Virtual Gourmet

November 29,  2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

"Basket of Bread" by Salvador Dali (1945)


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In This Issue



NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Wine Books for the Holidays by John Mariani


by John Mariani

      Amazingly, at a time when publishing is having a tough time selling books of any kind, the industry has this season turned out what I think are some of the best food books in quite some time, from authoritative compilations of recipes from neglected food cultures to exhaustive compendiums of others you would have thought had been covered to the extreme.
      There are some good short memoirs, a few celebrity chefs' books that you can actually cook from, and some single subject volumes that would seem to be the last word.
      It is troubling that books have gotten so expensive these days, although some beautifully illustrated books seem a steal.  But as everyone knows, to pay full price for any book these days is like paying rack rate for a hotel room. Checking in with any of the online bookstores offer tremendous savings of sometimes 30 to 40 percent off list price.  Then again, a book that costs $40 and rewards you with just five recipes you'll want to make forever still strikes me as one of life's cheapest and most delectable rewards.
     Here are some of my favorite books this season.

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
by Lidia Mattichio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf, $35).
The continuing excellence and consistent value of Lidia Bastianich's PBS-TV show is a loving antidote to all the wretched excess over on the Food Network, and in her new book Lidia takes you further into the regional heart of Italy with stories and recipes that are inextricable from each other and show that food is as much a culture as it is nourishment. It is full of unusual recipes, from polenta with black beans and kale from Valle d'Aosta to a Basilicata wedding soup. (Also, see my article on Lidia's restaurant Felidia, below.)

by David Chang and Peter Meehan (Crown, $40).
David Chang is the most controversial and overhyped chef of our era, and his restaurants can be endurance tests of noise and discomfort.  But for all that, he has brought stunning new ideas to the fore and repositioned prole food among the most exciting urban fare to be found.  In this very candid, though sometimes foulmouthed book, you can see how a man absolutely driven to cook as he ants and riven by self doubt has created something uniquely his own, now shared with readers in a cookbook that draws on Asian tradition in order to refine it into a Chang sensibility.

Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromageur
by Max McCalman and David Gibbons (Potter, $40).
Max McCalman is the cheese guy at NYC's posh Picholine restaurant and the bistro Artisinal, with its own retail cheese store with online delivery.  No one has done more to popularize what had a decade ago been a novelty--scores of cheeses that show the amazing variety of the genre.  In this, his second book on the subject he shows both the acolyte and the cheese aficionado how best to order, store, and serve cheeses of all kinds, along with his pick of the best of each type, how to sequence a tasting, wine and beer with cheese, and a great deal more in a beautifully produced and illustrated volume.

Eating: A Memoir
by Jason Epstein (Knopf, $25).
It's always nice to be the head of a publishing company, in Jason Epstein's case, Knopf, so you can pretty easily publish your own memoirs.  But Eating seems less an ego trip than a heartfelt indulgence, with plenty of fascinating publishing anecdotes, not least of great chefs he's published, like Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Maeda Heatter, and Patrick O'Connell, along with workable recipes for everyday production at home.  It's a memoir remarkably free of bragging, even if he claims, wrongly, that his publication of Rao's Cookbook caused a "demand for tables that swamped" the restaurant's ten tables, which had never been empty for 40 years.  The profile of manic lawyer Roy Cohn is telling, and Epstein's own appetite for life, good conversation, books, and good seem in just the right equilibrium.

The Pleasures of Cooking for One
by Judith Jones (Knopf, $27.95).
What goes for Epstein also goes for Judith Jones, the legendary food editor at Knopf who saw the brilliance of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and went on to publish many of the seminal food writers and chefs of the past forty years.  Here, with somewhat less comment than I would have loved to have seen, she gives her own favorite recipes culled from decades of cooking, testing, and editing, and every one of them reads very much like Jones must have labored happily to make it again and again to make it perfect.

The Silver Spoon Pasta
(Phaidon, $39.95).
Does anyone really need 360 pasta recipes? Maybe not, then maybe so, if they are as tantalizing as those on every page of this well-illustrated compendium of regional pastas and lore, from elbow macaroni with pumpkin and radicchio to classic tagliatelle bolognese, from trofie with potatoes and turnip greens to sea bass ravioli. Pasta is but the stage for presentations imbued with the soul of the region that produced them, sometimes out of poverty, sometimes out of jubilation in plenty.

Encyclopedia of Pasta
by Oretta Zanini de Vita ( U. of California Press, $29.95).
What was I just saying about needing 360 pasta recipes? Well, since there are at least 500 shapes of pasta in Italy, you really should get to know them by name and nature. This is what this remarkably comprehensive and impeccably research (and translated) volume does in 375 closely printed pages of history, anecdote, and illustrative material that prove what Oretta Zanini de Vita asserts in her preface, that "this heritage is an Italian gift to gastronomic culture on a par with what the Florentine Renaissance gave to art."  From gnudi to krafi, from millefanti to scucuzzu, from caicc to malloreddus, this is as exhaustive a volume as we're likely to have for a long time to come. And there are recipes for every one!

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
by The Italian Academy of Cuisine (Rizzoli, $45).
What? Another encyclopedia of Italian food? Yes, you need this one too, because it is not just about pasta but about the thousands of dishes from thousands of towns and villages where the true distinctions between dishes still reside, from rye flour porridge from Valle d'Aosta to marrow sauce with pepper from Veneto. There are 2,000 recipes here, in a 930 page tome produced by the Italian Academy of Cuisine, whose members have been ferreting out the old recipes from all over Italy for 60 years now, and here are the results, explaining how, though not always why, in Le Marche eggplant is sliced into rounds and boiled in vinegar, and how making a rustic Molise dish like scattone ("pasta water pick-me-up") was "born as a simple and popular relief against winter chills."

by Elena Kostioukovitch (Farra, Straus and Giroux, $30).
Converts often make the most indefatigable scholars, as evidenced by Russian-born Elena
Kostioukovitch's exuberant testament to Italian food culture. True, the title is rather flighty. but this is a hefty work of investigative reporting on subjects that range from the Slow Food Movement and how the Americas influenced Italian cookery to the political ramifications of tortellini and the erotic content of food.  Arranged by region, the chapters incorporate historic documents, poetry, and personal narrative seamlessly into a big zuppa of great breadth and depth. As Umberto Eco, whose work Kostioukovitch has translated into Russian, says in the foreword to her book, "when a foreigner, moved by a great love for this land yet still able to maintain the detached gaze of an outsider, begins to describe Italy to us through its food, then Italians themselves will discover a country that they had (perhaps) largely forgotten."

The River Café Classic Italian Cookbook
by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers (Penguin, ₤30).
I can't help it if publishers keep coming out with more and more wonderful books about Italian food--now the world's favorite--and I am always delighted to see a new book by two of the pioneers who made it so: Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers brought simple, rustic, wholesome Italian food to London at their River Café in 1987. Several cookbooks later they have culled more than 200 of their favorites from their travels throughout Italy, where they learned techniques and good stories from the home cooks and trattoria owners to come as close as possible to the true taste and texture of the foods they admired.  They even slept overnight in a bakery in Puglia "just so we could watch the many stages involved in the making of huge four-kilo semolina loaves throughout the night." Such dedication pays off on every page of this lovely book (not yet in print in the U.S but available online), from "silk handkerchief" pasta from Liguria to "fish in crazy water" and guinea fowl with grappa.

Ad Hoc at Home
by Thomas Keller (Artisan, $50).
Most fans of Thomas Keller know him for the kind of French-American haute cuisine in lavish, long menus as served at The French Laundry and Per Se, but in fact his last book was based on his recipes at his Bouchon bistro and bakeries.  Ad Hoc is a tiny restaurant down the street from The French Laundry in Napa Valley, started as a precursor for a hamburger joint he never opened but which has become enormously popular for its downhome, simple, good food, not least his now famous fried chicken--the recipe for which is given here, among a pile of others you will want to get started on as soon as you open any page of the book.  This is, however, a very expensive book at $50.

Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York
by William Grimes (North Point Press, $30)--Former NY Times restaurant critic William Grimes helped mount a superb exhibition on NYC restaurant history at the NY Public Library a few years back, and apparently he had plenty left over with which to fill this thorough, highly readable, anecdotal narrative on the subject, from the opening of Delmonico's in the 1830s to the culinary deprivations of Prohibition through to the present day when celebrity chefs rule and the diversity of dining options is greater than ever.  His profiles of master restaurateurs like Joe Baum, Warner Leroy, and Sirio Maccioni prove just how much showmanship goes into unique restaurants like The Four Seasons, Tavern on the Green, and Le Cirque, and the illustrations from the distant past are wonderful evocations of days when posh uptown restaurants like Rector's vied with downtown saloons and oyster bars.

Real Cajun by Donald Link, with Paula Disbrowe (Potter, $35).
Donald Link is arguably the most Louisianian of New Orleans' top chefs, for he can take Creole and Cajun traditions and marry them with his own personal creativity.  His new book is linked to the spirit of the bayous, to zydeco bands and boucheries, and every page is larded with personal memories and an insistence that you can't make the real thing if you don't do it the right way--even to curing your own bacon. The gumbos, the crab dishes, the boudin, the stewed lima beans all bespeak a passion on Link's part never to let go of this rich culinary heritage.  Taste his food once, and you won't either.

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook
by Sam Beall (Potter, $60).
Blackberry Farm in the rolling hills of Tennessee is one of the most stunningly gorgeous inn resorts in the South, and owner Sam Beall has fashioned a place and a cuisine reflective of the finest traditions of southern and global food cultures, drawing on his own gardens for his produce, "studying what the land offers each day through the prism of extensive training, travel, talent, and knowledge with one thing in mind: to help the food be what it wants to be and to use that essence to create a dish that expresses a particular place on a particular day."  Even if the home cook hasn't such access to artisanal quality, the sentiment itself is worth keeping in the front of your mind as you make these wonderful seasonal recipes.

Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook
by Chris and Idle Hastings, with Katherine Cobbs (Running Press, $35).
Aside from their belief in all things Italian, publishers seem also to have a belief that southern cooking is the next big thing. Chris and Idle Hastings of the curiously named Hot and Hot Fish Club, opened in 1995 in Birmingham, Alabama, have never been of any other mind, and their new book shows just how far from the cloying Paula Deen model Southern cooking has come.  Thus, you get wonderful shrimp and corn fritters, but the Hastings add a chive aïoli; shovel nose lobsters are baked with cherry tomatoes and field pea salad; a Low Country pirlou is done with clams, sausage, shrimp, and Carolina gold rice; and bobwhite quail with a white bean cassoulet.

by James Peterson (10 Speed Press, $40).
I don't know how James Peterson turns out so many authoritative volumes on all aspects of cookery so consistently--Glorious French Food (2002), Essentials of Cooking (2003), Cooking (2007), and Sauces (2008).  Now comes Baking, and it is as thorough and as beautifully produced as his best, with no aspect of baking left unexplained, no technique unexplored, and he makes it all seem like something a home cook can accomplish, although to finish some of the more complex recipes will indeed be an accomplishment.  This is as thorough a text as the home cook will ever need and a prod to the professional to tackle some new ideas.

Classic Lebanese Cuisine
by Chef Kamal Al-Faqih (Three Forks, $24.95).
It's been a very long time since a good Lebanese cookbook has hit the stalls, and it's probably not the next big thing, but I am very glad that this new volume is so authoritative, from the correct way to make hummus to the fine craft of producing delicious fish kibbi. There is great range here and the food is different from other Middle Eastern cuisines. The delightful cookie and dessert chapter shows off the glories of that genre in Lebanese kitchens, and there are plenty of tricks by this former caterer for making big family-style meals without worry.

Griswold and Wagner Cast Iron Cookbook
by Joanna Pruess (Skyhorse, $24.95).
A Parisian friend of mine, once shown the endless utility of a black cast iron skillet in our kitchen, promptly went out to buy one and still raves about how her friends at home marvel at what she produces from this American original. Joanna Pruess shows that you can cook almost anything in a cast iron skillet--as the pioneers and cowboy camp cooks knew full well--from cornbread to baked beans, from Southern fried chicken (where it is crucial) to Tuscan pineapple upside-down cake, where it is a real surprise.  As in all Pruess's books, the thoroughness of her testing and her ability to simplify carries this well above other treatments on similar subjects.

The Country Cooking of Ireland
by Colman Andrews (Artisan, $50)
Colman Andrews, formerly co-founder and editor-in-chief of Saveur, then restaurant columnist for Gourmet, has somehow found time to produce a book that has long been needed--a modern look at what is happening in the kitchens of Ireland, now full of enthusiastic young chefs and keepers of the old flame.  A sumptuous production (it better be at $50!), The Country Cooking of Ireland is well titled, because the least interesting cooking is happening in the cities.  There are splendid appreciations of colcannon, boxty, and crubeens, along with fine contemporary dishes like smoked cod and Irish Cheddar soufflé.  If you can simply learn to make the Irish breads included here, you are already in Andrews' debt.  The photography, by the incomparable Christopher Hirscheimer, brings everything to vivid life, page after beautiful page.

How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking
by Michael Psilakis (Little Brown, $35).
The subtitle is rather odd, but pretty much singlehandedly Michael Psilakis brought Greek cookery into the haute cuisine firmament upon opening his restaurant Anthos in New York three years ago.  Since then he's opened more downhome taverna-like eateries, and in How to Roast a Lamb he demonstrates his command of everything from souvlaki chicken and pork shiskebab to grilled lamb heart with shaved fennel salad.  The complexity of many dishes clearly in need of a professional kitchen brigade will be off putting to the home cook, but the results and the presentations will dazzle anyone who feasts on these dishes.



by John Mariani

243 East 58th Street


     When Lidia and Felice Bastianich opened Felidia in 1981, it was immediately clear that it was neither a traditional Italian-American restaurant nor a faux-Northern Italian restaurant of a kind that had sprung up on Manhattan's upper east side.  Its décor incorporated old brickwork, archways, fine furniture, and good artwork, along with a fine, convivial bar with a display of antipasti at the end of it (left).

    Time has only improved Felidia's looks to a more modern polish, but its basic lineaments and upstairs private dining room still have the ideal mixture of sophistication and warmth, which is what you get from Lidia Bastianich herself  (right and her daughter Tanya.
   Lidia, of course, is well known for her PBS-TV show--which I think is the best cooking on show the tube by far--and her numerous cookbooks (see above for her newest), and she is one of the smartest, savviest, and most authoritative people in the business.  She and her son Joseph, with Mario Batali, are involved with several other restaurants, including Becco and Del Posto in NYC, and two restaurants under her name in Kansas City and Pittsburgh.  She has never compromised on ingredients, and, though she has had very few chefs over the year in her kitchen, they have all been allowed their own creativity within the general tenor she has set here to be expressive of the cuisine of her own childhood in Istria. Together with the formidable Chef of many years, Fortunato Nicotra (below), this is the most consistently fine Italian restaurant in NYC.

        The wine list is one of the best in NYC, though it is certainly not cheap.
      When you sit down at the well-set table, you'll be served a basket of warm focaccia and breads, then you hear the specials of the evening, now a slew of lusty cold weather items Nicotra has created. The antipasti are many, from lustrous prosciutti sliced thin to cannellini and chickpeas, mushrooms and peppers in olive oil, to glistening housemade mozzarella. Grilled octopus and a lovely mosaic pattern of the same comes with a cream of chestnuts and toasted almonds; broccoli di rabe is married to acorn squash and mozzarella di bufala; and a salad of matsutake mushrooms is the base for a salad with baked Alaska King and stone crab meat.
     Pastas are, each and every one, among the best in NYC, textbook examples (Lidia wrote the textbooks!). My very favorite--ever since Felidia opened---is krafi, an envelope-shaped Istrian pasta with three cheeses and filled with citrus rind and rum, sauced with a roast veal sugo--magnificent!  Nicotra's autumn pastas include a non-sweet
chocolate squash ravioli with amaretti cookies that was not in the least odd, just unusually good; a lustrous pear and pecorino ravioli; risotto with porcini, coffee, and truffles; and something called "orecchiette farina arsa with broccoli `ndjua," a dish of ear-shaped pasta with toasted farina and broccoli with peppery ground sausage spread.
     For our main courses the tail of a large bass was baked in a salt crust and served with steamed romanesco broccoli, a wonderfully steamy, succulent way to prepare fish. A pretty saltimbocca of quail came with a sunny-side up quail egg, Brussels sprout and sweet parsnip puree, while veal tenderloin was enriched with Castelmagno cheese fonduta, cheeks braised in red wine and  Jerusalem artichoke and spinach. A nice slice of tuna was grilled on one side only, served with grilled radicchio, and a beet balsamic vinaigrette.
     Such dishes are not as simple as Italian dishes tend to be, but there is never a question as to the rationale for every flavor, ingredient, and texture to be on plates of this delicious creativity.

       For dessert go with anything--the sweets here are all quite well rendered, from a creamy Nutella flan with pistachio ice cream to a crespelle pancake with poached quince, candied chestnut, and Mont Blanc, from a fine panna cotta with vin brûlée to a wintry spiced beer cake with poached cranberry, and pumpkin ice cream that would have made a perfect Thanksgiving dessert this week.
      One small caveat: On a night not long ago when neither Lidia nor Tanya were in house, the food was as superb as ever, but service went downhill considerably, but again, that was one night among so many wonderful evenings I've had here. There's nothing to make me think that in twenty-five years I wouldn't be writing exactly the same thing about Felidia, for even if I have to be wheeled into the dining room, I know that the krafi will still taste the same, the waiters will know my name, the wine will be at the perfect temperature, and Lidia will still want to know if I was completely pleased.

Felidia is open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and for dinner nightly. 
There is a $29.50 lunch special and tasting menus that begin at $55; otherwise antipasti run $12-$21, pastas (as full courses) $22-$38; and main courses $24-$38.


Wine Books Keep Flowing for the Holidays
by John Mariani

     I like to think that winelovers are also book readers, at least to feed their enophilia. And for holiday gifts I can guarantee that the following wine books will make your drinking buddies very happy.
The 25th anniversary edition of Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” (Sterling, $27.95) is the summation of the author’s mission to make wine as accessible as possible to both the complete novice and the winelover who needs a good update.
      Zraly, held his first elementary classes back in 1976 as cellarmaster at Windows on the World, destroyed on 9/11. Using his book as the text, Zraly has graduated nearly 20,000 students. His own passion for wine began at 18 when he was a bartender at a New York restaurant, and he began studying wine and visiting vineyards every chance he got, although he didn’t get to California until he reached the state’s 21 year-old drinking age.
      In the anniversary edition Zraly has added a tremendous amount of new material on countries that 25 years ago had little clout in the wine market, including Austria, Hungary, Canada, New Zealand, Greece, and South America. In a section entitled “25 Years of Wine Changes (1985-2010)” he shows just how evolved the global wine world has become, from the importance of sustainability and organic winemaking to his prophecy that the U.S. will be the world’s largest wine consumer within five years.
      As it did a quarter century ago, Zraly’s book covers wine in easy to digest segments, starting with the absolute basics and moving through chapters to greater sophistication. Wholly revised and expanded, it’s the one book I would give both the newcomer and the veteran winelover to make sense of wine in 2010.
      Randall Graham’s Been Doon So Long (U. of California Press,  $34.95) is what used to be called a chrestomathy—a collection of wide-ranging essays, poems, arcana, and humor.  Graham, 56, is founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard, whose irreverent naming of wines and satiric labels has earned him the nickname “Willy Wonka of the Wine World.”  He is also the one most responsible for bringing Rhone Valley-style varietals to California as one of the original “Rhone Rangers.”
      Included within his “Vinthology” Graham writes his own hilarious take-off on Dante’s “Divine Comedy” called the “Vinferno by Al Dente Allegory”—in terza rima!—as well as deft parodies of Philip Roth (“Trotanoy’s Complaint”), and James Joyce (“Cheninagin’s Wake”). He gives 20 reasons to use screwcaps on wine bottles, ten ways to recognize a real wine geek (“He has brought his own food to the restaurant”), and an essay on “How I Overcame my UC Davis Education” (“Merlot actually does pretty much suck.”) I know of no other compendium of wine lit so erudite, so witty, and so straightforward as Graham’s remarkable new book.
      George M. Taber, the award-winning author of The Judgment of Paris about the notorious 1976 taste-off between French and California wines, has turned his twin enthusiasms for wine and travel into a narrative of visits to the world’s most interesting and beautiful wine regions, in In Search of Bacchus: Wanderings in the Wonderful World of Wine Tourism (Scribner, 294 pages, $30. Unlike other books in this genre that simply give listings, highlights, and hours when the tasting rooms are open, Taber’s focus is on the terroir itself, meeting the winemakers, and showing the renegade streak that runs through so many of them, like Australia’s Denis Horgan who in 1984 thought it a capital idea to bring the entire London Symphony Orchestra to his Margaret River Leeuwin Estate “in the bush.” Five thousand people showed up.
      As a former correspondent and editor for Time Magazine, Taber is a thorough investigator and his prose is reportorial, though the subject calls for something a bit more vigorous. Still, this is a book that well might well cause winelovers to plan a trip to Colchagua Valley, Chile, Stellenbosch, South Africa, maybe even Margaret River, Australia.
      Finally, my pick for the most beautifully produced wine book of the year is Fine Wines: The Best Vintages Since 1900 by Michel Dovaz (Assouline, $40), first issued in 1999, now as a needed update a decade later.
     The profiles of wineries and winemakers are insightful and to the point, the assessments of the vintages sound, and the evocative photos throughout make this a first-rate gift book as much for the whole package as for the informed opinions.

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.


In Bennington, Vermont, four people tried to steal a giant chili pepper on the roof of a Chili's restaurant (left). Police said they ran 470 feet of extension cord across a four-lane road and through a Home Depot parking lot to power an electric drill that was used to detach the logo sign. The  sign is valued at $8,000. The attempted perpetrators were forced to write five-page essays on "Wasting taxpayers' money."


"Tender Volume 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, £30) – Ingredients which often mooch around in walk-on parts are here cast centre stage from first act to final curtain, but receive stellar support from meat, fish and cheese in the line-up of irresistible recipes."--Book review in London Daily Mail  (11/15/09).


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 of Christmas holiday announcements received, QUICK BYTES cannot publish any but a handful of the most unusual.

* On Dec. 4 in Dallas, Nana at the Hilton Anatole will feature champagne for December’s Friday Night Flight, a trio of champagne, sparkling wine and complementing bites prepared by Executive Chef Anthony Bombaci.  6-8pm at Bar at Nana.  $20 per person. Call 214-761-7470;

* Every Wed. in Dec. in San Francisco, Park Chalet offers their entire food menu for half off as a holiday gift to their loyal customers. Call (415) 386-8439;

* On Dec. 6 in Scottsdale, AZ, Sassi presents "Sunday with Chef Peter DeRuvo," a three-course dinner and Italian wine featuring the regional cuisine of Sicily. $45 pp. Call 480-502-9095.

* From Dec. 7-13, Bottega hosts Settimana del Tartufo Bianco di Alba, a weeklong truffle-infused celebration honoring the restaurant's first year in Yountville, CA.  Chef Michael Chiarello will create a 5-course tasting menu as well as a la carte truffle dishes with the option of a specially chosen Italian wine pairing.  $95 pp for tasting menu and $35 pp for wine pairing. Call 707-945-1050.

* On Dec. 10, in Louisville, KY, Proof on Main chef Michael Paley will host James Beard-winning chef Paul Kahan and Old Rip Van Winkle master distiller Julian Van Winkle for The Hog and The Barrel Dinner, a 6-course meal celebrating pork and bourbon. $81 pp.  Call 502-217-6360 or visit

* On Dec. 14 in Colorado Springs, Summit Restaurant at The Broadmoor will host a private wine dinner to celebrate the continuation of the Mondavi Legacy, incl, 4 wine-paired courses. Carlo Mondavi will present the continuation of the Mondavi history with Continuum, along with wines from Grigich Hills and Royal Tokaji $150 pp incl. the welcome reception and wine pairings. Call 719-577-5896.

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."   THIS WEEK: 10 Ways to Beat Air Travel Stress During the Holidays


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 Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;; www.nickonwine.comTHIS WEEK: ASSURED CHABLIS


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