Virtual Gourmet

October 25,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

O.P. Heggie and Boris Karloff in "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935)

☠Happy Halloween!☠



This issue of The Virtual Gourmet arrives two days earlier than usual because I will be moseying around Arizona with my pardners until the middle of next week, unable to file on Saturday. If you still wish to read the current issue dated October 18, click here. The next regular issue will appear the weekend of November 1.


Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on

SUBSCRIBE AND UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish to this newsletter--free of charge--by clicking

In This Issue

CAPITAL DINING, Part Two by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER: Ed's Chowder House by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: St.-Émilion 2005 and 2006 Are Just What We Need Right Now
by John Mariani


by John Mariani

800 Connecticut Avenue NW

   Ashok Bajaj, owner of several of DC's finest restaurants,  including the nonpareil Indian restaurant Rasika, has established the 15-year-old Oval Room as a consistently packed power lunch spot, a sunny, very civilized and spacious modern dining room with some of the most engaging cuisine in the city right now. Its name takes a wink at its closeness to the White House's Oval Office, and the restaurant has entertained Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush; Conoleeza Rice said it was her favorite restaurant.
     One can see why, for its décor is refined and soft, without any frilliness.  It has cream-yellow walls and beautiful linens, rust red chairs, silver flower vases, and a good dash of modern art by
Alenoush Ghondikiar that lends just the right amount of color to the Washington sunlight that pours through the big windows here. There are private rooms available too.
     Tony Conte, formerly sous-chef at Jean-Georges in NYC,  could probably just serve up the kind of country club fare pols, lawyers, and lobbyists seem to prefer (good food gets in the way of discussing issues), but he has gone way beyond that with a flawless, modern American style that makes this one of the finest restaurants in the city, and a romantic one at that.  Service, as at all Mr. Bajaj's restaurants, is as  unpretentious as it is knowledgeable about food and the extensive winelist overseen by sommelier Brent Kroll.
     I had a splendid lunch at the Oval Room recently, beginning with paragon-quality blue fin tuna with a little chipotle, ginger dressing, and bonito tapioca.  Burrata mozzarella, creamy and cool, took on novel notes from red papaya dressing and touch of basil olive oil. A crabcake with avocado and grapefruit would have gained by using more lump meat, and that afternoon gnocchi were a bit gummy, enhanced with pork belly, smoked plums, and Parmesan.
     Two superlative entrees were on the menu that day--a perfect roast chicken with sweet potato and guanciale ham and a little green apple for acid, and excellent braised wagyu short ribs with a punch of jalapeño in the spaetzle and a sweet-tangy caramelized onion jam. Sandwiches here, like the turkey club with housemade potato chips and a steak sandwich with pickled onions and blue cheese are a steal at $12 each.  Desserts get the same fine treatment as all else that the Oval Room renders with imagination.
      Hobnobbing with the power crowd in DC (of course, we all know that Congressmen are allowed by law to be treated to lunch sitting down!) has its own rubbernecking pleasures, but dining at the highest level of cuisine, ambiance, and service at the Oval Room makes for the kind of abiding culinary pleasures still rare in the Capital.

The Oval Room is open for lunch Mon.-Fri, for dinner Mon.-Sat. Dinner starters run $9-$16, main courses $18=$36. A tasting menu is available at $84, with wines included $150.

3241 M St. NW, Georgetown

    The three-year-old Hook, run by the PURE Hospitality Restaurant Group,   in Georgetown is just about the way you'd want a modern fishhouse to look--bright, squeaky clean, with lots of strong lines, buffed wood, and white and blue marine colors, with big windows overlooking the bustle of M Street. The chef, Jonathan Seningen,  comes from Maryland and he's been a lifelong angler in rivers and streams whose pristine quality underpins all he buys and serves at Hook.
    This high quality is tasted immediately in his crudo dishes, from North Carolina mahi mahi and Icelandic Arctic char to a ceviche made from shrimp, calamari, and sea bass from three corners of the globe.
     The second courses are really appetizers, and what I tasted were very good indeed, simply conceptualized, simply served, with a few ingredients working in acid-sweet balance with the species of seafood. This included juicy tuna tartare from Florida with pomegranates nd poached apple, some spiced carrot and a ginger-cilantro oil--all tiny stimulants to the palate; sea scallops from Baja are treated with a little coconut, lime, blood orange, and olive oil, while the roasted eggplant gazpacho contains Littleneck clams, cucumber, and a zing of lemon.
     Except for an overwrought dish of yellowfin tuna with barley, squash, strawberry and tomato-jalapeño sauce that seemed to run counter to the style here, the third, main courses were delicious, especially the Arctic char with sweet potato puree, broccoli, and lemon.
      Heather Chittum is a local, award-winning pastry chef and you'll see why when you dip into her lingonberry Linzertorte with the surprise of Taleggio cheese ice cream and a Port wine reduction; or her "Don't Hate Me 'Cuz I'm Honey," whose weird name buoys a straightforward strawberry-rhubarb cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  There is also a fine cheese selection here, and a winelist well culled to back up this kind of cuisine.

Hook is open for lunch, Tues.-Fri., dinner nightly, brunch on Sun. Crudo runs $8-$19, appetizers $9-$13, and main courses $25-$34.


1430 H St NW
(202) 638-4444

      Zola and Zola Wine & Kitchen, owned by the The Malrite Company and Stir Food Group, have been among DC's most popular dining venues, and their newest effort poses as an Italian trattoria, though its size is something well beyond what small, homey, family-style trattorias are by nature.  This is a sprawling, well-lighted, extremely convivial set of rooms with a broad open kitchen where Chef Bryan Moscatello is offering a good deal of everything for everybody, whether it's the first-rate, crisp, charred pizzas--some of the best I've had in the USA--or some sumptuous pastas like tortelloni stuffed with rabbit and truffles with a white asparagus sauce and pecorino cheese and more truffles.
       Like the space, the menu is very large, ranging from a fine array of salumi and cheeses to 8 antipasti, 11 pastas, 4 fish, 5 meat dishes, and 5 pizzas. The portions are huge, too, so splitting a pasta (they're priced $12-$18) is a good idea as a starter.  But I wouldn't neglect the antipasti, which includes locally cured bresaola and capicolla, along with imported salumi. On my visit I found a couple of the antipasti--arancini rice balls with provolone and boar sausage and crisp fried calamari--very salty, though this is not necessarily always the case.  The pastas are extremely rich, like the spinach gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce and toasted walnut.
      Moscatello does fish as expertly here as when I first tasted his cooking some years ago at The Little Nell in Aspen, and his monkfish poached in lemon olive oil is a wonderful idea, treating the fish to a hot bath rather than a fiery grill, served with pancetta ham, artichokes, and olives. The best of the meat dishes I tried--and a steal at eighteen bucks!--was a superb and quite classic pounded and fried pork chop alla milanese. with bright arugula, charred lemon for zest, parmesan and pesto.
         Yes, this is very hearty food, and one less ingredient on many of the dishes might be for the better. But you'll leave satisfied and probably with a take-home bag, and you won't quibble about the modest prices either.

Potenza is open throughout the day from 11:30 AM Mon.-Sat., with brunch in Sun. Antipasti run $8-$16, pastas $$12-$18, and main courses $21-$26.




by John Mariani

Empire Hotel
44 West 63rd Street (at Broadway)

   Not too long ago--oh, say, just before October 2008--the price of seafood was skyrocketing, and chefs at restaurants were paying top dollar because they could in turn sell it to their customers willing to pay top dollar. Since then, demand has dropped and restaurateurs and chefs have had to figure out a way to still buy the best quality without driving customers away to Red Lobster and Long John Silver's.
The last time I reported on this upstairs space in the Empire Hotel conveniently adjacent to Lincoln Center, it was a called Center Cut, a steakhouse, and a fine one it was.  But it opened last year at a time when 1) far too many steakhouses had opened around Manhattan, and 2) the recession took its toll on places with $40+ main courses, without any side dishes.  So owner Jeffrey Chodorow of China Grill Management has replaced Center Cut with Ed's Chowder House, the Ed in question being one of America's great chefs, not least in seafood. Ed Brown (right), after 14 years as chef at the SeaGrill in Rockefeller Center and author of the excellent book Modern Seafood Cookbook, last year opened the upper west side restaurant eighty-one, which just garnered a Michelin star. Chodorow enlisted Brown as "Chef-Collaborator" to bring the highest quality seafood to the area and added Brown's first name to the title, which is tellingly called, not a "seafood restaurant," but a "chowder house."
     Frankly, it's something of a misnomer, if you think of a chowderhouse as being a no frills, dockside eatery where you go for oysters and a bowl of soup.  The place is very good looking, designed by Jeffrey Beers, retaining the big bar area up front, now with pale striped wallpaper where there'd been darker colors, upholstered furniture, displays of lemons, and fine photographs by Tom Eckerle of fishermen and the seaside.
     Brown's input  is well assured by his own restaurant, eighty one, being just a mile north, so he can come by every night; otherwise the cooking is done under the constant eye of exec chef Jamie Knott, who makes sure the raw bar offerings up front and on the menu are crystalline fresh. You might start off with a shellfish platter or some tasty codfish cakes, lightly smoked, with
roasted tomato-chili jam. One of the best dishes I've had here--or anywhere--is the luscious, not-to-be-missed scallop ravioli with white wine sauce and herbs--an instant signature item--and the lobster roll is one of the best in NYC, now being engulfed by less-than-savory examples all over town. It's amazing to me how cooks can so badly screw up a lobster roll when a place like Ed's is such a fine example.
    As for those namesake chowders--sweet corn, New England-style clam, Manhattan-style blue crab, and "Ed’s Loaded Shellfish Chowder," I wish I'd had a big bowl of each rather than a sampling of three in small cups.  A chowder should be engaged in full with gusto, not sipped, and these three are due further investigation on my part.
You may then move on to simply grilled fish, from fluke to porgy, or consider the more composed main courses like the excellent Montauk striped bass with smoked pork belly and roasted root vegetables, which is, obviously, getting away from that chowder house simplicity. But they're terrific, and so are the New Bedford sea scallops, nice and sweet, done in a flash on the griddle and served with butter beans, a little bacon, and escarole--all welcome ingredients.  Cod, often a dull fish, is first rate here, with a potato chip crust, spinach, and tangy mustard sauce.
       For some reason the word "scrumptious" is frowned on by editors, but it's a perfectly fine word when it well describes the lemon meringue pie, b
lueberry cobbler, crème brûlée, and, especially the hot chocolate donuts for dessert here.
The winelist is heavier with red wines than I might have thought for a seafood house,  perhaps left over in the bins from when this was a steakhouse. But the white list does need bolstering with more offerings under $40. Remember, this is called a "chowder house" and the cheapest white wine here is $38.
       With the well-established Le Bernardin on West 51st Street, Esca on West 43rd, SeaGrill at Rock Center, Milos Estiatorios on West 55th,the recent relocation and revision of Oceana (profiled here last week) to midtown West,  and Ed's Chowder House a few blocks north, the West Side seems to claim the high ground when it comes to seafood restaurants in NYC, and nothing succeeds like strong competition in those waters.

Ed’s Chowder House is open for dinner nightly and will soon be serving lunch; breakfast daily; brunch on Sun. Appetizers range from $9-$16, main courses $18-$35.


The Village of St.-Émilion, Bordeaux (photo: Frank E. Johnson)

St.-Émilion 2005 and 2006 Are Just What We Need Right Now

by John Mariani

      It is a very good sign when you walk into a wine tasting and can smell the wines even before you see them.  That was the case at a recent tasting of 2005 and 2006 St.-Émilion wines held by the Wine Media Guild at New York’s Felidia restaurant.
      The air was perfumed with the fruit of merlot and cabernet franc (in St.-Émilion called bouchet), emerging from the bottles and glasses of tasters ranging the room sampling 21 examples of two excellent vintages—the brilliant 2005 and the almost as fine 2006. With few exceptions the wines had irresistible fragrance, good balance, and a true taste of the terroir in this Right Bank Bordeaux region, often snubbed by enophiles who consider the Médoc far superior.
      There are, of course, some universally admired St.-Émilion wines, like Château Ausone, Angelus, and Cheval Blanc, but the exasperating classification system in the region doesn’t help the average consumer to zero in on consistently fine estates, since it includes Grand Cru, Grand Cru Classé, and Premier Grand Cru Classé—whose estates may be re-classified every ten years, most recently in 2006.
     But St.-Émilion seems a region right for its time: its wines mature faster than Left Bank reds, which typically contain more tannic cabernet sauvignon, a rarity in St. Émilion, so they are ready to drink with pleasure within a few years of the vintage. Also, except for the most prestigious labels, they are very well priced, with plenty of wonderful bottlings under $50, many as low as $25. Also, all the wines I tasted had an ideal alcohol level of 13 to 14 percent.
     Here are some of my favorites.

Château Cormeil-Figeac Grand Cru 2005 ($39)—solidly knit and still evolving through its tannins, this has the good gravelly taste of the terroir.

Château La Bonnelle Grand Cru 2005 ($30)—a terrific price for a terrific St.-Émilion, revealing a wave of black pepper beneath a big splash of fruit and the smoothness of 80 percent merlot, 20 percent cab franc. (right)

Christian Moueix St.-Émilion 2005 ($27)—Moueix is, of course, famous for one of Bordeaux’s greatest, most expensive wines, Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, so it’s nice of him to provide us with a first-rate, inexpensive basic St. Émilion in a snazzy label. Lush, forward, and ready to drink.

Château Laforge Grand Cru 2006 ($45)—a fine example of the 2006 vintage, which is only a notch below the effusively praised 2005. It is simply a tasty red wine with food structure and will be considerably better in a year or two.

Château Grand Destieu Grand Cru Classé 2006 ($40)—An enormity of fruit balanced with good acid makes this a wine to start drinking this fall with roast beef and venison.

Château Le Carré Grand Cru 2006 ($100)—This is pricey for a St. Émilion in the Grand Cru Classé, but it is pretty gorgeous, still youthful, and the tannins are still sleeping.

Château Fonplegade Grand Cru 2006 ($50)—A rich, full-bodied example of how much power St.-Émilion muster, with 91 percent merlot, 7 percent cab franc, and a 2 percent dose of cab sauvignon. It needs time to achieve equilibrium but it’s a keeper. (The chais at Fonplegade, left)

Present at the tasting was Olivier Nouet, president of Adams French Vineyards, owned since 1995 by Stephen Adams, a former U.S. banker and afterwards RV distributor. (Château Fonplegade is his estate, among six.) Nouet reported that the 2007 vintage, at first derided as terrible, is showing some virtues among a few estates. The 2008 will be “a great vintage,” and he predicts 2009 will be “absolutely beautiful,” owing to perfect weather conditions throughout the region.
      It’s delightful to see that the hype over the 2005 that promised high prices has been ameliorated by the global recession, so that these wines are ideal for drinking right now, or soon, at prices that get nearly into the bargain range. Let’s hope that holds true of those 2009s when they’re released.

John Mariani's 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.


In the (sort of) appropriately named town of Troutville, Virginia,  a Norfolk animal rights group wants to rent the soon-to-be-closed Botetourt Correctional Center building and turn it into the nation's first "chicken empathy museum." A spokeswoman said her group believes a prison a perfect setting for exhibits showing what it contends is mistreatment of chickens raised for slaughter, along with displays about chickens' "habits and intelligence."

FOOD WRITING 101: Get to the point
of your story in the first 50 words.

"Balompié Café looks like many another modest restaurants in the Mission, but it does make a convincing claim to uniqueness, in three parts. The first is the striking name — basically `ball foot' in Spanish. Football by any other name — including `balompié' and `fútbol' — is still ... soccer. Somehow soccer's claim to being the true football is more convincing than our own. In American football, the combination of ball and foot is seldom a presence or factor. The second part of our triad is Balompié's identity as a soccer bar. The walls of the otherwise unassuming space are festooned with soccer-club banners from around the world, and flat-panel televisions mounted high on the walls show plenty of action. Some of the patrons scattered around the dining room and at the bar are likely to be watching rapt, while others will be dividing their attention between the screens and the plates of Salvadorean food in front of them — the place's Salvadoreanness being its third distinguishing characteristic."—Paul Reidinger, SF Bay Guardian  9/30/07.



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

IMPORTANT NOTE: Owing to the number or Thanksgiving announcements received, QUICK BYTES cannot publish any but a handful of the most unusual.

* On Oct. 28 and Nov. 19 in Los Angeles, Marino Restaurant is hosting a special dinner: "WHEN NAPLES MEETS VENICE" in cooperation with Stefano Ongaro of All'Angelo Restaurant. 5 courses at $ 55 per person and $ 25 wine pairing.  Call 323-466-8812l;

* In Las Vegas, Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace now offers 5 differtent menus,  ranging from $98 to $750 pp.  Call 800- 634-6001.

* From Oct. 29-31, Fuego at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, CA, will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos, All Souls’ Day, with a festive menu created by Executive Chef Jesse Perez (the recipient of the Flavors of Passion Awards, 2009 Top National Latin Chef). $65 pp, $85 wine and tequila pairings incl.  Call 562-481-3910 or visit

* On Nov. 1 & 2  in NYC, Mercadito Restaurants will  celebrate the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). All restaurants will feature Tamal de Elote, Tacos de Cordero and Budin de Calabaza. The Tippling Bros. have also concocted La Murte, a prickly pear margarita with ancho chile salt. For Mercadito Avenue B call 212-529-6490, Mercadito Cantina call 212-388-17509 and Mercadito Grove call 212-647-0830.

* On Nov. 2 in Atlanta, Craft Atlanta will host a Beer Dinner featuring a 5-course autumn menu prepared by Chef Colicchio, paired with Brooklyn Brewery beers crafted by Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. $155 pp. Call 404-995-7580.

* On  Nov. 2, World Cares Center, Inc. hosts its 8th annual "Iron Skillet Cook Off" fundraiser in which five firefighters battle against 5 of NYC’s best restaurant chefs,  at Strata  Call 212-563-7570.

On Nov. 4 in Pasadena, CA, Vertical Wine Bistro hosts its first wine class “Get EntWined!” with new “Wine Pimp” David Haskell, with  3 handpicked wines paired with 3 dishes for $33.  . . .  On Nov. 8 Vertical Wine Bistro hosts the first of a 3-part monthly Winemaker Dinner Series featuring boutique wines made by local winemakers.  The first dinner features Joshua Klapper of La Fenetre with a 3-course family-style dinner paired with 5 wines. $65 pp for the wine dinner, or $20 for a flight of wines at the wine bar.  Visit  or call 626-795-3999.

* On Nov. 6, the Thayer Hotel at West Point, NY,  will host a  4-course Wine Dinner, incl. a wine and cheese reception,  featuring a variety of Chilean wines to be paired with each course.   $100 pp, with an overnight stay with breakfast for a total of $339 per couple. Call 845-446-4731 or visit

* From Nov. 6-8  Castle Hill Inn & Resort, in Newport, RI, is  presents the return of Dennis Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars for a wine weekend, incl. 2 nights luxury accommodations; a Fri.  reception; Sat. wine seminar followed by lunch; a 5-course wine dinner; breakfast each morning; and afternoon tea. Packages begin at $1,611.90. Call 401-849-3982 or visit

* On Nov. 7 & 8 in NW Sonoma County, the Wine Road is hosting the 11th annual “Wine & Food Affair,”  with 80 wine producers participating from the Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander valleys. Each prepaid attendee will receive the Tasting Along the Wine Road cookbook, Visit  or 800-723-6336. $60.

* On Nov. 7 in Atlantic City, NJ, The Water Club at Borgata  hosts its 2nd Annual Savor Borgata prepared by  Borgata’s chefs incl. Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Bobby Flay, Stephen Kalt, Michael Schulson, Geoffrey Zakarian, Thaddeus DuBois, Romeo DiBona, Ron Ross, with wine pairings by Peggy Fleming’s Fleming-Jenkins Vineyard. $125 pp. Call 866-900-4TIX or visit

* On Nov. 7 in St. Helena, CA, Primal Napa will celebrate fire cooking, meat and the art of butchering.  Chefs and Butchers incl. Chris Cosentino of Incanto and Boccalone, Staffan Terje of Perbacco, Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf, Scott Boggs of Hudson Ranch, Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats, Tia Harrison and Melanie Eismann of Avedano's and Jesse Schwartzburg of Star Meats. Hosted by Chase Cellars’ Hayne Vineyard. $65 pp. Visit

* On Nov. 8, The St. Regis San Francisco will hold  a distinctive evening of Japanese culture hosted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art  and husband and wife restaurateurs of Ame, Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani. Guests will have the opportunity to view a collection of preeminent Japanese photography, magazines, and artist books from the Provoke Era, after which they will learn about select Japanese styles of sake and enjoy a tasting of the exclusive variety along with paired appetizers at Ame.   $90 pp. The price for the overnight package is $395;  Call 415-284-4070.

* On  Nov. 8 Four Seasons Hotel Miami Executive Chef Patrick Boucher will host “Thanksgiving 101,” a hands-on session created to provide the novice cook with the basic skills to prepare a traditional holiday feast. $35 pp. Call  Acqua, the Hotel’s restaurant at 305-381-3190.

* On Nov. 8, McCormick & Kuleto’s (415-929-1730) in San Francisco, and Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto (510-845-7771) in Berkeley, CA will be offering all U.S. military veterans a free lunch or dinner entrée in appreciation for their service to our country. The restaurants hold this event on the Sunday prior to the national Veterans’ Day weekday holiday to enable families to dine together on a weekend with the veterans in their lives.

* From Nov. 10-12 in Portland, OR, the Classic Wines Auction presents 12 winemaker dinners at Portland restaurants to benefit 5 local charities serving families and children. Meet winemakers up close at the intimate dinners at some of Portland’s finest restaurants. $150 pp. Visit; Call 503-972-0194.

* On Nov. 10  the 12th Annual WhiskyFest New York will return to the NYC Marriott Marquis hotel, with 250+ whiskies from around the globe, put on by Malt Advocate. Admission incl. a Glencairn tasting glass, 1- year subscription to Malt Advocate, event program with tasting notes section, all seminars,  gourmet buffet and beverages throughout the evening. Call 800-610-MALT or visit

* On Nov. 11 in NYC, the James Beard Foundation will host "American Icons," the 2009 Gala Dinner and Auction, at the Four Seasons Restaurant, with a menu  by Dan Barber, Larry Forgione, Gale Gand, Charlie Palmer, and Alfred Portale—with reception hors d’oeuvres from Fabio Trabocchi and cocktails from Dale DeGroff., paired with American wines from Napa Valley Vintners. $375 for James Beard Foundation members, $450 for the general public, $750 for VIP seat and $7,500 for VIP tables. Call 212-627-2308 or visit

* From Nov. 5-8 Taste of The Beach - Wine. Dine. Donate., a culinary and cultural celebration benefitting children’s charities, returns to Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, with 7 events ranging from wine tastings and film screenings to winemaker dinners and a charity auction.  A collaboration between the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce, Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation and Coastal Vision 3000, incl. Taste of THE Harbor, Taste of Bay Wine & Food Experience, Al Fresco Reserve Tasting at Ruskin Place, Telluride MountainFilm on Tour, Seeing Red Wine Festival, and the Taste of THE Beach & Charity Auction.  Call 850-267-0683 or visit

* From Nov. 5-8, in Bermuda, Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa, is offering a Cooking Well Weekend escape hosted by Chef Laurie Erickson, author of CHEF by STEP®, available as an add-on toaccommodations at $229 pp, incl. cooking classes, wine tasting, and 50-minute massage. Call 800-468-7300 or visit

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

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

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


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


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

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

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