurants above the level of a diner to in TriBeCa, way over west, which for nearly three decades afforded guests a glorious view of the Hudson River, now wholly compromised by the erection of a god awful modern condo-office building that blocks most of the view (try for a table on the northeast corner).
     Twenty-First century TriBeCa has grown up around Capsouto Frères but time has done nothing to tarnish its charms, which remain very much intact on a menu that defies trendiness, aiming instead to refine dishes that have long been there while offering nightly specials that have gone with the overall gastronomic flow of NYC dining.

      Each of the brothers has a different background and each now his specialty at the restaurant. Jacques Capsouto is in charge of the 125-selection winelist, which contains 15 of the best bottlings now coming out of Israel. This is not a trophy list, instead full of fine wines under $50 across the board and a few high-ticket items for those celebrating.
Samuel, with studies in
French Literature and Philosophy, is now treasurer and accountant for the restaurant; Albert, graduated from Yale with a degree in  Engineering and Architecture, and is now responsible for business organization and planning, creative development, and human resources of the family operation.
     Chef  Jerome Charpentier is from Champagne, France, and was a chef at Terrance Brennan's Artisanal before joining Capsouto. His cooking is solid, and no one going to CF will be disappointed by the authority with which he does classic French cuisine. His zucchini blossoms with goat's cheese are crisp outside, creamy within, his soft shell crab amandine the same, the soft skin buttery with crisp almonds, the interior meaty.  You won't find a better onion soup gratinée in the city, and the foie gras terrine is a lush but hearty example of its type.
    For main courses I highly recommend the calf's liver, which is carefully cooked to pink, smothered in caramelized onions, and set in a light jus--if I could keep but one dish on CF's menu, this would be it. Filet of sole à la meunière was not quite so special, a bit soft and not as butter rich as I'd hoped.  Daube de boeuf bourguignon, which is a good old-fashioned French beef stew,  swims in a well-reduced red wine sauce.
     Desserts strike no new ground, nor do they really need to.  The crème brûlée, profiteroles, and, above all, their signature soufflés--apricot with apricot coulis, chocolate with chocolate sauce, praline with hazelnut sauce, and raspberry with raspberry coulis--are textbook perfect, and at just $10.50, they put the lie to those uptown restaurants that insist a souffle's made-to-order requisite should make them worth $18-$20, sometimes even as a supplement.
       The brothers Capsouto can be proud of such longevity in their chosen business after three decades, and I think TriBeCa would be the less without this fine and lovable restaurant in its midst.

Capsouto Frères is open for lunch Tues.-Fri., for dinner nightly, for brunch Sat. & Sun. Prices for dinner appetizers:  $9.50  – $14, entrees:   $18 – $34;  Prix Fixe:  $39.


Al Nassma, founded by Dubai's ruler, Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, is set to become the world's first brand of chocolate made with camels' milk, in partnership with Austrian chocolate maker Manner. Al Nassma says it is in talks with London's Harrods and San Francisco's Chocolate Covered to sell its products. . . . . By the way, anybody remember the commercial where the talking camel insisted, "I want a Clark Bar"?


"Munich is fanatically proud of its Bavarian traditions: its rowdy beer halls and Trachten shops (emporia selling leather shorts, dirndls and bosom-cupping wench shirts – my husband is always trying to get me into one)." -- Rachel Johnson,
"Munich is a Bavarian Rhapsody," London Standard (7/8/09).


* On Aug. 26 in NYC, Daniel Boulud introduces new Head Sommelier, Rajeev Vaidya, with a Late Summer Wine Dinner at Daniel, pairings with the 4-course summer menu,  incl.  Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches 2000 & 1990; Châteauneuf du Pape, 1997; Bonneau Marie Burrier and 1994 Clos du Mont Olivet; JL Chave Hermitage 2001 & Clusel Roch; Côte Rotie Grand Places 1998, and Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Spätlese Riesling 1989. $290 pp. Call 212-933-5262.

* Now through Labor Day at Fifth Floor Restaurant and Lounge, San Francisco, in honor of its 10th year, the restaurant & lounge is showcasing the fine wines that Sommelier, Emily Wines has been collecting throughout the decade at half-price with Executive Chef Jennie Lorenzo’s cuisine. Visit

* On Aug. 29 in Napa, CA,
Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ is hosting a Winemaker’s Rib Eatin’ Contest at the Blues, Brews & BBQ. Ten highly regarded Napa Valley winemakers will compete for the title of ‘Bounty Hunter Top Rib Eater’ by devouring as many of the  St. Louis Cut Ribs as they can. Visit

* On Aug. 29 in St. Helena, CAKuleto Estate will hold its Estate Harvest Party, 4-8 PM; $95 pp.  Live music, dancing, and a light Italian Al Fresco Buffet served from 5-7PM, paired with tastings of our fabulous current release wines. Call 707-302-2205.

* Pacci Ristorante in Midtown Atlanta will offer bottomless wine dinners, called “Four ‘n Pour,” Sun.-Thurs. each week for $38 pp, 4 courses of Chef Keira Moritz’s cuisine, which  will change weekly, Call 678-412-2402.

* On Aug. 30 in Chicago, join Spiaggia’s Chef di Cucina Sarah Grueneberg and Sommelier Steven W. Alexander on a field trip to Nichols Farm and Orchard in Marengo, IL, to spend an afternoon indulging in the summer harvest as the Spiaggia team roasts a 100% organic Becker Lane pork ad part of a 4-course lunch. $100. pp. Call 312-280-2750.

* On  Sept. 4 in LondonLe Pont de la Tour  hosts the final leg of the Thames Festival Oyster Run, Six ‘Oyster Smack' boats will race their oyster cargos from the different oyster growers on the Kent and Essex coastlines, finishing at Le Pont de la Tour on Butler's Wharf at 1pm. Visit

* A Latin-inspired Labor Day weekend at Costa d'Este Beach Resort in Vero Beach, FL, owned by Gloria Estefan and her producer husband, Emilio Estefan, Jr., will celebrate Cuban music and cuisine, starting with a SPLASH Salsa party on Thurs. On Sunday, Oriente will serve up its  Cuban-fusion fare poolside. Visit or call 877-562-9919.

* On Sept. 6th in Brewster, MA, Chillingsworth will hold its annual Champagne Dinner, this year featuring the house of Moet & Chandon, with  at $110 pp. Call 508-896-3640;

* On Sept. 6, in Miami,   the American Institute of Wine & Food’s celebrated Sand Bake is scheduled to return once again to the private Ocean Club at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club  with food, wines and island music. This year, top chefs from around South Florida will converge for a Florida tapas-style event paired with summer wines and Caribbean cocktails. $80 for AIWF members and $100 for non-members. Call 305-663-9641 (Dade), 954-396-3875 (Broward) or e-mail

* From Sept. 7-20 in Washington, D.C., José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup and the culinary team at the three Jaleo locations celebrate the Sixth Annual La Tomatina Festival with a variety of tomato specials,  tomato-based cocktails and gazpacho demos at area famer’s markets. The specials are priced from $6.50 – $10.50 and are available during the two-week festival that honors the famous tomato battle that takes place in Buñol, Spain. Call 202-628-7949 for Jaleo DC; 301-913-0003 for Jaleo Bethesda and 703-413-8181 for Jaleo Crystal City.

* On Sept. 8 in NYC, The French Culinary Institute holds the 2nd annual hot dog eating contest with , house-made 30-inch dogs will be consumed by some of the FCI’s most voracious students. In the condiment competition, the top three student-submitted recipes will be judged by FCI instructors and Deans, as well as prominent chefs from NYC restaurants. Students will also create original non-alcoholic drinks to be judged by FCI students and faculty in a people's choice award. All proceeds and donations from the event benefit The Friends of the FCI. Visit  or call (888) 324-CHEF.


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 WAITING GAME--If you've been waiting to take a vacation -- or just a night away -- September is your month. Here's why; FINDING AN AFFORDABLE CAR RENTAL--Car rental rates have skyrocketed. But you can find the best available rates without spending half your day on the web; SMART DEALS: Club Med's Caribbean properties are having an extraordinary sale -- pay for three nights, stay for seven. It's hard to do better than that.


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. THIS WEEK: Virginia City, Nevada.

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