Virtual Gourmet 

October 11,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

            Esquire Magazine cover 1934   



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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER: Double Crown by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Champagne in All Its Bubbly Variety, Part I by Brian Freedman


by John Mariani                    

       My annual round-up of the 20 Best NEW restaurants in America (this is the 25th year!) has just been published in the November issue of Esquire Magazine, and I think it's one of the most exciting collections yet.  As I note in the preface, "What delicious irony! At a time when most people think twice about spending money to dine out, American restaurateurs and chefs have never made it cheaper and more exciting. Restaurants that once dished out $150 Kobe steaks and poured out $500 “ah, what-the-hell!” wines every night have had to get more creative with less expensive ingredients, raising lowly cuts of meat and unfamiliar fish to star status. Everyone’s offering special deals and bargain meals, and winelists are now rife with small estate wines under $50 a bottle."

      To make the list, a restaurant must:
       1. Have opened after September 2008.
       2. The restaurant cannot just be a relocation or new décor with the same chef.
       3. The restaurant cannot be a branch of an original restaurant somewhere else.
       4. The Chef must be a working chef, not one who merely puts his name on the door and rarely visits.

       5. A distinctive style of food separates very good restaurants from innovative ones.
       6. Atmosphere and comfort count far more than dazzling décor.
       7. Prices should reflect the quality of food, décor, and service.
       8. A wine or beverage list should reflect the kind of cuisine the restaurant serves.

➔ Here, then, are the winners for 2009 (in alphabetical order), followed by 4 Chefs to Keep Your Eye On and an added bonus this year--15 More Great New Restaurants You Don't Want to Miss.

AREA 31--The Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; 866-781-9924; Chef John Critchley.

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR: BAZAAR, SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, 465 South La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-246-5545; . Chef/owner José Andrés. (right).

THE BEDFORD POST INN--954 Old Post Road, Bedford, NY; 914-234-7800; . Chef Brian Lewis.

CHEF OF THE YEAR: BARTON SEAVER of BLUE RIDGE--2340 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC; 202-333-4004.

6525 Washington Street, Yountville, CA; 707-945-1050;  Chef/owner Michael Chiarello. (left)

239 W Broadway, NYC; 212-219-2777; Chef/owner  Paul Liebrandt.

11401 Bellflower Road, Cleveland; 216-791-7880; Chef/owner Zachary Bruell. (right)

LEMAIRE--The Jefferson Hotel, 101 West Franklin Street, Richmond; 804-649-4644;   Chef Walter Bundy.

LOCANDA VERDE--379 Greenwich Street, NYC; 212-925-3797;  Chef Andrew Carmellini/Owner.

240 Central Park South, NYC; 212-582-5100;  Chef /owner Michael White.

NOPALITO--306 Broderick Street, San Francisco; 415-437-0303; Chef/Owners  Allyson and Laurence Jossel.

PACCI RISTORANTE--866 W Peachtree Street, Atlanta; 678- 412-2402;  Chef Keira Moritz.

PACES 88--St. Régis Hotel, 88 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta; 404-563-7910;  Chef Mark Alba.

PERLA’S SEAFOOD AND OYSTER BAR--1400 South Congress, Austin, TX; 512-291-7300;  Chef.owner Lawrence McGuire.

PRADO--The InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, 4949 E. Lincoln Dr. Scottsdale, AZ; 480-627-3200; Chef Claudio Urcuoli.

RIVERA--1050 South Flower Street, Los Angeles; 213-749-1460;  Chef/owner John Sedlar.

SEASALT--1186 3rd Street, Naples, FL; 239-434-7258; Chef/owner Fabrizio Aielli.

The Setai New York Hotel, 40 Broad Street; 212-809-3993;  Chef Shawn Hergatt. (left)

Wynn Encore, 3131 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas; 702-248-DINE;  Chef/owner Kim Cateenwalla.

SRA MARTINEZ--4000 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami; 305-573-5474;  Chef/owner Michelle Bernstein.



☛ AJAX TAVERN--Aspen, CO (left)



☛ THE BRISTOL--Chicago


☛ IL CASALE--Belmont, Massachusetts


☛ PASSIONFISH--Reston, Virginia (left)

☛ PROVINCE--Chicago


--New Orleans (left)
☛ RH--Los Angeles

☛ SEPIA--Chicago




✓Chris Lusk, Café Adelaide, New Orleans

✓David Katz, Meme, Philadelphia

✓Victoria Ann Moore, The Lazy Goat, Greenville, SC

✓Raymond Mohan, Onda, NYC


by John Mariani


316 Bowery (near Bleecker Street)

     The ever-growing restaurant scene on the Lower East Side and Bowery has been one of ambitious aims for an area that depends largely on its aim to be a hip place to go for food that would cost considerably more uptown. Or at least that's how things began down there. But anyone checking out the menus at places like Allen & Delancey, Sorella, Schiller's, Stanton Social, and wd-50 will find this really isn't the case at all, when main courses can run to $35. And for the most part you don't get much in the way of décor or service, instead sittiing on crappy furniture, naked tables, waiters in sweaty t-shirts, and pulsing loud music for your trip to the neighborhood, plus, unless you live down there, a whopping $20 taxi cab fare both ways or parking lot bill.
     Happily, Double Crown is not among the kind of restaurants I just described on the Bowery. For starters, it's a very good looking place and until the weather gets too cold, there are outdoor tables that allow a delightful view of the broad boulevard that is the Bowery, which gets its name from Peter Stuyvesant's farm, in Dutch, bouwerji, once a very elegant thoroughfare, later a Skid Row, now being changed by commerce into a street of restaurants and shops.  Secondly, there's nothing on the menu above $29, and appetizers average about $13 (foie gras torchon comes in at $18).  And they offer a wide variety of very popular snacks here from $4-$8.
      Owners Adam Farmerie,  Kristina O’Neal, William Harris, Greg Bradshaw, and Dan Rafalin were behind the restaurant PUBLIC, opened in 2003, and Double Crown gets its moniker from serving food from the “in-betweenness” of two disparate cultures--19th century British and of those Asian territories it once colonized, or tried to dominate.  (There is also a separate hidden bar and lounge named Madam Geneva, where I did not dine, but it's dark and noisy, offering Double Crown's snacks.)
     Executive Chef Brad Farmerie (right) and Chef de Cuisine Christopher Rendell, a native of Melbourne, are doing some convincing work of Anglo-Asian fusion; what's more, most of it is outright delicious, starting with snacks like a "pint of prawns with Mary Rose sauce"  (below) and Iceberg lettuce for crunch--they go down easily and quickly.  Also terrific are the spicy pork stuffed lychees with coconut sauce and the Singapore laksa of rice noodles, crab, and bean sprouts.   House-cured ham comes with black Mission figs and a spicy grain mustard, and that foie gras torchon is worthy of it price tag.
      Indeed, I'd be very happy with just ordering a mess of snacks and starters, but then I would have missed the braised pork belly with red lentil puree, snow pea shoots, and an aromatic star anise broth.  The New York strip steak doesn't have anything to do with Anglo-Asian reveries, but it's a fine rendering, as is the steamed snapper with prawn dumplings, sesame broth and bok choy.  There are also some delectable side dishes of garam masala- dazzled potatoes with the wonderful addition of baby spinach, and daikon fries with a hot sambal mayo.
      It's a stretch to characterize the Double Crown concept to desserts, but I don't much care as long as they are as good as the toffee corn panna with milk ice cream or the blueberry rum cake with brown sugar crumble, peach yuzu sherbet and verbena ice cream.
    Wine Director Rubén Sanz Ramiro likes an eclectic range of bottlings from small producers, offering a 100-label list with very fair prices across the board.
      So if you're downtown and need a good place to eat at a very reasonable price, Double Crown is the first place I'd recommend, and happily so.

Double Crown is open for brunch on Sat. & Sun, nightly for dinner.


THE END OF Gourmet  . . .
and so goes an era of fine food journalism

by John Mariani

       The news gets worse and worse.
  Publishers suffer withering decreases in circulation and ads, they give most of their contents away free on the internet, and so many close--Southern Accents, Vibe, Portfolio, Best Life, Travel & Leisure Golf, Town & Country Travel, Domino, Country Home, O at Home, CosmoGirl, Home, and now Gourmet.  After an independent review of Condé Nast's Magazine division, rumor had it that one of the company's food mags would be dropped, but most thought it would be Bon Appetit, if only because Gourmet was considered a more prestigious title, dating back to January 1941.

Gourmet Magazine cover, November 1983

      It was a curious choice of title back then, when the very word "gourmet" sent home cooks scurrying for the nearest casserole dish. This was twenty years before Julia Child encouraged Americans to master the art of French cooking, and in 1941 Gourmet's only real competition was the Boston Cooking School Magazine, American Cookery. Yet neither war rationing nor Americans' antagonism for French culinary pretension could stop the new magazine from publishing straight through the war. "Between Pearl Harbor and V-J Day, deluxe existence became, along with taxicabs, T-bone steaks, whitewall tires, and desirable travel accommodations, in great requisition, but never entirely disappeared," wrote the great gourmand Lucius Beebe in December 1945. "The torch which set the cherries Jubilee in flames was never wholly extinguished."
     From that time, until Condé Nast bought the magazine in 1983, Gourmet was owned by a fellow named Earle R. MacAusland, a 50-year-old veteran of magazine-publishing veteran. In the first issue he declared that the word "gourmet" was "a synonym for the honest seeker of the summum bonum of living," and the contents of early issues were far more general interest than devoted to cooking, including everything from poetry and cartoons to theater reviews and quizzes.
     As the magazine grew in circulation and focus, MacAusland never seemed to give a care in the world to prevailing trends, and the magazine thrived on a heavy dose of Francophilia, including a low-priced cooking section called "Gastronomie Sans Argent."  The closest thing Gourmet got to acknowledging changes in the culinary world was a section called "Cuisine Courante."    The magazine  did cover the world, though rarely Asia, and sent its writers everywhere, as they did the ubiquitous Ronny Jacques, a photographer who seemed to snap every picture in the book, sometimes with coverage within a single issue of Normandy, Norway, Newport, and New York.  Of course, since Gourmet's coverage was timeless, the articles and photos might have been researched two years before they actually got into the magazine.
        Gourmet's thickening success certainly coincided with the gourmet revolution wrought by Julia Child and other TV cooking stars like Graham Kerr, "The Galloping Gourmet," and it had long attracted illustrious authors, among them Beebe, Leslie Charteris (author of "The Saint" mysteries), George Jean Nathan, A.J. Liebling, Joseph Wechsberg, M.F.K. FIsher, Richard Condon, and a slew of women who, as Nora Ephron quipped, all seemed to have three names, like Lillian Langseth-Christensen, Anne Marshall Zwack, and Polly Woollcott Murphy.
       There was, however, much that was fey about the writing, with plenty of woozy descriptions of bars and bartenders and outdated words like "methinks," "bijouterie," and "splendiferous." Restaurant coverage was not limited to New York and California, but every issue had columns on those two locations, and they went on and on for pages.  There never seemed to be a pâté maison or coquilles Saint-Jacques that a Gourmet reviewer didn't love.
       When Condé Nast took over, changes came slowly, editors and writers were let go, and the coverage became far more international, though with increased emphasis on American food, high and low, the latter chronicled by the redoubtable road food experts Jane and Michael Stern.  The arrival of Ruth Reichl, after her five-year stint as restaurant critic of the New York Times, blew a great deal of welcome, fresh air into the title, and new, younger writers--including many who  wouldn't know pâté maison from pâte brisée--were encouraged to exult in the wonders of home cooking in Myanmar along with  in-depth discussions of animal husbandry, sustainable food, along with the various culinary trends that wafted through the last two decades.
      In recent years there also seemed a deliberate attempt to stir things up, as when Alinea, a controversial molecular cuisine in Chicago open for less than six months, was declared the single greatest restaurant in America and David Chang the most important chef of the last fifty years.  Apparently that sort of thing didn't help, and ever since the recession of 2008 took hold, Gourmet covers were less about
molecular cuisine and durian fruit than about hamburgers, ribeyes, and barbecue.
       The ads dropped away, as they did for Gourmet's sister publication, Bon Appetit, and Condé Nast made cuts across the board in staff and expenses--before which the idea of sending a writer and photog off for weeks on a story was business as usual.
According to Publishers Information Bureau, Gourmet had a 46.9% drop in ad revenue and a 50% decline in ad pages in the second quarter from last year's April-June period; Bon Appetit's revenue fell 36% and ad pages by 40%,   In the end, Gourmet was hemorrhaging money and its circulation was well under Bon Appetit's 1.3 million readers.                                                                           Gourmet June 2009
      When closure came it came with surgical precision: staffers, including Reichl, were told to leave the building within 48 hours.
       It is sad when any magazine goes under and chilling when a longtime institution like Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Look, Life, and so many others fade away.  At a time when so much food journalism has turned into hyperventilated contrivance and vulgarity, the loss of a first-rate, first-class magazine like Gourmet will leave a very big hole in the affections and the cooking ambitions of Americans, some of whom might never have cooked a single recipe from the magazine but whose stockpiled copies in the attic still have hundreds of paper strips stuck within the pages because Gourmet made a dish both look and sound so irresistibly good.


  The demise of Gourmet, which once hired some of the world's finest food writers, some of whom enjoyed the largess of Condé Nast budgets and others who did not, brings up the question, what is the difference between a local newspaper "restaurant critic" and a "food writer"--one brought into focus this week by the respected restaurant critic Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post, when he wrote, "I tend to trust newspaper reviewers to magazine critics, some of who are too easily seduced by public relations people."
    Since I've known Tom as a friend and colleague for nearly 20 years, I take what he says seriously, so I spoke with him on the phone about his contention.  He reiterated that while he has tremendous respect for many of the nation's food writers in magazines like Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Saveur, and others, he believes that a local newspaper's restaurant critic, as well as those writing for city magazines like Washingtonian,  is more reliable because he usually visits a restaurant two or three times before reviewing and goes anonymously, even, in Tom's case, in disguise. "I don't think a chef can necessarily become a better cook when he spots a restaurant critic," he told me, "but he might be able to select the best piece of fish in the kitchen or not serve one left from last night. Even though I am often recognized, I think the element of surprise is important."
     Still, Tom admits that a food writer who sits down with a chef to interview him or her, asks to be guided in the choice of dishes and wines, and perhaps obtain a recipe is valuable, too. "You can get really good stories out of the interaction with chefs and restaurateurs, but readers need to read it that way, not as a restaurant review, and I don't think readers are that careful these days."  Nor do I.
      I also think that if a local restaurant critic has the unfettered budget of those very few newspapers, like The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and NY Times, that don't blink at his expense account, the reader will get a more complete indication of an individual restaurant's strengths and weaknesses.  National magazine food writers don't have the time or budget to visit more than once--including, as Tom told me, himself, when he travels outside of DC, saying he pays about $15,000 to $20,000 a year out his own pocket to travel because the Post does not send him, and, when on such excursions, he can only visit a place for a single meal.
       The important distinction here is that nowhere on the mastheads of the most renowned food or lifestyle magazines will you ever  find anyone called "restaurant critic." You may see "contributing writer," "reporter at large," "food writer, or, in my case at Esquire, "food & travel correspondent."  It would be almost unheard of for a magazine to, say, fly  a writer to Munich or Paris or Tangiers for a week and tell him to eat anonymously at least three times at a single restaurant for an article intended as a round-up of good places to eat in those cities.  The writer might go to 10 or more restaurants, once, then whittle those down to a half dozen to make the magazine's length limit.  Far more often than not, these writers want diligently speak with the owner and chef as to what kind of cuisine the restaurant serves, what is special about his cassoulet or couscous, and to learn as much as possible about the food culture in a short period of time. In the case of the Michelin Guide inspectors (notice they are not called "restaurant critics"), they go to a restaurant once, usually alone, and on that slim evidence either do their write-up or, if a restaurant looks like it might merit a star, recommend follow-up visits by a totally different inspector.
Also, newspaper and local critics--much to their dislike--have to give out those odious stars, for people who don't bother to read the review; national magazine writers never do.    
   Many of the greatest food and travel writers, including Johnny Apple of the New York Times, Waverly Root of the Washington Post, James Villas of Town & Country, Colman Andrews of Gourmet, and A.J. Liebling and Calvin Trillin of The New Yorker
would never answer to the title "restaurant critic," and most of their best writing was done after extensive meals with the chef or owner of the restaurant under consideration, trying to put it into perspective with the local food culture.   Unlike most local restaurant critics, whose papers will not fund trips ourside the region, food writers travel and get to know what's going on everywhere from Bangkok to Bangor, Bordeaux to Boston.
      There is a very important, if not razor-sharp, distinction between restaurant critics and food writers, and both play their parts in food culture.  Sadly, losing Gourmet is another blow against good writing at a time when blogs by anonymous, unedited "eaters" clog up the internet.  No responsible newspaper would ever allow the kind of foul-mouthed drivel and libels that fills blogs to be published in its Letters to the Editor section, but they allow it in their blogs.  As Christopher Kimbal, publisher of Cook's illustrated, wrote in an op-ed in the NY Times last week, "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades."



Champagne in All Its Fizzy Varieties, Part One
by Brian Freedman

    Despite the worldwide popularity of its wines and the supremely evocative nature of the name itself, the Champagne region remains one of the most misunderstood in all of France. This, indeed, is one of the great paradoxes of the wine world: That perhaps its single most instantly recognizable wine remains, in many ways, a cipher, a victim, in some regards, of the very qualities that have made it so beloved. Indeed, too many consumers still don’t delve into the intricacies of Champagne beyond the house they like most.
    Which is why Champagne producers, growers, and marketing professionals are working overtime to educate a mostly un- (or, even worse, mis-) informed public about not just what constitutes Champagne but also about the geography and stylistic divisions within the region itself.
Fortunately, the CIVC (the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) is fighting the good fight, working tirelessly to educate both wine professionals and casual consumers alike. In September, I was fortunate enough to attend a fantastic program in Champagne, sponsored by the CIVC, that aimed to clarify lingering confusions, provide the kind of education that only a shoes-in-the-soil experience can, and offer a sense of context for the wines during the harvest season.
      Over the course of four solid days of visits, discussions, tastings, and meals, one thing stood out above all else: Champagne is a far more diverse region, with a greater range of terroirs, styles, and grape-growing and winemaking philosophies, than it is typically given credit for. After spending a bit of time there, it has become more apparent than ever that a detailed look at the region itself—through the wines that exemplify the differences within it—is necessary.
    The dominant style in Champagne is the non-vintage house blend. From Veuve Clicquot to Piper-Heidsieck to Krug, non-vintage cuvées receive the lion’s share of fame and familiarity. This reliance on an NV house style is an insurance policy of sorts in a region where, traditionally, the cooler climate has made grape ripening and vintage consistency a struggle, or, at the very least, something that just could not be guaranteed with an acceptable sense of regularity. The house style, then, provides a measure of predictability for consumers.
    But while most consumers  tend to think of Champagne as divided and defined primarily by the grands maisons and their non-vintage bottlings (though, of course, certain têtes de cuvée have carved out their own special niche in the wider public consciousness), the region is, in fact, home to several distinct sub-regions, each of which has its own unique character.
    The Montagne de Reims, which runs between and beyond Reims and Épernay, is home to the quintessentially chalky soils of the region, as well as good bit of pinot noir, which provides structure and complexity to the wines, as well as notes of berry fruit and, when expressing itself fully, earthier notes.
    Extending west from Épernay is the Vallée de la Marne, which benefits from chalky soils as well, in addition to more surface-level clay and sand and a number of south-facing slopes. pinot meunier thrives here—its resistance to frost is a real asset.
    The Côte des Blancs is a more or less north-south extension that reaches to Vertus from Chouilly, southeast of Épernay. As the name suggests, this is chardonnay country. And, in fact, it is here that Champagne’s most famous chardonnay is grown: Street signs pointing the way to Cramant, Avize, and—holy ground for blancs de blancs fans—Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger dot the landscape.
    Finally, well south is the Côte des Bars. The parts we visited, including the lovely Avirey-Lingey, looked like nothing so much as the ancestral heart of France, the scenery and towns evocative and charmingly storybook-like. Historically, the Côte des Bars has had to fight its way toward acceptance in Champagne. (There is an excellent, entertaining account of this in the book Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times by Don and Petie Kladstrup.) But these days, with excellent pinot noir and standout wines like those of Serge Matthieu, its status seems assured. The terroir here is stonier and much more similar to nearby Chablis than to its more northern Champagne siblings, but the quality is certainly there, and the wines are often idiosyncratic, surprising, and finely wrought.

Next Week: Part Two and Some Favorites

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


In Japan
Chef Hitoshi Ueda of the restaurant named Long Pig is using "human fat from liposuction clinics to make simple dishes, like fried rice. Then I might add a few small pieces of meat, like the kind that might come from a nose job or a finger amputation. That costs about 100,000 yen. If I can get a large piece, like a whole leg, I might cure it to make ham or grill it to make a steak. That might cost as much as much as a million yen.” When asked about how human flesh tastes, he said,  “It varies from person to person.”  The Japanese Ministry of Food Purity and Safety told the press, “The meat is closely regulated and inspected. No diseased meat is used. Inspectors also insure that all the pieces of meat come from medically necessary surgeries. No one is allowed to just cut off an arm or leg and sell it for profit. We also don’t allow imports or the use of meat from dead people. We must be certain that no tainted meat is served.”


“CORRECTION: A brief review last Wednesday about the Brooklyn Star restaurant . . .referred incorrectly to the restaurant’s wall paneling. It’s a combination of custom-made and stock paneling, not just stock.”—NY Times, Sept. 23, 2009.



* Guidelines for submissions:  QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes.  When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below.  Thanks.  John Mariani

* During the month of Oct. in Half Moon Bay, CA, Cetrella offers a pumpkin focused 3-course  dinner menu for $25  every Tues., Wed. &Thurs. from 5-7 PM. . . . . On Oct. 30  Cetrella hosts a Jordan Vineyard & Winery Wine Dinner starting at 6:30 PM. Jordan’s Kevin Olmstead will be present at the event. The 4-course dinner is $100 p.p. Call (650) 726-4090 or visit

* In October in Chicago, IL, The Peninsula Chicago has created a number of initiatives during October to raise awareness and funds Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation, incl. : the front entrance and hotel name will be back lit with pink lighting to build awareness for women to remember to schedule their annual mammogram, $2 for every Afternoon Tea and Chocolate Bar served in The Lobby will be donated to the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation along with $5 in Avenues and Shanghai Terrace when mentioning Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation. Spa guests will be able to make a donation on their bill when leaving The Spa.

* From now thru  Oct. 25 in NYC, Brick Lane Curry House celebrates the Indian holiday of Diwali with a series of rotating menus representing the cuisines of the four corners of India.  Female diners will receive a free goodie bag of Indian sweets over the holiday weekend of Oct. 16th-17th. Call 212-979-2900.

* Starting Oct. 12 in NYC, La Fonda del Sol will offer a Spanish 3-course prix fixe menu at lunchtime.  The "Cocina Rapida" menu is designed for a 40-minute lunch break, and incl. a choice of 3 appetizers, 3 entrées and a dessert "to go." $35 pp.  Call 212-867-6767 or visit

* On Oct.14, 21, 28, in NYC, Thalassa, in Tribeca, Executive Chef Ralpheal Abrahante will teach fall cooking classes in the restaurant's open kitchen.    $75 pp. . . . On Nov. 16, Thalassa presents a Greek Wine and Cheese Tasting Class in the Wine Room, with 10 Greek cheeses and 10 Greek wines, with special guests Chris Hallowell from Wine & Spirits Magazine, and Thalassa Maitre D' Niko Mavreas.  $65 pp. Call 212-941-7661.

* On Oct. 15 Giorgio Ristorante inside Mandalay Place, Las Vegas, in partnership with Whole Foods Market and Indian Wells Brewing Co., will be hosting a beer pairing dinner.  Chef Nico Chessa’s menu matched 3 courses of Italian food with 3 Indian Wells microbrews.  $49 pp and each guest will leave with a gift card to Whole Foods Market.  Call 702-920-2700 or email

* On Oct. 15 in Yountville, CA, Brix restaurant will host the last of 3 “street food” dinner events called “Brix Unpaved.” beginning with an Italian-themed evening called “Street Feasts of Sicily.”  $35 pp at Call  707-944-2749.

* On Oct. 16, Capsouto Frères in NYC will celebrate its 29th Anniversary with a 3-Course  Dinner Menu for $29 pp. A la carte also available, plus a live Jazz piano and an Anniversary Drawing. From Oct. 16-18, House Red and White Wines will be $29 per bottle. Call 212-966-4900 or visit

* On Oct. 17 Chillingsworth in Brewster, MA, will host its annual game dinner featuring wild game, wild local shellfish & line caught fish, local mushrooms, seabeans and herbs. The wines featured will be a selection of white from Remy Pannier of the Loire Valley. $125 pp. Call 508-896-3640.

* On Oct. 17, Chef Robert Danhi author of James Beard nominated book, Southeast Asian Flavors: Adventures in cooking the food of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore will be conducting a culinary tour through Little Saigon in Westminster, CA, and will incl.  food, beverage and a signed copy of Southeast Asian Flavors for $75.  Call  310-648-7970 to get complete details.

* On Oct. 18 at Le Titi De Paris in Arlington Hts., IL,   Chef Michael Maddox will holds the 2nd Local Cuisines Wine Dinner at  $48 pp.  ingredients locally and sustainably. Call 847-506-0222.

* On Oct. 21 in NYC, Bar Boulud will hold a Domaine Saint Prefert Wine Dinner with Isabel Ferando, five courses paired with wines. $150 pp. Call 212-595-0303;

* From Oct. 21-24  The Chew Chew Restaurant in Riverside, ILL, will host a 5-course Autumn Wine Dinner  $60 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are encouraged by calling 708-447-8781.

* From Oct. 22-25, the village of Kohler, WI, presents the 2009 Food & Wine Experience. With tips and treats from culinary experts including Jacques Pépin, Andrew Zimmern and Lidia Bastianich, Kohler’s Food & Details are available at or 1-800-344-2838.

* On Oct.23 in Temecula, CA, Boornman Vineyards Estate Winery of Murrieta & Temet Grill at the Temecula Creek Inn present a 4-course "An Artisan Wine Dinner Experience" with  winemaker Todd Boorman and cuisine by Executive Chef  Salvatore Giuliano.  $85 pp. Call er person for the four-course menu, exclusive of tax and gratuity.  Temet Grill Call 951-587-1465.

* On October 23 and 24 in Washington, DC at the Hilton Washington, The National Italian American Foundation presents Piazza d' Italia, showcasing the best of Italian food, wine, fashion and culture. Sample Italian wines, olive oils, chocolates, gelato and pasta. Also items from the Abruzzo region and the city of L'Aquila, which was devastated by an earthquake earlier this year. It's free and open to the public.  Call 202387-0600 or e-mail

* On Oct. 23 in South Salem, NY, Le Château will hold a 6-course Louis Latour  Wine Tasting Dinner.  $95 pp. Call 914-533-6631.

* Beginning Oct. 25 thru Oct. 31 in NYC, Beppe will present their Menu della Strega to celebrate Halloween.  The $60 menu features dishes such as foie gras with an apple jolly rancher reduction and baked apple, and rock shrimp tossed with black spaghetti in a pumpkin and squash puree.  Call 212- 982-8422 or visit

* From Oct. 26-31, in Washington, DC, TenPenh will be offering 3 candy-for-adults cocktails created by one of D.C.'s top mixologists, Brennan Adams.The Jack O' Lantern, Candy Corn and Candy Apple will feature hand=press juices and cotton candy swizzles and dry ice. $10 per cocktail. Call 202-393-4500.

* On Oct. 27 in Brooklyn, NY, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce will present the 12th Annual Brooklyn Eats, a cultural food tasting extravaganza showcasing over 30 Brooklyn restaurants, lounges and cultural institutions at Abigail Kirsch -Stage 6 at Steiner Studios. Proceeds  go to the Brooklyn Eats Scholarship Fund.  $110 pp. $125  at-the-door; visit

* On Oct. 28 in Old Town Alexandria, VA, lifestyle expert Jason Tesauro and Chef Dennis Marron of The Grille at Morrison House kick-off a 4-part men’s lifestyle series covering food, wine and cocktails.  The first in a series of 4 classes, is “Sticks & Stones: Cigar How-tos and Whiskey Wherefores,” where guests learn the difference between single malts and blends, while appreciating the virtues of cigar cutting, rolling and smoking.  The series will continue Nov. 18 with “Brews and Birds: Craft Beers and the Art of Carving,"; Dec. 16   “Corks & Forks: Essential Wines and Splendid Pairings,” and Jan. 27 with "Fizz and Flask."  Call 703-838-8000.

* On Oct. 29 in San Francisco, Fifth Floor restaurant at the Palomar Hotel will host a“Mad Hatter” wine dinner in celebration of the U.S. release of this  2006 Shiraz by Hewiston Wines. The dinner  feature a multi-course pairing menu from Chef Jennie Lorenzo, complemented by whimsical Mad Hatter-themed décor. $75 pp. Call 415-348-1111.

* On Oct. 29 in NYC, Dirt Candy restaurant celebrates its first anniversary with special prices-- all appetizers on the menu will be $5.30 and all entrees will be $10.29.  Call  212-228-7732, or

* From Oct. 29-Nov. 8,   six internationally celebrated chefs, incl. Ulf Braunert of the Palace Luzern,  will be joining executive chef Stefano Di Salvo at Cornerstone restaurant and bar at Park Hyatt Seoul for Park Hyatt’s first Asia-based edition of its annual Masters of Food and Wine Festival. Highlights incl. Asian cuisine cooking classes and an art gallery dinner at The Gallery Park Ryu Sook. Email or call 212 861 4031.

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with 5 excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  THIS WEEK: Bermuda Cruisin'; Smart Deals NYC.


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