Virtual Gourmet

September 27,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

                       Coyote Cafe logo, Santa Fe, New Mexico by Harry Fonseca (1994)


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In This Issue



NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Laurent-Perrier Champagne Sails Ahead by John Mariani


by John Mariani

       What’s happened to the great tradition of the American roadside cafeteria?
Well, for one thing many have stripped away the school lunchroom and blue collar associations by re-naming them “family restaurants” while keeping the metal  cafeteria lines and the steaming trays just out of the dishwasher and the array of American fare that can send you reeling with indecision.  Since none of it costs very much, you can pick up more than you know you will eat, and take the rest home, with a big smile on your face.

      Back in 1977 my wife and I spent a 14 week-long honeymoon driving across the U.S., and, after learning that any restaurant with more than two stars in the Mobil Travel Guides was not worth eating in, we discovered the wonderful array of cafeterias in the Midwest and west, which even then were links in huge chains with names like Furr’s, Piccadilly, Morrison’s, Bickford’s, S&W, Britling, Blue Boar, and Luby’s.
     They all offered consistency of product, hospitality of the most genuine kind, amazingly good prices, and, even, regional foods, which might include Italian lasagna, Greek salads, Mexican platters, Hungarian goulash, Swedish meatballs, Canadian bacon, and London broil—the whole melting pot of  culinaria Americana.
      The yellow-red-green Jell-O molds, the icing topped mile-high cakes, the sizzling fried chicken, the big slices of apple-cherry-pecan-ice box pies and the German chocolate cake were always available and always unstintingly fresh, for the simple reason that the high turnover guaranteed that the cooks back in the kitchen were turning out the food on a minute-to-minute basis.                                                                                                           Morrison's Cafeteria, Louisville, KY
      These days at Luby’s (which took over the Morrison’s chain) you can find blackened tilapia, even sole “almondine,” and they now have a “nutritional consultant” who recommends you remove the skin from your fried chicken, ask for gravy on the side of your mashed potatoes, and eat broccoli without the cheese sauce—advice that defeats the whole purpose of going to a place where a little excess is part of the whole deal, like buying a 1967 Mustang fastback and keeping it under 40 mph.
     Now, you know damn well what put so many cafeterias out of business: fast food, which wasn’t better, just cheaper and nowhere near as healthy.  But there’s more to it than that:  Cafeterias had long been associated with the stay-at-home American families that rewarded themselves with a nice meal out, a place to go after church, even all dressed up.  The cafeterias were antiseptic for all the right reasons, downright corny by design, and part of an American pre-war ethos that become quickly dated in the 1950s, when a place with a décor of wagon wheels and a staff dressed in gingham quickly gave way to a teen culture of bluejeans, ducktails, and chrome-rich cars that looked out of place in a parking lot filled with Oldsmobiles and Packards.

Sholl's Cafeteria, Washington, DC

    No rock-and-roll movie ever had a cafeteria as a setting; no motorcycle gangs ever rode up to a Luby’s; and even well into the 1950s, no black families were allowed to eat in a cafeteria—even if black cooks prepared all the food and black waiters cleared tall he tables.

      Instead, the soaring, cantilevered California style of space age design luncheonettes and drive-ins with names like Norm’s in Long Beach and Googie’s on Sunset Boulevard were where Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon would be found, not pushing a tray along the line at something called Piccadilly’s.  “American Graffiti” revolved around a diner in Petaluma; “All American Burger” in Brentwood was the setting for “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Aloha, Mr. Hand!

      These days, though, the cafeterias of the Midwest and west retain at best a nostalgic charm, even if the décor is now closer to Denny’s than Bickford’s.  I have to admit, it’s been a long time since my wife and I picked up a plastic tray at a cafeteria, moving slowly along the stainless steel tubes, delirious with the options before us, and coming to the end to be greeted by a pretty girl who throws in a “Y’all have a good day now” with the modest check.
       I think I’ve got to make the time before they all go away. 





by John Mariani

     The name itself seems to celebrate a different time. A patroon was a Dutch landholder of privilege when New York was known as New Amsterdam, and ten years ago this finely conceived restaurant was designed to appeal to both those venerable lions of New York finance and media along with the wave of young publishers, ad men, and investment bankers whose expense accounts knew few limits.
     And if anyone can be said to be a patroon of the New York restaurant world it would be the restaurant's owner, Ken Aretsky (right), whose prior stewardship at `21' Club helped sail that moribund establishment through the early 1990s.  Aretsky comes from a family of restaurant suppliers--not least seltzer!--and, after trying his hand at being a stockbroker, was drawn back into the restaurant business with his first Manhattan venture, in 1978, called Oren and Aretsky,  a big hit in the 1970s, not least among the athletes and singles crowd of the Upper East Side. He then opened the more soigné Arcadia, which had real culinary clout, then was called to take over the running of the less-than-it-once-was `21,' which surprised Aretsky because, he said, "
I had never eaten there because I thought they would have never let me in."
     With the closing of the archaic steakhouse Christ Cella in 1995, Aretsky had the chance to open a new kind of steakhouse-American restaurant, which he and his partner named Patroon. It had a definite clubbish feeling, including a smoking lounge upstairs (when customers could smoke inside), and black-and-white sports photos. Patroon was certainly designed to attract the kind of New York powerbrokers who dined at `21,' The Four Seasons, and the numerous old-line steakhouses in the east Forties, and Aretsky built his base by being at Patroon schmoozing night after night. He knew many of them, he got to know many more newcomers.
     There was, however, one little glitch: Just as Patroon opened Aretsky was arrested on charges of stocking contraband--Cuban cigars!--many owned by his customers, and he pleaded guilty to
misdemeanor charges of "mislabeling tobacco products," paid a $5,000 fine, and agreed to three years' probation and community service, which turned out to be something he truly enjoyed--visiting schools and helping kids get into culinary studies.
       [A small digression here: When I first heard this story, I was reminded that Gen. Alexander Haig, Secretary of State under Reagan, was once asked how, being such a staunch anti-communist, he could smoke Cuban cigars with such impunity.  Haig snapped back, "I consider it to be a form of burning down their crops."]
       Anyway, 13 years later, with all the cigars gone, the look of Patroon has achieved a kind of modern classic status, a highly polished décor with plenty of room and leather banquettes, a warm greeting and a service staff that, unlike those at so many of the nearby steakhouses, offers more than a "How ya want'cha steak cooked?" attitude.  They know the menu well and they know the much-improved winelist well, too. 
     Though always correctly applied to Patroon, civilized is a word that is so quickly vanishing elsewhere in New York dining. So it's a feeling of sheer comfort when you come through the doors here and get treated like a regular, even if it's your first time, and like an old friend if you haven't been back in a while. You don't get blasted with disco music, you don't see people dressed as if they just came from (or belonged in) the zoo, and you get a finely set table with good lighting.
     The style of the food has not changed radically, though chefs have come and gone--the current occupant of the kitchen is Bill Peet, formerly at Lutèce, Café des Artistes, and Asia de Cuba,  and the steakhouse appellation is now far too strict for a menu that runs from Dover sole with lobster sauce  to dark beer braised short ribs.
That Dover sole I had cooked à la meunière in good butter, and the short ribs fell off the bone with a fork's touch into that deep, dark beer braising liquid.Nor have the prices changed much in years: the excellent 28-day dry-aged sirloin was $44 in 2004 and it's $44 today; there's also a remarkable $27 lunch and $39 dinner.
      For starters I recommend the grilled smoked prawns or, while they last the end of summer, the heirloom tomatoes with a roasted tomato vinaigrette (below, right), pickled Bermuda onions,  and mâche lettuce. Grilled baby octopus is tender and sweet, with orzo, tomato, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and pea shoots for more texture and Mediterranean flavor, while the plump crabcake gets its bulk from pure, jumbo crabmeat and little binder, with a lemon and tarragon aïoli and baby green salad.
     I really loved the more-than-ample grilled lobster brushed with herbs and butter and served with sizzling onions and a rich lobster sauce, and the steak, impeccably cooked, is as fine a piece of beef as I've had in New York recently. Peet clearly takes just as much care with vegetables like the fat grilled asparagus and the crisp golden Vidal onion rings that are as sweet as candy. The whipped potatoes must incorporate a whole cow's butter, and they are terrific as a result.
    You shouldn't miss dessert (don't eat everything before hand; take it home with you), for you won't want to miss the luscious profiteroles with chocolate sauce, a classic crème brûlée, or the apple tarte Tatin that comes warm to the table with plenty of whipped cream or ice cream.
     Patroon's is a menu that makes no leaps and bounds beyond what can reasonably be called classic New York fare, but for all that, it is also a menu impossible to tire of because the range is solid in meats and seafood, dependent on the seasons, and composed of dishes just about everyone loves.
     Through thick and thin Patroon has kept its faithful, and Aretsky, still the consummate restaurateur, is always there to greet you, meet you, and ask about how things are going.  He's one of those guys proud to be called a saloonkeeper, and he's not going anywhere soon.

Patroon is located at 160 E. 46th Street (near Lexington Avenue); 212-883-7373;
Open Mon.-Fri. for lunch and dinner; Sat. & Sun. for private events; $27 lunch and $39 dinner, and a la carte, with starters at dinner $12-$29 and main courses $23-$44.



Laurent-Perrier Sails Against the Tide to New Markets
by John Mariani

       Drinking Lauren-Perrier Rosé with the Champagne house's new USA President, Bertrand de Fleurian, at Mr. Chow in TriBeCa is one of the more luxurious things I've done this past week, and Monsieur de Fleurian (who has moved to Mamaroneck, NY) is a suitably bubbly companion for chatting about the state of Champagne during the global recession, which has hurt sales drastically.
      Back in frewheeling 2007 Champagne and sparkling wine sales in the USA were booming--up 4 percent over the previous year.  Then la merde hit the fan: Sales plummeted, according to one distributor by 50 percent for non-vintage Champagne and up to 85 percent for vintage and prestige cuvées.  According to an article in this month, shipments could drop by more than 60 million bottles this year, noting that "Volumes have not been this low since the post-millennium hangover in 2001."
Stanislas Henriot, president of his family's namesake la marque, told the press,  "It's been brutal."
        Thus, the occasion to sip Laurent-Perrier Rosé with squab wrapped in lettuce leaves, sole-stuffed jade water dumplings, and "gambler's duck," seemed an affable way to hear what's going on. De Fleurian  (below) is a level-headed optimist, convinced that when the economy turns around, Champagnes will be the first choice with which to celebrate it. He sees great growth in China, some in Russia, and believes the U.S. will rebound quickly when the price is right. Champagnes selling at retail for under $100  will be the best positioned, and fortunately Laurent-Perrier  has a  non-vintage Brut and a Demi-Sec at $49, a vintage Brut 1999 at a remarkable $70, and Ultra Brut  (with no dosage) at $85; the Cuvee Rosé we drank that evening is $100. Then there is Grand Siècle (a 50-50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir made from three vintages) at $200 and the Alexandra Rosé at $450, made from 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay, commemorating  the marriage of L-P owner Bernard de Nonancourt's daughter in 1987.
       The house of Laurent-Perrier dates back to 1812, acquired by the Nonancourt family in 1939 (another melt-down of a year), and largely the marque ihas been known for its devotion to a dominance of the finest chardonnay in their wines, although its Cuvée Rosé Brut was made from 100 percent pinot noir. It also was the first to introduce the pas dosage style, that is, adding no sugar liquid to the second fermentation, resulting in a bone dry Champagne.  The company also makes Champagnes under  the labels Salon, Delamotte and Champagne de Castellane brands, and exports to 120 countries.
        The big Champagne houses, many owned by conglomerates, have long been savvy about marketing their products as luxury goods while trying to expand consumption of a wine too often regarded solely as a celebratory indulgence.  From the moment James 007 Bond announced his preference for Taittinger in the Ian Fleming spy novels and films, Champagne marketeers have scrambled to get Bond to drink their brand onscreen, and 007 has proven amazingly amenable  over the years, quaffing everything from Dom Pérignon to Bollinger.

       The alliance of Champagne houses with Hollywood and show biz has been going on for a long while, sometimes with great success, then with disaster, as when Cristal's  managing director told The Economist  he viewed the rappers' choice of Cristal with “curiosity and serenity,” and when asked if the association would taint the brand's image, shrugged, "That's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business"--a statement that justifies a special place in the history of Gallic hauteur and faux pas. Guess which bubbly the hip hop world switched to overnight? D-P and Krug, merci beaucoup!
    Laurent-Perrier has been careful to make no such mistakes, becoming the exclusive Champagne to be served at the Oscars®, since 1996, and the Emmys as of 2001.  A year later L-P partnered with the Professional Golfers' Association of America and was awarded a Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales--quite a coup, since the Prince and the late Princess Diana had long been associated with Bollinger R.D.     
        Like everyone else, L-P had a rough year in 2008-09 but weathered it better than most, and their highly regarded Champagnes are no longer  on allocation. Also problemmatic has been the sharp rise of the euro against the US dollar. "We have adjusted our prices accordingly," days de Fleurian. "In fact, our prices are lower than two years ag0, even with the strength of the euro."    As a result, I believe that if L-P can hold the line on prices--and remember, the euro has risen sharply against the dollar this year, which doesn't help--it will be in a very good position as one of the great marques that did not try to out-supply its competitors in the good years. 
      Last of all, de Fleurian is very excited by this year's harvest in Champagne, which will soon be ending. The sugars and acidity are very good, the summer was warm, and there has been almost no rain over the last few weeks, all of which bodes well for both a good vintage and a good supply.  Market-wise,  "We are concentrating on the east and west coasts in the U.S.," says de Fleurian, "Washington, New York, Chicago, Miami, and California. We will be doing beautiful windows with our Champagnes in winestores, and next year our bigpromotion will be `Laurent-Perrier Rosé celebrates Spring!'"
     As we finished the second bottle of the Rosé, which went very well with the more savory Chinese food, though not when sweet hoisin-type sauces entered the mix, I realized how well Champagne--specially a full-bodied example like L-P's--can be drunk with pleasure throughout a meal, perhaps opening a sweeter Demi-Sec with dessert. It's certainly a good way to get people to drink more of Champagne.



According to the NY Post, Parks Department agents slapped a 10-year-old girl in Riverside Park with a $50 ticket for selling lemonade without a permit.  Clementine Lee had been selling lemonade on a hot day for 50 cents a glass when three agents swooped down on her and demanded, "Where's your permit? Where's your permit?'" saying that the couple didn't have the right to sell on Parks property.    Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe later conceded that "The agent used extremely poor judgment" and didn't properly enforce the rule,  and that the agent would be "re-trained on rules and regulations" and reassigned.


   "This is a love song. It's a Haitian love song, played on three drums and an electric slide guitar that never sounds quite on key. No question, you can dance to it. . . . . `Sure,' [Tourism Minister Patrick Delatour concedes], `Cap-Haitien is something of a wreck. It could use some paint.  But on the other hand, you can sell 'wreck'' as a tourist product,' Delatour says, ever honest, ever the optimist. `How many people in Sweden have ever seen a city in wreck?'--Amy Wilentz, "Love and Haiti and the Whole Damn thing," Condé Nast Traveler (Sept. 2009).

TRAVEL WARNING: "The State Department warns U.S. citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling to Haiti. . . .There were violent confrontations between opposing candidates' supporters and armed attacks on polling stations in a handful of Haitian towns during the April 19, 2009, Senate elections. . . .U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Haiti despite this warning are reminded that there also is persistent danger of violent crime, especially kidnappings.  The incidence of kidnapping in Haiti has diminished from its peak in 2006 when 60 Americans were reported kidnapped. In 2008, 27 Americans were reported kidnapped. As of July 2009, one American had been reported kidnapped this year.   Most of the Americans were abducted in Haiti's two largest cities, Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien.  Some kidnap victims have been killed, shot, sexually assaulted, or physically abused."--July 17, 2009 Report.



* In Chicago,  at Old Town Brasserie  every Tuesday night,  guests can enjoy any bottle on the wine list at half-price with the cuisine of Chef Christian Phernetton. Call 312-943-.3000.

* On Sept. 29 in NYC, The Oak Room  is running a drink special to coincide with Netflix’s Central Park event celebrating the 70th Anniversary of MGM’s classic film "The Wizard of Oz." Inspired by the four central themes within the movie (Home, Heart, Brains and Courage), head bartender Orlando Rivera has crafted a delightfully whimsical and potent collection of shots as playfully imaginative as Dorothy herself. Call 

* For the month of October, Klee Brasserie in NYC, celebrates Oktoberfest with a special menu. to feature traditional favorites including the Grilled Kobe Beef Bratwurst, Oktoberfest Wiener Schnitzel, house-made suckling pig strudel, and daily rotating sausage specials. The bar  will also be offering domestic and German Oktoberfest brew specials.  Call 212-633-8033.

* From now through October 15, Hakubai Restaurant in The Kitano New York, features its Fall Early Bird Dinner, priced at $69 pp. available each evening for orders placed from 6 – 6:30 p.m., and seating is available until 8 p.m.   Call 212- 885-7111. Visit

* From now through November, in San Francisco,  the Grand Cafe Brasserie and Bar celebrates the theater with a 3-course dinner and complimentary parking for $39, with wines +$15 and the Bar offers show-inspired cocktails and nightly plats du jour.  Call (415) 292-0101or visit

* On Sept. 27 in Boston, Clio restaurant will begin serving a  Sunday Supper featuring exciting variations on fried chicken by chef Ken Oringer,  from southern to Korean, each with traditional accompaniments. $35 pp. Call 617-536-7200;

* On Sept. 28 in Winnetka, IL, Restaurant Michael presents its first ever “Break the Fast” dinner beginning just after sundown: a 3-course prix fixe menu for $39 pp. Call (847) 441-3100 for reservations. . . . On Oct. 6  Restaurant Michael hosts its first “Wine Maker Dinner” with special guest, Hugh Davies of Schramsberg Vineyards, 6 courses paired with 7 wines. $85 pp.

* On Sept. 30 in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Ireland’s Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure will host a  Stags’ Leap Winery dinner, with Southern Wine & Spirits Estate Director Chad Robinson and  wines and food by executive chef.  $79 pp. Call 954- 349-5656.

* Now through Sept. 30, Lavendou Bistro Provençal in Dallas celebrates its 13th anniversary with a special 3-course Anniversary Menu created by owner Pascal Cayet and Executive Chef François Soyez. $38.95 pp. including one glass of champagne. Call 972-248-1911;

* On Oct. 3 in Washington, DC, Acadiana will host a  Bourbon Tasting of 10 small batch, single barrel bourbons previously only available in Kentucky.  Lunch will be provided.  $75 pp. Call 202-408-0201.

* From Oct. 4-9 and 11-16, 36 of Santa Monica’s top restaurants will be participating in the first-ever fall dineLA Restaurant Week in Los Angeles County, the largest county-wide food experience of the year. Altogether 250 restaurants will be participating throughout the county during the two weeks, providing consumers an opportunity to experience a selection of specially priced, 3-course menus. Coall  310-393-7593; /

* On Oct 5 - 15, Industria Argentina, Libertador and Azul restaurants in NYC will host the First Annual Argentinean Wine and Food Festival, featuring winemaker dinners, menu and bar specials, beer pairings and wine flights.  Four-course winemaker dinners $55 pp. Argentinean beer pairings $10 pp.  Call 212-965-8560 for more information.

* From now until Oct. 17 in San Francisco, Chef Staffan Terje of Perbacco presents the first in a series of traditional menus from the provinces of Piedmont: Cuneo. À la carte or 4 courses for $45 with three choices per course. Wine pairings by the glass. Call 415-955-0663 or visit

From now through Nov. 25 in Avon, CO, The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch's Spago by Wolfgang Puck will be offering a nightly half-price "Cellar List" of 25 revolving wines,  hand-selected by Master Sommelier Sean Razee, and a 5-Course Tasting Menu for $48 pp, $68 with wine pairing.  Call 970-343-1555.

On Thurs.-Sun. evenings between now and Oct. 25,  at Peninsula Grill in Charleston, SC, Chef Robert Carter is offering a prix fixe menu in honor of the  33rd Annual Fall Tours of Homes & Gardens, served in the outdoor courtyard. $42.50 pp.  Call 843-723-0700 or visit

* On Oct. 1 in Washington, DC, the Willard InterContinental Hotel and Café du Parc Courtyard holds its Vendanges Fall Wine Festival with French regional wine purveyors featuring 40+ styles of French wine and beers. Café du Parc's Chef de Cuisine, Christophe Marque, presents authentic French festival dishes incl. country charcuterie and cheeses, Toulouse Sausages, beef, lamb and Monkfish brochette, savory and sweet crepes. Music provided by The Gypsy Strings, Dancing and Grape-Stomping. Tix start at $20. Call 202-628-9100.

* On Oct. 2 in DallasNana at the Hilton Anatole will host its monthly Friday Night Flight  featuring St. Francis Winery.  The wine and food trio will highlight the winery’s acclaimed “Old Vines” Zinfandel.   $20 pp.  In addition, Nana has unveiled Half Price Wine Night every Thursday for bottles under $200 with purchase of dinner.;  214-761-7470.

* On Oct. 3 in South Salem, NY, Le Château invites patrons to enjoy dinner and dancing with music for 3 courses at  $46.  The musical entertainment is Café Musette, with  French singer, Maureen Mola. . . .  On Oct. 31  Le Chateau invites patrons to enjoy a Halloween costume party and  buffet dinner.   There will be music and dancing, hosted by DJ, Sean “Big Daddy.” $90 pp incl. wine, champagne and beer, if booked by Oct. 17, $95 afterwards. Call 914-533-6631;

* On Oct. 4 in NYC, Eleven Madison Park will host the 16th Annual Autumn Harvest Dinner to benefit Share Our Strength. Chef Daniel Humm and Wine Director John Ragan welcome Grands Chefs Relais & Châteaux, accompanied by their sommeliers, for a 5-course dinner with  wines. Danny Meyer will host the evening. Chefs incl:  Daniel Boulud & Daniel Johnnes, Daniel, NYC;   Gary Danko & Renee-Nicole Kubin, Gary Danko, San Francisco Michael Laiskonis & Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin, NYC; Patrick O’Connell & Scott Calvert, The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA;  The evening will incl. a silent auction of wine, luxury, epicurean & travel packages.  $500 pp. Call 212-889-0905.

* From Oct. 5-9 in  NYC, Festival Sud de France, presents a week of open houses at the Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon. Expert lessons on the region, food and wine pairing, wine blending and a “Sparkling Friday” will bring a taste of the Mediterranean to the city. $25 pp.  Call  646-688-7170 or visit

* On Oct. 6, in NYC,  Wines from Spain will host its 16th annual Great Match: Wine & Tapas at the Metropolitan Pavilion. This year, 10 NYC chefs, incl. Maneet Chauhan of At Vermilion, Angelo Magno of Milonga, and Steven Gutterman of Eatery Restaurant, will prepare  signature dishes to pair with  200+ recently released wines, with proceeds to New York Cares. $50 pp. Call 1-888-946-3919 or visit

* On Oct. 7, in Washington, D.C., the Roof Terrace Restaurant at the Kennedy Center will host a wine dinner with local winery, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards, with Chef Vatche Benguian's 4-course dinner and guest speakers Mike McGarry, Sugarloaf owner, Carl DiManno, Sugarloaf winemaker, and Lucie Morton, a  viticulturist. $95 pp.  Call 202-416-8555;

* On Oct. 10 & 11,  the 8th Annual Taste of Atlanta features 80 restaurants at Tech Square, incl. Chef Linton Hopkins’ Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House, Nirvana Café, L’Thai Organic, One. Midtown Kitchen, Dogwood and Cellar 56, et al.  The area will also offer live cooking demos and a Farmers Market. Visit  $30 at the gate. Call 877-725-8849.

* On Oct. 11,  the Wölffer Estate Vineyard Annual Harvest Party at Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack, NY. This year’s Harvest Party festivities will incl. a  harvest lunch paired with award-winning Wölffer Estate wines, live music performed by local artists, grape picking and stomping, barrel rolling races and much more. Call 631-537-5106, or visit $75 pp; Wine Club members $65;  $35  for children 4 to 20, under 4 admitted free.

* On Oct. 11 in Venice CA,  the 1st annual Taste of Abbot Kinney offers food, wine and spirits tastings from 15 of the celebrated boulevard's diverse restaurants and gourmet shops, incl. Joe's,  Primitivo, Lilly's, 3 Square, The Tasting Kitchen, Wabi Sabi, Elvino and more.  Ticket holders will also receive discounts at participating stores. $60 for food only; $85 for food, wine and spirits.  Call 310-397-8820 x105; visit   Proceeds go to Inside Out Community Arts.

* From Oct 12-18 the DIWALI celebration at Vermilion (Chicago & NYC)--the Indian New Year and Festival of Lights-- will incl.  a traditional 6-course regal Indian "Nawabi"  ($45, vegetarian option offered) which highlights the goat biryani; traditional decor,   signature Diwali Cocktails  Chaat & Kabab selections (celebratory Indian street foods). Festivities peak on Oct. 17, the day of Diwali when the most traditional "Diwali Couple" also gets dinner on the house. Call Chicago 312-527-4060, NYC 212-871-6600),


NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with five 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: THE CHEAPEST TIMES TO VISIT EXPENSIVE SPOTS ...KEN BURNS CELEBRATED BY TETON MOUNTAIN LODGE ...HAIFA WANTS MORE RESPECT ...SPAWATCHER GETS GUNKED AT MOHONK MOUNTAIN HOUSE


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: Palm Springs Updatye. . . Autumn Tennis Deals. . . TRO Specials.

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