Virtual Gourmet

September 20,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

Willi's Wine Bar Poster, Paris (1984) by Bali


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In This Issue

GOODBYE AND AU REVOIR! Two of America's Most Famous Restaurants Close by John Mariani

by John Mariani

The Best TV Chef EVER: Keith Floyd Dies
by John Mariani



Two of America's Most Famous Restaurants Close
by John Mariani

     I hope this does not become a regular column in this newsletter, but I find myself writing obituaries for famous American restaurants that have, each in their own way, contributed enormously to the way we dine out. This time I report on the closing of two giants--the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead, GA, and NYC's Tavern on the Green.  The fiscal reasons are of varying import, but I shall not dwell on what the newspapers already have (here's a link to a NY Times story on Tavern).  I just want to recall and praise them for all they did in their time, for we may not soon see their likes again.

To say that Tavern on the Green was a significant part of NYC history is, in its literal sense, to say it dates to 1870 as a Victorian Gothic structure in what was then pasture land for the 200 sheep who gave the Sheep Meadow its name.  Not until 1934, when all-powerful Parks Commissioner Robert Moses decided the building should be a restaurant did it weave its way into NYC social life, designed to compete with the  Park Casino on the east side. Moses tore the old building down, got rid of the sheep (they went to Brooklyn's Prospect Park), and named the new place Tavern on the Green.
    Raymond Loewy, the great art déco architect, renovated the restaurant in the 1950s, adding the Elm Room, and in 1962 Restaurant Associates (which also then operated The Four Seasons and Forum of the Twelve Caesars) ran it until 1974, when Warner LeRoy, son of film director Mervyn LeRoy and the creator of the emblematic 1970s eastside restaurant Maxwell's Plum, acquired the lease and poured  an astonishing $10 million into Tavern, adding the marvelous  Crystal (above) and Terrace Rooms,  stained glass--including one authentic Tiffany example--14 etched mirrors, and 45  chandeliers, along with 400,000 outdoor lights in the trees, so that the Tavern always looked like it was Christmas in the Park.
     LeRoy (shown at right with a Lucite bear he installed at the Russian Tea Room that he also bought) opened the doors in 1976, and the new Tavern immediately became the most popular dining and banquet destination in the city, in some years serving 650,000 guests and even just last year grossing more than $36 million.  It was, in a word, flamboyant, in two words, kitschy splendor, and in three, a Warner LeRoy extravaganza.  There were other thematic restaurants in those days, but Tavern was a place of wonder for families and wedding guests, politicians, sports figures, and musicians who came to be dazzled by the glitter, the gleaming brass, and the huge stag statue. The waiters dressed in powder blue livery, the captains in tuxedos, and you could arrive or depart in a horsedrawn carriage outside the entrance.
      There was a gift shop full of Tavern and NYC memorabilia, and I remember bringing my young sons there for the first of many visits when they came away with eyes wider than when they went in. And, yes, there was the food, about which LeRoy was manic in his preferences.  One manager told me LeRoy once stormed into the kitchen with a steak he thought was one-quarter inch too thin and threw it at the manager's chest,  then told him to change his shirt and get back in the dining room.
     Reports on the food ranged from generous to damning, though the various chefs--some of them highly respected known in culinary circles--acted more like field marshals than chefs. Practice--cooking a thousand or more guests a day--made for something near perfection, as long as not too much was demanded from a kitchen turning out sauces by the vat and desserts by the hundreds.  The winelist was at one time stellar.
      When Warner passed away, his daughter
Jennifer LeRoy took over and poured in more money. The menus changed with the times, keeping the Tavern signature dishes but absorbing global influences too. She also designed many of the gift items in the on-premises store. This year a new cookbook was published.
      The demise of Tavern, despite its amazing gross income, came, as it has for many places, with the onset of the recession, which decimated the banquet business, said to have been 60 percent of Tavern's bottom line. The lease on the city-owned property was up this year, and the Parks Department decided to sign another operator,
Dean J. Poll, who already runs the beautiful Central Park Boathouse nearby, to a 20-year lease; LeRoy and her company declared bankruptcy September 9 this year. Tavern, as we know it, will close its doors Dec. 31 and be reincarnated as something different.
        For all its wow factor, for all its assembly line cooking, and for all its touristy allure, it is difficult to imagine anyone who's ever been to Tavern shrugging and saying, "Oh, well, no big loss." Tavern was unique and its flamboyance was as close to the soul of the city as is Liza Minnelli belting out "New York, New York" for the millionth time. Before Warner Leroy did Tavern his way there was nothing like it, although Las Vegas learned a thing or two about the value of spectacle from him.  So when it closes its doors on New Years' Eve, something will vanish from the scene.  I only pray that its new owners are well aware of the place Tavern holds in the world's--not just New York's--heart, a place where the lights always twinkled in the trees, the limos and horsedrawn carriages formed a line at the entrance, and a night of sheer fantasy awaited everyone who came through its doors.

     The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Buckhead is quite a different kind of fantasy, for there on the outskirts of Atlanta (there is another Ritz downtown), it was a discreet respite from the rest of the city, embodying a quiet elegance that seemed closer to a resort in Scotland than a posh hotel restaurant in Georgia.  Now, after 25 years of unstinting excellence, this, one of the greatest restaurants in America, has closed its beveled glass doors.
     Its 19th century European artwork alone--
“After the Hunt in Scotland,” by Pierre Jules Méné; a bronze  crowing rooster by  Paul Comolera; "The Homestretch” and “At the Crossroads,” by British sporting artist George Wright, and much else would put you very much in mind of a place in the Lake Country where men wore tweeds during the day and black tie at night. There were tufted banquettes, vintage silver Christofle serving carts and an array of perfectly aged cheeses, and petit-fours display (below), a winelist of 600 selections, and impeccable service. The restaurant won just about every award possible to receive, year after year, despite several changes in chefs over three decades.
       The first was the redoubtable
Guenther Seeger, who set the bar at the Dining Room from 1985 to 1996, later opening his own namesake restaurant.  Seeger's precision of  classic French technique combined with his own stylish flair gave the restaurant cachet and quite literally gave Atlanta some bragging rights as a city where truly fine dining was possible. Next up was Chef Joël Antunes, from 1991-2001, who brought an even more modern focus to the menu while never betraying its refinement. Bruno Ménard, who brought in Asian elements, was here from 2001-2005, followed by Arnaud Berthelier, whose family's baking business in France informed many of his innovations at the Dining Room. In addition, the kitchen was a grad school for many who would further distinguish the Atlanta dining scene, including Bennett Hollberg, (now at the Atlanta Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta); Gary Mennie (Canoe, Taurus and Livingston); Shaun Doty (MidCity Cuisine, Table 1280 and Shaun’s); and Troy Thompson (Fusebox), among others.
      The usual reasons have been given for the Dining Room's closure--the recession, change in American dining habits, expense--and they all carry weight.  Quite frankly, having visited the Dining Room during every chef's tenure there, I never saw the place full in the way a restaurant of its caliber would be in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, so it was to the Ritz-Carlton's credit to keep it open as a commitment to the hotel's deluxe character.  No one can blame them for the final closure, and I'm not sure there will be a return soon to the style of fine dining the restaurant represented.
     And that is truly a shame, especially for Atlanta, which is now bereft of any restaurant at that level of cuisine and service, at a time when foodies are hyperventilating about storefront eateries with nothing but a counter and a menu of sandwiches and pork belly stew, nevertheless charging plenty of money for such short order grub.
     In the current issue of The New Yorker, in a review of a new Upper West Side gastro-pub, Leo Carey writes, "
Foodies shrug and mutter that hard times necessitate simpler fare, but the vogue preceded the downturn and—like the overpriced designer T-shirt—may represent a flight not from expense but from taste."
      And we of the "United States of Arugula" were just starting to believe that we were becoming more sophisticated and more appreciative of the truly finer things in life.  Maybe not.



      The man who took one of the most joyous and iconic food photos ever has died at the age of 99.  Will Ronis, like his contemporaries Cartier-Bresson and Brassai known for his black-and-white Paris street scenes, was praised by President of France Nicolas Sarkozy as “the chronicler of postwar social aspirations and the poet of a simple and joyous life.”
     Ronis was born in Paris, the son of
Jewish émigrés from Odessa and Lithuania, whose father had a photo studio where the young boy worked. Ronis at first wanted to be a concert violinist but, with his father's failing health, took over the studio and later became a freelance photographer. After the war he joined the Rapho photo agency, whose style was that of "humanistic photography." His book My Paris in 1985 made him very popular, and he continued to ply the streets of his beloved hometown for pictures of  "ordinary people with ordinary lives. . . . The beauty of the ordinary was always the source of my greatest emotions.” He later came to the U.S to work for Life Magazine, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, and returned to Paris to teach. In 2005 he told the Associated Press, "“I never took a mean photo. I never wanted to make people look ridiculous. I always had a lot of respect for the people I photographed.”
      Indeed, one look at that little boy, probably just freed from school, the warm baguette
as big as he is,  held close and dearly, and the thought of getting home to maman for a big hug and kiss, and you feel both the joy of childhood and the simple goodness of the staff of life, caught in a split second in the past but, thanks to Will Ronis,  a joy forever.


Keith Floyd Dies at 65

by John Mariani

     There never was and now never will be anyone to match Keith Floyd as a raconteur gourmand, the British TV chef and cookbook author who died this week at his home in Montfrin, France. His personable style of irreverent, make-it-up-as-you-go-along showmanship was in complete contrast to the over-produced, contrived glitz of most contemporary food shows in which loud, crass personalities with weird haircuts go around the world looking for the worst things to eat and the oddest people to eat them with.
      Floyd was the antithesis of all that, thanks, partly, to the lowest of all BBC budgets that allowed him nothing more than a camera and sound man to follow him to France or Spain or wherever he could afford to go, where you'd find him cooking in some Normandy housewife's kitchen or on a Basque beach with the wind whipping through his tousled hair, setting his omnipresent bow tie askew. A glass of wine was ever at hand.
      In his 1980s TV shows, "Floyd on Fish" (above) and "Floyd on France," often recycled in the USA, he would speak Brit-inflected French to a fisherman then turn to the camera and say he didn't understand a word of the man's dialect or confiding to the audience that a restaurateur he was working alongside was "an old crocodile."  In well-titled his memoir, Stirred But Not Shaken (to be published next month), he writes, 
“I don’t think we had any rules, and if we did, we most certainly broke them.”  It was this seat-of-the-pants approach to cooking that was at once very genuine, clearly without guile,  and always hilarious.
        But Floyd knew his food, without fuss and without pretense. He had been a chef at 
the Royal Hotel in Bristol, then opened a few of his own (failed) restaurants before hopping off on a five-year jaunt through Spain and France, where he ran a small restaurant in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, then returning to Britain to open a seafood restaurant in Bristol, where a BBC producer asked him to do a 10-second food spot, which led to BBC2 bankrolling put “Floyd on Fish” in 1985. Twenty more series followed, including “Floyd’s American Pie” and a talk show.
       The restlessness and the headlong tilt of Floyd's TV personality was apparently as true of his private life.
Raffish and self-deprecating, Floyd reeked silly British savoir-faire; he married (and divorced) four times. And recent photos of him show a man who appears far in advance of his 65 years.   His was a life truly well lived, rough spots and all. He will be missed by those millions who invited him into their homes to cook, to kibbitz, and to charm for all those years.



by John Mariani

    The understandable downscaling of restaurants by chefs who have real talent and little money is one of the boons of the current economy, with more people  finding that there is exciting, enticing food to be found in places where it's clear you're not paying for the décor. Two new spots on the Upper West Side (one an offshoot of an original) indicate the strength of this state of affairs in NYC dining.

BAR Luna
511 Amsterdam Avenue (at 84th Street)

     Bar Luna, on the premises of the former Neptune Room, did not have an auspicious beginning, with its first chef pulling out before its owner, Turgut Balikci, who also runs Ayza, could open the doors. So he didn't and delayed opening by a week, bringing on Chef Jacques Belanger, who'd previously worked at Tom Valenti's ’Cesca and Ouest.  But by the time I visited last month, things seemed to be in full swing, its al fresco dining patio packed with people enjoying the passing parade of Amsterdam Avenue while drinking quartinos of wine--20 are offered--and chowing down on an array of tapas-like dishes.
     It's a very colorful place, casual and friendly, from the greeting to the waitstaff, and the bartenders are good at what they do. The brick-walled rear room is cozier and I suspect the sound level is more appropriate than the front for conversation. It's also become a place people take their kids, as was obvious from the table occupants in the rear.
       By all means dig into the crostini (choice of three at $9, six at $15), which include some true appetite builders like fava bean with sharp pecorino cheese; a subtle version of taramasalta; creamy chicken livers; and white beans and ham. The larger first courses include a crispy duck gizzard confit--the kind of dish that makes Bar Luna a little bit different and delicious--a wild mushroom ragù with polenta; a fine beef carpaccio; and a delectable raviolo with egg, ricotta, truffle, and parmigiano. Of the second courses I really liked the meaty braised rabbit with green olives and preserved lemon and the olive-oil poached halibut with a garlicky brandade and prosciutto crisp--all simple, delicious, novel ideas well realized, and all at good prices.

Bar Luna is open for dinner 7 nights a week; First Course: $3- $15; Pastas: $11- $16: Second Course: $15 - $19.


2170 Broadway (at 76th Street)


     In an article in Food & Wine Magazine, Chef Zak Pelaccio told of how a decade ago he spent 10 months working at a  Malay restaurant in Kuala Lumpur called Seri Melayu, which "opened my mind to new flavors and a whole new style of cuisine, and ultimately led me to open the Malaysian-inspired restaurant Fatty Crab in Manhattan in 2005."
     That was downtown Manhattan, and with the whopping success of that in his pocket, he's opened Fatty Crab uptown on Broadway.
Chef de Cuisine is Corwin Kave, formerly of 5 Ninth. As Pelaccio himself describes Malaysian food, "Over the years there have been distinct Chinese, Portuguese, Indian and Indonesian influences integrated into the cuisine, especially in the urban centers and port cities. Abundant with curries, spicy and sour fish soups, satay, varied noodle dishes and the ubiquitous nasi lemak, Malaysian cuisine is complex, spicy and really hard to categorize, and the coolest thing is they love to eat with their hands. A practice we at Fatty Crab fully embrace."
     So if you don't love getting your fingers down into the plate, Fatty Crab is not your restaurant. If you do or if you're willing to, you'll have a good time with friends, picking apart crabs and picking up duck legs. Both Fatty Crab restaurants are, as Pellacio calls them, "joints," so don't go looking for any more atmosphere than a dark, loud storefront eatery with a "ragtag bunch" cooking and serving you, some with a good dose of attitude, which can be fun or a bit in your face. The 74-seat, two room west side version has wooden-topped tables, old chairs, low lighting, and blastingly loud music. There's a mural of  Kuala Lampur, a 13-seat black steel bar,  an old sliding barn door, and everyone knows that Fatty Crab's rest rooms are a requisite visit for reasons I'll keep secret.
     I'm telling you all this because such places are not for everyone, but to eat this kind of food, it might be worth your while to put up with.  There's plenty going on in the mix of spices here, and the aromas are enough to make you very hungry very quickly. Portions are not large, however, so sharing a dish is not going to get you very far.
     Some of the signature items are well worth keeping on the menu forever, including the chili crab, a wonderfully messy, meaty piece of crustacean whose sauce packs a wallop. Duck is steamed and velvety, then fried for more flavor, served with toasted tamaki.  Among the "snacks" are spongy steamed buns with either pork or vegetables, and sliders of spiced pork and beef that would make a great main course if doubled in size (so order two).  Nasi goreng is a big bowl of well-spiced noodles with fried rice, and while they last the season, softshell crab fry is done tempura style with crab curry, green chili, and tamaki.
     With snacks $6-13 and noodles and main dishes $14-$25, Fatty Crab serves as a drop-in before a movie or show at the nearby Beacon Theater, or for afterwards, or for the middle of the day, oh, hell, it's good anytime.



Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has finished trials for hand grenades packed with bhut jolokia--the world's hottest chile peppers--intended to choke the respiratory tract and cause the eyes to water.  "It gives out such pungent smoke that makes one come out of one’s hiding place," said R.B. Srivastava, chief of the Directorate of Life Sciences at DRDO. "We wanted to find a non-lethal way to tackle insurgents and the mob during riot control,” he said.


"There was a burning pizza oven in the back, but it's not being used. . . .Then there was the naked arugula salad (the kitchen forgot the dressing). . . .And then there was the matter of running out of one of the three steaks on the menu. . . They still had New York strip and the two sizes of filet[ but] on my previous visit, it had been so salty I could barely eat it. . . .Swordfish sounded most interesting [but] hopes were dashed. . . Nor did the kitchen manage a decent shrimp cocktail. . . Lobster bisque was simply awful (it tasted more like Campbell's tomato bisque).. . .Forgettable mac 'n' cheese, lackluster string beans. . . .The stemware felt cheap. . . .  Still, I enjoyed both evenings, thanks to the clubby chophouse atmosphere and friendly, entertaining service." Leslie Brenner, "Main Street Chop and Fish House," The Dallas Morning News. (9/04).



Café de la Presse in San Francisco debuts a monthly changing Culinary Tour de France dining program. Each month, a different region in France will be showcased through their traditional dishes and wines a la carte, in addition to the regular menu, and will be available at dinner only. The first stop on this tour is Bordeaux, in the Gironde Aquitaine. Call 415-398-2680;

* Now through the end of September, in honor of its 10th anniversary in the Venetian Resort, Hotel & Casino, Valentino Las Vegas holds “Wine & Dine For The Cause,” with a portion of the proceeds from Executive Chef Luciano Pellegrini’s daily specials, tasting menus and select wines to benefit “Keep Memory Alive” and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health for Alzheimer’s research. Call 702-414-3000 or visit

* On Sept. 24 in Greenwich, CT, Restaurant Jean-Louis will hold a wine dinner honoring Dr. Sue Hua Newton of Newton Winery .  $75 pp. . . .On Oct. 8, a wine dinner featuring "Les vins du Languedoc" with guest speaker Jordan Ross . $69 pp. Call 203-622-8450.

* On Sept. 24  in NYC, Joy of Sake, the largest sake tasting and celebration outside Japan, will take place at Webster Hall with over 270 premium sakes, 129 of which are not otherwise available in the US (or outside Japan), while top Asian restaurants will serve signature dishes, incl. 15 East, Bond St., Matsugen, Sakagura, Woo Lae Oak and Zenkichi among others. $80 pp. Call  888-799-7242 or visit

* On September 28 in Charleston, SC, Cru Café, will be offering a 5-Course Sake Tasting Dinner. $75 pp. 7:30pm seating, limited availability. Call 843-534-2434 or email

* On Oct. 3, Waterville Valley Resort in Waterville, NH, will host their 20th Annual Chowderfestin the Town Square,where area restaurants will bring their chowders for judging.  $7 for adults and teens, and $5 for kids up to age 12. Town Square's first annual micro-brew tasting will also take place for a small additional fee. Outdoor folk concert in the
gazebo . Call 800-GO-VALLEY or visit

* On Oct. 9, in Charlotte, NC, Mimosa Grill and Executive Chef Jon Fortes will kick-off an Oktoberfest celebration with a 5-course New Belgium Brewery Dinner hosted by brewer Mike Cothran.  $45 pp. Call 704.343.0700.  Visit online at

* On Sept. 18 & 19, Mon Ami Gabi in Lincoln Park, ILL, celebrates a Rosh Hashanah dinner menu at 34.95 pp.& children under 12 are $16.95. Call 773-348-8886.

* On Sept. 23 in Venice, CA, Piccolo holds it "Reversal Dinner," because instead of first choosing the food and then picking wine to complement your choice, guest choose the wine first and we will pare it with the food, either 3 ($70 pp) or 5  wines ($110) from a list of about 30 new labels.Call 310-314-3222

* On Sept. 25 & 26 in Long Island City, NY, at P.S. 1 Contemporary Center, Le Fooding® hosts its first event outside of Europe, Le Fooding® d’AMOUR Paris-New York, celebrating the exchange of experiences in gastronomy, sound design and graphic arts currently taking place in the two cities. Variations of classic dishes will be created on the spot by top Parisian and NYC chefs, incl. David Chang, Wylie Dufresne, Daniel Boulud, William Ledeuil, Inaki Aizpitarte and Yves Camdeborde, paired with Veuve Clicquot champagne and Belvedere Vodka cocktails.  $30-$60 pp. Visit

* From October  to May in Phoenix, the Arizona Biltmore pours its 20th season of Winemaker Dinners. Selected dates will feature guest chefs from top resorts creating unique gourmet menus paired with fine wines (from Napa, Sonoma, Willamette and Columbia Valleys, and France) accented with displays of fabulous jewels - a tribute to the "Jewel of the Desert," as the historic resort celebrates its 80th anniversary. $125 per person, or $875 in advance for a season ticket for all eight dinners. Call 602-381-7632.

* During October, in Atlanta, Ray’s On The River is celebrating its 25th anniversary with 4 weeks of different specials and dining deals incl. a heart healthy menu benefitting Northside Hospital’s Breast Cancer Program, $25 menus, $5 signature martinis,  $25 bottles of wine and gift card giveaways.  Call 770-955-1187 or visit

* On Oct. 1 at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, DC,  the hotel and Café du Parc present Vendanges, the autumnal French wine harvest festival. Regional wine purveyors will feature some 40 different styles of French wine and beers. Authentic French  dishes incl. grilled specialties and crêpes, music  by The Gypsy Strings. Activities incl. dancing and grape-stomping and family-style dining tables. $20 pp. Call 02-628-9100 or visit

* From Oct. 1-31 in Sydney, Australia, five Michelin chefs from around the world will align with Australia’s top chefs during the Sydney International Food Festival (SIFF), as a signature event of Crave Sydney ,  offering outdoor art, World Chef Showcase, markets, street fiestas and forums, open-air meals and fine dining.  Visit

* On Oct. 3,  in Chicago, Park Grill presents Midwest Microfest, a complimentary beer tasting featuring 8 of the Midwest’s best breweries, incl.  Dark Horse Brewery (Marshall, MI), Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI), Two Brothers (Warrenville, IL), Capital Brewery (Middleton, WI), Bell’s (Kalamazoo, MI), Three Floyds Brewery (Munster, IN) and Chicago’s own breweries, Goose Island and Metropolitan. No reservation required. Call 312-521-7275 or check out

* On October 3 in San Jose, CA, Savor Monterey: From Cannery Row to Vineyard Row, with 25+ wineries will showcase their wines,  while some of Monterey’s finest Cannery Row restaurants showcase their cuisine and complement the wines, at the Fairmont San Jose. $40 pp in advance, $45 at the door, and can be purchased at:  or by calling 831-375-9400.

 * On Oct. 3 in Waterville Valley, NH, at Town Square, Annual Chowderfest will be held as local restaurants compete for the best chowder, with outdoor concert. $5.50  pp. Call 800-G0-Valley.

* On Oct. 3 & 4 in NYC, The French Culinary Institute, in partnership with New York Magazine, is hosting the New York Culinary Experience, which offers participants the chance to cook side-by-side with some of the world's most renowned chefs and industry icons such as Morimoto, Jacques Pépin, Marcus Samuelsson, Dan Barber, and more. In addition to the interactive cooking sessions, there will be informative Q&A sessions, wine tastings and a private reception each day. Tickets are $1,395 pp. Call 646-314-4413.

* On Oct. 4 in Chevy Chase, MD, Indique Heights presents a “Diwali Mela” at its e outdoor terrace, incl.  Indian street snacks and cultural activities for the entire family. $ 20 pp, Children  $12. Call 301-656-4822 or visit

* On Oct. 6, in Denver, CO, Elway's Downtown, at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, presents an evening with the Chefs of Ritz-Carlton -- a 5-course dinner with wine pairing -- featuring guest chef Joel Harrington, of Arizona's highly-anticipated Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, creating a fine culinary experience alongside Executive Chef Andres Jimenez and his talented team presenting one course each.  $98 pp. Please call 303-312-3107.

* From Oct. 8-13 London introduces Restaurant Week, a citywide celebration of  dining tours to free meals, Visit

* On Oct. 9 in Carmel, CA, Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel presents  an Ibérico Jamón Tasting Seminar and Basque Country Dinner with guest chefs Laurent Manrique and Gerald Hirigoyen and guest master sommelier/wine maker Emmanuel Kemiji with Aubergine executive chef Christophe Grosjean and wine director Thomas Perez. $75 pp. Call 831-624-8578.

* From Oct. 9-11 The Sydney International Food Festival is the signature event of Crave Sydney, a celebration of the city’s food scene, with restaurant dinners, food markets, street festivals, open-air dining and the best regional produce Sydney has to offer, over "The World Chef Showcase Weekend,"  which  brings together Sydney’s biggest culinary stars as well as chefs from some of the world’s finest dining establishments.  Some of the festival’s most anticipated events include Hats Off Dinners, Let’s Do Lunch, Night Noodle Markets and Hands-on cooking classes.  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."  To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK:WHY YOU MIGHT NEED A SATELLITE PHONE ...EMIRATES FALL AIRFARE SALE TO ASIA, AFRICA AND BEYOND ...THE BEST BOOKSHOPS IN EUROPE


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


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

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Niclk Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;


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