Virtual Gourmet

October 4,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

"A Good Meal, Had," Photo by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery (2009)



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In This Issue

BOCA RATON by Edward Brivio

NEW YORK CORNER: Sofrito and Sazon by John Mariani



by Edward R. Brivio
Photos by Robert Pirillo

     If Henry Morrison Flagler’s vision was in large part responsible for developing Florida’s Gold Coast, Addison Cairns Mizner’s designs went a long way to defining its distinctive style. Flush with Standard Oil money, Flagler came to Florida in 1876 in an attempt to alleviate his first wife's chronic illness, then stayed to build the East Coast Florida Railroad. 40 years later, Mizner arrived in search of his own personal cure.
      Mizner (right) had become a successful society architect in New York, and brought his Mediterranean Revival/Spanish Saracenic-style mansions to Palm Beach, with their sweeping staircases, colonnaded loggias, barrel-tile roofs, stucco walls, and wrought iron accents that seemed to fit right into the tropical surroundings.
       Success in Palm Beach lured him, in 1925, further south to the newly incorporated town of Boca Raton, unfortunately, just as the Florida real estate bubble was about to burst. In September, 1926, the “Great Miami” Hurricane hit the coast, delivering the coup de grace to the local land-boom. Mizner went bankrupt. Weighed down by his failure, he succumbed to a heart attack in 1933.
     His most lasting legacy to Boca Raton was a 100-room hotel originally called the Cloister Inn, opened earlier that year. The Cloister still remains as the gracious core of the present day, greatly expanded and renamed Boca Raton Resort and Club, whose newer additions, the 27 story Tower in 1969, and the luxurious Beach Club in 1980, may have larger and more luxurious rooms, especially after a recently finished  $220 million restoration.
     As part of this massive renewal, three new restaurants have been added to the property.  London Chef Angela Hartnett’s new venture, Cielo,  has perhaps one of the most dramatic settings anywhere on the Gold Coast. Located atop the Tower, its floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic beyond. By day, the view from above of million dollar homes and high-rise condos is impressive enough, but when daylight fades to darkness, their innumerable lights, reflected off the dark sheen of the Waterway, make the scene even more magical. Cielo  is a sleek, sophisticated, minimally decorated room, predominately white in color: white linens and white leather seating, with discreet glimpses of steel, and a gorgeous terrazzo floor that looks like lapis lazuli flecked with gold. Tables are set right up against the windows, so the view provides all the embellishment needed.
     True to the Italian culinary tradition handed down to her from her Italian/Welsh grandmother, Hartnett’s recipes here derive a maximum of pleasure from a minimum of ingredients handled as little as possible. Maine lobster tortellini, tender, hand-made pasta filled with lots of delicious crustacean, came dressed with a simple shellfish glace and topped with a sprinkling of micro-greens for a vegetal crunch. Seared foie gras needs very little by way of accompaniment, here centered on a square plate of frosted glass and set within a border made up of walnuts, tiny, precise cubes of pear, and perfect drops of quince puree and duck glace.
      My pan-roasted loin of lamb contained one large raviolo bursting with lamb shoulder meat, a couple of spicy merguez sausages and a mint salsa verde, along with thin slices of delicious eggplant rolled to resemble cannelloni, atop a fresh tomato compote. Paired with horseradish whipped potatoes, asparagus, and a seriously good green pepper sauce, a prime 14 ounce NY strip, medium rare, lived up to its credentials. A side of truffled grits  was another inspired tweaking of a culinary staple.
     I can never resist passionfruit, and the luscious passionfruit sorbet served here reminded me why. Alternately, the cheese plate--four selections for $17--was another good choice, comprising a super creamy Brillat-Savarin, a robust Taleggio, crumbly Stilton and an aged farmhouse Cheddar, all at their peak of ripeness.
     Don’t, however, expect to find Hartnett here in the kitchen or dining room, for she stays mostly in London, where she is chef of Murano. Her visitations to the Sunshine State seem to be few and far between, more as consultant than chef.
      Appetizers: $14 to $21; Entrees: $29 to $39.

     When “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, opened Morimoto sushi bar at the Resort last fall, he brought along signature dishes from his original venture in Philadelphia. Right off the Resort's lobby, the shallow, oblong space, designed by Thierry Déspont, is serene and uncluttered, its pared-down, no-nonsense chic as pristine and cliché-free as the dishes emerging from the kitchen.
Color is supplied by royal blue upholstery on free-form chairs, beautiful two-tone hardwood floors, and eight large video screens above the sushi bar,  where changing underwater images showcase the ocean's flora and fauna.
     To get things going, we took the easy way out and ordered the Morimoto sashimi with five kinds of fish: oh toro (fatty tuna) topped with caviar, maguro (tuna) topped with guacamole, hamachi topped with scallions, jalapeños and sesame oil, sake (salmon) topped with seaweed, and kani (crab) wrapped in  cucumber and topped with ikura (salmon eggs), and two sauces, one of roasted red peppers, and the other of cilantro—all good intros to Morimoto‘s style, as well as to his beautiful, precise presentations.
     Our next "course" included two hot dishes: a white miso broth with Manila clams, and the chef's signature rock shrimp tempura with kochujan (a sweet and spicy red pepper/bean paste) aïoli. The savory broth was chockablock with fat tender  clams, and the shrimp was so good –"sweet and sour," but with such refined flavors that it had nothing to do with what those three little words usually conjured up-- we ordered a second helping. The maki were also excellent, whether the soft shell crab roll with asparagus, avocado and tobiko, or the spicy tuna roll with chopped tuna, scallion and a spicy sauce. Appetizers/soups/salads: $7 to 30; maki: 6 to 14; sushi and sashimi: $3 to $9.

     Our favorite restaurant here was Sea Grille, located right in the lobby of the Beach Club, a great place for breakfast, and serves food throughout the day. Open and spacious, with a terrace overlooking the beach, the overall feel is contemporary, and über-casual without seeming slapdash. The "polish" is all in the details. Overlapping squares of backlit, golden agate make up the wall separating dining room from kitchen. Buttery, high grade yellow leather covers the comfortable armchairs, contemporary globular fixtures illumine the space, and a wall of French doors offers diners a view of the pools and surf beyond. Try to get one of the sofas: nice, tall sofas, with seats slightly elevated so the table is within easy reach. I can't remember ever being so comfortable in a restaurant.
     The SeaGrille is all about fish: the menu's border is emblazoned with images of different species, "x's" indicating what's available on that day. Pompano a la plancha was just about perfect, its fresh, clean flavors highlighted by the grilling, but the locally caught Dorade, also  à la plancha was a stunner, its flesh a little firmer, a little “meatier” than the pompano, and its flavors more intense. Accompanying sauces were a rather innocuous salsa verde, a delicious soy/brown butter sauce, and best of all, a lime and yogurt vinaigrette.
   Before the main courses, we enjoyed spicy Bahamian conch chowder, awash with morsels of tender conch, as well as mushrooms stuffed with crab, two items that seem to be made for each other. Mile-high key-lime pie, and caramelized banana cream pie were unabashedly indulgent grace notes to a flawless meal.
Appetizers: $9 to $14; entrees: $28 to $39.

    Nearby,  32 East (32 East Atlantic Avenue, 561-276-7868) on Delray Beach’s main drag, is a neighborhood bistro for fine dining in a comfortable setting. Chef Nick Morfogen’s market-driven menu changes daily, combining the best ingredients from South Florida and around the world, with an ease and flair that is distinctly American. Morfogen is the kind of chef who shops the markets himself, and who is only too happy to actually be in his kitchen every night, and it shows.
     Who came up with the idea for foie gras “sliders”? I‘m not sure, but as served here, with bing cherry jam for sweetness and crispy shallots for depth and crunch, they transform this aristocrat of  haute cuisine into comfort food, something to be eaten out-of-hand.
      Togarashi (a Japanese, red chile pepper blend) seared Yellow fin tuna, another beautiful piece of fish was set-off beautifully by its primarily Asian garnishes: ponzu sauce, and an Udon noodle salad with watermelon, pickled ginger and scallions. Grilled wild shrimp, redolent of the grill’s smoky mesquite wood, were more South-of-the-Border than Pacific Rim, served with green mango slaw, yucca chips and an avocado crema; whereas pan-seared diver scallops and smoked pork belly with asparagus, creamed corn, and a shoestring potato salad with a hot sauce vinaigrette, were pure American, and delicious as well, especially that hunk of pork.
     Any one of the desserts we tasted was worth a visit on its own, whether a delicious strawberry cobbler, Key lime cheesecake that combined the best of the Gold Coast with the best of the Big Apple, rich, dark chocolate cake, or classic crème brûlée.
      On the back of the menu is a well-chosen list of wines by the glass, all so gently priced that we looked no further.
     Appetizers: $11 to $15; Main courses: $23 to $32.

     If 32 East is Delray Beach’s neighborhood bistro, then Vic & Angelo's (290 East Atlantic Ave. 561-278-9570), another informal dining room, is its corner trattoria. World-class pizzas, nicely charred from coal-fired ovens, walls and low-slung arches of exposed brick, a coffered ceiling, and stone tiled floors, bring a little bit of the Campo de Fiori, to Southern Florida. One soon eases into the décor: spacious, bright, and airy, especially at lunch.
     Fortunately, the food shows the same deft hand and lack of pretense.Thin-crust pizza doesn't get much better, either V&A‘s “Originale,“ i.e., the classic Margherita, or, its "Mulberry Street," with eggplant, mozzarella, Reggiano and crushed red pepper, that was something of a revelation.
      Ah, carpaccio! To me, it’s every bit as glorious a creation as that Renaissance Venetian painter whose name it bears. Served here with shards of Reggiano, arugula, and a simple spritz of lemon juice, the tenderloin was hewn so thin it all but melted in the mouth. Calamari fritte with a marinara dipping sauce, were also well-turned out, the squid, crisp, tender, and oil- free, and the marinara, fresh and spicy.
       Here again, desserts commanded attention: San Gennaro’s Feast turned out to be fresh cannolis and zeppole ( filled with banana cream -- not classic, but to our taste, an improvement) as well as naturally flavored strawberry cotton candy of a beautiful pink color; a “slice” of Giant Chocolate cake (believe me, they mean it) was as rich as could be-- but I think that studding fudge with chocolate chips is overkill -- and a tray containing "S’mores" fixings, which, as usual, were quickly depleted.
Antipasti: $8.50 to $14.50; pizza: $16.50 to $18.50; pasta: $15.50 to $37.50.

     We only stopped at Boston's Upperdeck (40 South Ocean Blvd., 561-278-3328) here for drinks and hors-d‘oeuvres, but if the perfect mojitos, and various appetizers sampled-- crisp, fried calamari, jumbo lump crab cakes with a citrus/mustard aioli, heavenly artichoke crostini on grilled olive bread, and  luxuriant shrimp and lobster flat bread pizza-- are typical nightly fare, it's well worth a 2nd date. Besides, you’ll love the room, a slightly less informal setting than downstairs (Boston's On the Beach), but still with a laid-back, come-as-you-are, old-Florida vibe, complete with an unobstructed view of the ocean beach directly across A1A.
Starters: $10 to $15; salads: $8 to $17, entrees: $17 to $29.
     Another favorite with the locals is Sunday Brunch at Sundy House (106 South Swinton Avenue, 561-272-5678), a small boutique inn (right) listed on the National Register of Historic places. 11 beautifully decorated guest rooms are set amidst an acre of stunning tropical gardens and freeform pools. There’s something for everyone here at the various stations that make up the buffet style brunch.
Sunday Buffet, 10:30 to 2:00 PM, $42 p.p. incl. unlimited mimosas and Bloody Marys.

     Finally, we can’t leave the area without mentioning the Boca Raton Art Museum, and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.  The Museum  is among the best regional museums in the country, with an extensive collection of important pieces, from pre-Colombian and African artifacts, through Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and onto Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Contemporary art, as well as a topnotch Photography collection filled with little gems, and a sculpture garden. The Museum is just the right size for a leisurely afternoon visit, although you may want to linger a little longer in front of  certain displays, like the gorgeous, and major, Louise Nevelson piece. Admission: $8 adult.
     The Morikami Museum and Gardens opened in 1977 as a showcase for Japanese culture. Six gardens, each in a distinct historical style, dating from the 9th century through the early 20th, offer quiet and serenity amidst 200 acres of picturesque grounds: deep green lawns, tranquil ponds, pine forests, bamboo groves, and nature trails. Adding to their charm are waterfalls, antique stone lanterns, wooden bridges over shallow streams, and an authentic Seishin-An Tea-house. The museum has a good collection of Japanese woodcuts and other artifacts. Hours: Tues.-Sun., 10 A.M to 5 P.M., closed Monday. Admission: $12 adult.

Edward Brivio is a freelance writer living in New York.



The Flavors of Puerto Rico, Uptown and Down

by John Mariani

     By and large, I find New York foodies are  too damn serious when they dine out.  They don't actually go to enjoy the food, they go to examine it--the worst of them twittering and taking photos of everything set before them.  There seems little joy in the exercise beyond being able to say you ate at such-and-such a place and liked or didn't like it very much.
    On the contrary, I always approach the next restaurant with the thought that I am going to be delighted by the décor, service, food and wine, and that I will find out something new about what I'm eating and enjoy the infectious happiness of other people in the room who came to that restaurant to eat, not to kibbitz or, in some cases, not even to eat anything beyond an insipid salad.
     You will not find such people in NYC's Puerto Rican restaurants, where eating is as much entertainment as anything else, and the spirit of the Latinos who go out to eat is wildly infectious.
     My entry into two closely related Puerto Rican restaurants--Sofrito on the Upper East Side, Sazon in TriBeCa--in Manhattan gave me enormous pleasure, both on the plate and within the ambiance of these vibrant dining rooms full of color, Latino music, and big platters of hearty, delicious food, most of it quite traditional but done up with New York flair.  I can't say that all their clientele dress to the nines as if attending the Alma Awards, but most of the women come here with a bit of bling and a whole lot of rhinestones woven into their outfits.  It's a very attractive crowd. The decibel level can rise through the evening, but it is the sound of people really having a good time, not just trying to be heard over the music speakers.

       I've have dined at least as well at Sofrito and Sazon as I have in Puerto Rico best traditional restaurants, and I had even more fun here than on the Isla Encantada.

400 East 57 Street (at First Avenue)

     The two restaurants, both owned by former NYC police detective JR Morales, are very different in décor. Sofrito,  just south of the Queensboro Bridge, is a sophisticated mix of grass cloth wallpaper, neutral colors, and sculptural wood artwork by James De La Vega.
     Chefs Ricardo Cardona  and Andres Ortega are in charge of the kitchen, and the five-piece Sofrito House Band plays musica sabrosamerengue, salsa, bachata— five days a week.
     At both restaurants you might think about not ordering too much, because the portions are huge, but then again, flip your hand and forget that idea; just take home what you don't eat, as I happily did both times I visited. Some of the very best food is among the starters (pa' empezar), including the hearty empanadas, available stuffed with shrimp, beef, chicken, or vegetables.  Crispy marinated pork is addictive, lightly charred little morsels to eat with sweet plantains, and the crispy fried calamari are just as good. Don't miss the pigeon pea gumbo with ham either--it's a terrific soup and stew in one.
     Listed under "Classic Dishes" is mofongo, a working man's dish that will get you through a long day--mashed green plaintains with beef, shrimp, or chicken--and the roast pork is one of the favorite dishes here, with pigeon peas and nicely steamed rice.  There's a whole red snapper, either baked or crispy, with fragrant coconut-scented rice.  And for dessert go for the empanaditas with cheese and sweet guava paste or the impeccably rendered cheese flan. Some strong coffee and a shot of Fundador, and you'll want to join the throng here in their jubilant style of eating well.
     Sofrito is open  daily;  Appetizers run $2-$15, entrees $13-$23.

105 Reade Street
(near West Broadway)

     Sazon's is a very different look--hot pink and tufted walls that put you in mind of Calle Ocho in Florida or the better dining rooms in San Juan. Tables are more closely set than uptown, and the crowd more casual for the most part.  Even before you enter, the greeting at the front steps is warm and inviting, the hostess pretty and smiling, and the whole waitstaff very accommodating. If Mr. Morales is not at Sofrito, he will be here, and his guestlist seems to include plenty of regulars.   
      Sazon's menu is very similar to Sofrito's, so I tried to order some of the same items and different ones. I loved the coconut arepas with crabmeat escabeche, and the grilled shrimp with a rich Puerto Rican rum glaze was a perfect appetizer. Plantains stuffed with beef picadillo are rich and savory, juicy and sweet, and the salt cod buñuelos come hot and aromatic, so when you bite into them, the hot steam comes out, and you take a quick swig of beer or wine and polish the rest off, relieved that you didn't burn off the roof of your mouth.
       Sazon's specialties include a succulent paella with lobster, chicken, chorizo, clams, shrimps and saffron rice--best to order for the table.  Mar y tierra is a surf-and-turf plate of churrasco sausage and shrimp with fried green plantains and a red wine mushroom sauce that is absorbed into the other ingredients. The red snapper here is a huge fish, nicely cooked so that the flesh comes off at the touch of your fork, with crackling good skin.  Best of all is the very, very popular--you see at least one at every table--penil, a massive piece of good roast pork with pigeon peas and rice and more plantains.
        I did think that the frying at Sazon hadn't quite the deft timing of Sofrito's kitchen, so some of the former's fried dishes were a little oilier than uptown's.  But Sazon's desserts seem to have more variety and flavor.
Desserts at Sazon are not to be missed, among them are street food favorites like churros served with hot chocolate sauce.
      At both places, it seems to me impossible not to have a good time. And if you're going to shoot pix with your Blackberry, take them of your friends enjoying themselves and smiling, not the food on your plate.
     Sazon is open for daily, serving though till midnight or 2 AM; Sunday brunch. Appetizers run $2-$15, entrees $13-$37. 
There's a large downstairs lounge for private parties, too.


by John Mariani

     "After thirty years of successful business we are sad to share the news that despite all our efforts the plans to renovate and re-open Chanterelle will not come to pass. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the many people who have become dear friends and supporters through the years, to our loyal and loving staff and to our endlessly encouraging family. Through good and bad times it is a thrilling, passionate and rewarding journey. We are proud to be a part of this creative industry in this unparalled city of ours and look forward to what we will bring to you in the future."
     So reads the goodbye letter from David and Karen Waltuck (below), who, as noted, for three decades ran one of NYC's finest and most sophisticated restaurants.  At first in SoHo, then in TriBeCa, Chanterelle gave Lower Manhattan a restaurant of the first order and a very personalized one that reflected the enduring commitment of the Walzogs to do things their way, which just happened to be the way things should be done in fine dining.
      In its TriBeCa location its tables were widely separated, the décor spare but done with refined taste, the service staff well versed in both food and manners. Susan, always mpeccably dressed, received you up front while David toiled, year after year in the kitchen, believing strongly that his guests deserved his presence and attention.  He once told me, "Maybe I'm just not as smart as those chefs who own ten restaurants and never cook, but I need to be in my kitchen, with my staff, to cook my food."
       Chanterelle's menus, buoyed by one of the finest winelists in America, were never lavish, never overloaded with faddish flourishes, and always retained guests' favorite dishes, like Chanterelle's signature grilled seafood sausage-quite a revelation when the restaurant opened 30 years ago. Steamed zucchini blossoms were stuffed with chicken and black truffles. Roasted guina hen was served with a reduction of red wine and black olives. Sweetbreads were treated to caramelized leeks and orange. And there had always been a superb cheese selection.
      It was all properly French but quite a remove from the clichés of those French establishments that preceded it. And it always seemed a quintessential NYC restaurant, not least because its location way downtown, on dark blocks onto which Chanterelle cast its soft, golden glow,  was a beacon of good taste immune to the kind of dumbing down of food, décor, and service that has had its vulgar effect on why Chanterelle has both run its course and failed to re-open after the summer of 2009.
      Chanterelle had a legion of faithful who will have their fond memories of the place, the cuisine, the wines, and of the Waltucks who were always there to make sure their friends were happy.




by John Mariani

     The marriage of wine and cheese has been an honorable one for centuries, and there are at least a dozen books currently available on the subject. Most of them focus on which wines to drink after choosing your cheeses, but that shouldn’t always be the case.
     According to Carolyn Stromberg, Maitre d’Fromage at Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center (below) in National Harbor, MD, which offers 20 cheeses each night brought on a cart, “If you plan to serve wine with your cheese course, choose the wine (or wines) first, then the cheese.  If you have five cheeses on your plate, they might be entirely different in flavor—one might go best with cabernet sauvignon, one with a white wine, one with a sweet dessert wine. But a common denominator doesn’t work with them all. If you choose wine first, you can pair cheese to the wine.”
     Were you to choose the five cheeses first, says Stromberg, 30, “You’d need five different wines to make a perfect marriage with each.” She points out that drinking a big red like a cabernet would “run right over” a delicate young goat’s cheese, which would be better served with a white sauvignon blanc, whose typical grassy taste evokes the freshness of the cheese.
      She also recommends a rich, buttery chardonnay with a “mountain-style” cheese like an equally buttery Emmental.  For blue cheeses, she prefers a sweet dessert wine like Port.
      I share Stromberg’s sentiment, especially at dinner when I may not want to invest in another bottle or glasses of wine just to go with the cheeses I’ve chosen. When I buy cheese to bring home for dinner, however, I’m likely to choose a wine I think specifically goes with that cheese.
      When guests do have a wine on their table prior to the cheese course, what’s the most sensible approach to an array of cheeses on a cart? In the case of the New York’s restaurant Picholine, that cart will contain between 45 and 60 cheeses on any given night, and at its sister restaurant Artisanal (below), 100 or more are kept in perfect condition in a temperature-controlled, humidified “cave.”
     “When we approach a table we see how much wine they have left over, or we may ask them if they have another wine in mind,” says Jason Miller, 36, corporate beverage director The Artisanal Group, LLC, that owns Picholine and Artisanal and has just opened  two cheese stores in Seattle. “The problem is that the wine limits what cheeses may go stylistically. I find the dinner wine is usually not the best choice with cheeses, because the guests like to try the unfamiliar, fragrant cheeses that do not pair well. If they do stick with a big red wine, we try to guide them towards complementary cheeses, from light to richer.
      “But we would prefer to have them choose the cheese first, especially since we have the resources to offer so many wines by the half-glass or half-bottle. White wines are definitely the most versatile, but the saltier the blue cheese the sweeter the wine should be.”
      I don’t think my own ideas on the subject differ much from most fromageurs’ and sommeliers’, but I do have a few, general, pet preferences that have always worked for me in wonderful match-ups.
      I believe that a fine white Burgundy or sauvignon blanc goes very well with almost any cheeses, except blues, from mild goat’s cheese to Camembert. Big reds like cabernet, pinot noir, and merlot I would only serve with harder, granular cheeses like Parmigiana-Reggiano, Tomme, and Cheshire. Syrah and Beaujolais go nicely with medium-soft cheeses like Cantal, Gouda, and Mahon.
      I hate herbed cheeses--they always taste like acrid rosemary or thyme--and can’t think of any wines worth wasting on them.
     Very strong cheeses like Epoisses and Munster, and blue cheeses like Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Stilton really cripple red wines, unless they are sweet, like a ruby or tawny Port (I would save a vintage Port for sipping on its own) or a dessert wine like Sauternes, Barsac, or Late Harvest Riesling.
     The late Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild once told me that whenever he would be eating Roquefort, he’d stick a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes--“and only Yquem!” he insisted--in the freezer till ice crystals formed. I’ve tried that, and it is really, really good—like a cheese course with the most expensive snow cone imaginable.
    By the way, one of the best book that treats well the subject of cheese and wine pairings is Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best by Max McCalman & David Gibbons (Potter, $35).


John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.



* During the entire month of October, Chaya  restaurant group in Los Angeles will offer its customers at all 3 locations a $25  dinner  and will serve special anniversary-edition wines by the glass Chaya Brasserie will host a celebration on  Oct. 25, with a percentage  to benefit C-CAP. Go to

* For 2 weeks in October, in Chicago, at The Peninsula Chicago, Pierrot Gourmet at the Peninsula Chicago, will host a traditional Oktoberfest with beer, brats,oom-pah music, festive décor and more. Call 312-573-6749.

* In San Francisco, every Fri. & Sat. night, Chef Mark Dommen of  One Market Restaurant will offer a weekly-changing whole animal menus in addition to the restaurant’s full à la carte menu. The “Weekly Beast” menu will be available both à la carte and as a 5-course prix fixe for $49 pp. Wine pairings from Sommelier Melanie Mancini will be $20 for half glasses with the prix fixe menu.Visit; call 415-777-5577.

The Palm Restaurant Group of 26 restaurants just announced a $100,000 commitment to help the World Food Program’s “Fill the Cup” campaign to feed school worldwide, providing 400,000 school meals at 25 cents each. The partnership is part of the Palm Cares© program, the philanthropic arm of The Palm. When guests order the Palm's house specialty, jumbo Nova Scotia Lobster dish, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the WFP, which is part of gthe U.N. system.  Call 202-207-5264 or 310-441-0165;  Visit: and

* On Oct. 2, in Milwaukee, The Pfister Hotel kicks off Afternoon Tea in the hotel's 23rd floor lounge, Blu, learning from their Tea Butler about each variety of tea and the origins, unique flavors, their effects on mood and health, blending options and perfect pairings. Friday, Saturday and Sunday 3-4:30pm. Visit The

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

* On  Oct. 6 in NYC,  Jean-Luc Naret, Director of the Michelin Guides, will hold a panel discussion at the Borders bookstore in the Time Warner Center  about the Michelin Guide New York City 2010, restaurant reviewing, and the NYC dining scene, with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer, Southern Wine & Spirits'/Founder & Director of SOBE and NYC Wine & Food Festival Lee Schrager, Food & Wine's Kate Krader, food writer Mimi Sheraton, and panel moderator Mike Colameco.  The event begins at 6:30pm and is free and open to the public.

* On Oct. 8 in NYC,
a Château de Beaucastel Wine Tasting Dinner will be held at Bar Boulud with Marc Perrin leading a tasting retrospective of 10 of  the Chateau's finest vintages , some dating from the 80's  from the chateau's own cellars, with a 4-course dinner by Chef Damian Sansonetti. $199 pp. Call  212-595-0303.

* On Oct. 10, in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will host an Old New Orleans Rum Company rum tasting and discussion, lead by Master Distiller Chris Sule of Celebration Distillation. $10 for non-members. Call 504-569-0405 or visit

* From Oct. 12 to 17th in Portland, OR, East India Co. Grill & Bar will celebrate Diwali, the Indian New Year, with a special tasting menu featuring traditional dishes like Parda Biryani and Ras-Malai. $22 pp. Call 503-227-8815 or visit

On Oct. 15, in Miami, RUMBAR at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne will be hosting the 2nd and final stage of the Ron Abuelo and Rum Jumbie Mixology Contest. The top U.S. rum mixologists move from NYC to Miami to compete for a chance to win a trip to Panama, courtesy of Varela Imports and Varela Hermanos. No cover charge, cash bar only. Call 305-365-4286 or email

*On Oct. 17th & 18th, in Nantucket, MA, American Seasons presents its first annual Hogtoberfest, celebrating the many ways to use a pig in its entirety. Sat.  events include a Pork & Beer Tasting Tour with Cisco Brewers ($30) and a nose-to-tail demo with American Seasons Chef Michael LaScola and visiting Chef Matt Jennings of the Farmstead in Rhode Island ($150; Saturday). Sun. events kick off with a candy making class with Pastry Chef Natasha Misanko ($30) and end with a special prix-fixe pork dinner ($135). Reservations required. Call 508-228-7111.

* From Oct. 18 through 21 The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, NY, will host the Santé Restaurant Symposium, Strategies for Survival and Success, designed for fine-dining and upscale-casual hospitality professionals who want to increase profits, stay on top of trends, and learn from and network with the most successful restaurateurs in the industry. Visit

* From Oct. 16-18 the 3rd annual Martha's Vineyard Food & Wine Festival will be held  in Edgartown, MA.   Josh Wesson of Best Cellars, will talk on "The Price is Right."   Cocktail Reception benefits the Martha's Vineyard Museum, with Chef/Owner Andy Husbands of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorrell in Boston. Fri. night island chefs host wine dinners. Sat., boat tours of the oyster flats followed by a tasting of oysters with white wines;  seminars in galleries, boutiques, and a waterfront private club.  Jonathan Alsop of the Boston Wine School and Lee Napoli of Chocolee in Boston present, "Dessert Wines and Chocolates."  “Grand Tasting,” with 25+ international vintners while local and Boston-area chefs offer complementary seasonal dishes. Sun., local chefs prepare brunches with wines and champagne. Visit

* On Oct. 16 Castle Hill Inn & ResortSM, in Newport, RI, presents adinner featuring the wines of Italy’s Pio Cesare. Devin McGarry of Maison Marques & Domaines, Inc., will lead guests through each selection of wine  paired with Executive Chef Jonathan Cambra’s 5-course dinner. $95 pp.   A 2-night guestroom package is also available, Packages begin at $1,399.02. Call 401-849-3800 or visit

* On  Oct.  17  Aqua blue restaurant in Roswell, GA, will host a beer festival with a prix fixe tapas menu of 9 dishes paired with 9 different beers, along with live music from The Moonlight Band.  $26 pp. Call 770-643-8886 or visit

* On Oct. 17 The Dorchester in London, presents new culinary master classes in the Krug Room led by Executive Chef Henry Brosi. The Culinary Master Classes get underway with “Native French Oysters” on October 17, 2009, and follow with White Alba Truffles on Nov. 7; “Black Perigord Truffles” on Fe. 20, and four more through the coming year. Classes priced from £150 pp. Call 800-650-1842 or visit

*On October 17th & 18th, in Nantucket, MA, American Seasons presents its first annual "Hogtoberfest," celebrating the many ways to use a pig in its entirety. Saturday events incl. a Pork & Beer Tasting Tour with Cisco Brewers ($30) and a nose-to-tail demo with American Seasons Chef Michael LaScola and Chef Matt Jennings of the Farmstead in Rhode Island ($150). Sunday events kick off with a candy making class with Pastry Chef Natasha Misanko ($30) and end with a special prix-fixe pork dinner ($135). Call 508-228-7111.

* On Oct.19 in Yountville, CA, Bardessono presents a series honoring Napa Valley's farmers, artists and winemakers.  The first dinner in the series offers an opportunity to taste 3 varieties of Jamon Iberico with Alberto Solis. Chefs Slyvain Portay and Sean O'Toole will prepare a 4-course Spanish dinner paired with select Spanish wines chosen by Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji. $135 p.p.  Call 707- 204 - 6030.

* From October 21 – 27 in Arlington, VA, Restaurant 3 will host the Week of Bacon featuring bacon happy hours with creative bacon cocktails and dishes such as bacon on a stick, and a 3-course bacon tasting menu Call 703-524-4440 or visit

* On Oct 22, China Grill and Kobe Club in Miami Beach invite you to a “Bring Your Own Wine” 6-course tasting dinner at $55 pp. Call 305-534-2211.

* From Oct. 22-24 in Scottsdale, AZ,  sponsored by Food & Wine magazine, the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and Savor Scottsdale, Crave Arizona will be held in downtown Scottsdale waterfront.  With over 10 events, tickets will range from $20-$500. Events incl: “Taste of Art” Cocktail Art Walk; “Taste of Art” Gallery Dinners;  Crave Arizona Kick Off Party on the Bridge; Library Wine Tasting Series; Savor Scottsdale Wine Lunches; The National Top Bar Chef Competition; Cocktail Culture & Bar Seminars;  BBQ & Bubbles; The Arizona Grand Tasting  (John Mariani, publisher of the Virtual Gourmet will be judging a cook-off.) The festival’s most anticipated event, the Arizona Grand Tasting, is prices at $75 presale; $85 at the door.  Visit;  call 480-945-0344.


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: FIVE WAYS TO MAKE EUROPE MORE AFFORDABLE.


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


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

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

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go

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