Virtual Gourmet

April 4, 2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER


       Happy Easter!


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In This Issue

Kreuz Comes Clean by John Mariani

Vive Les Bistros et Brasseries!  by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Expressionism and Stags Leap by Brian A. Freedman


Kreuz Comes Clean
(as told in the style of Elmore Leonard)


Photos by Wyatt McSpadden

   Around noon the parking lot started filling up with old trucks and just-washed SUVs. The smell of the smoke from Kreuz Market barbecue in Lockhart, Texas, was drawing people fast.
    "Here comes another one," said Rick Schmidt (below), wearing his white cowboy hat today, watching a fat guy in a gimme cap coming toward him with his finger in the air.
    "Just wanna ask you a question," he said. "Y'all the owner?"
    "Have been since 1948," said Rick, touching his hat. "Bought it from Charlie Kreuz's family. How can I help you?"

     The fat guy nodded his head and kept his finger in the air. "Here's the thing. Me and my family been coming to Kreuz since it was in the old location, which is now Smitty's?"
    Now Rick was nodding and rolling his eyes. "Well," said the fat guy, "I gotta tell you, but I think the 'cue in the old place tasted, well, different."

      Rick leaned back a little, put his big hand on the table, and said, real slow, "Now, just why do you think that's the case?"
      "Well, I gotta assume it's because Smitty's has all your old ovens. They been there, what? Since Kreuz opened in, what —?"
      "Nineteen hundred. Started out as a butcher shop. The barbecue came later."
     "Right. So those old smoking ovens have been seasoned for like a century, and I gotta guess that's where you get a lot of the flavor in the meats, right?"
      Rick put his hands together and forced a smile. "You know, people come in here all the time and tell me the same thing. But what they don't know, and what you don't know, is that those old ovens had to be rebuilt about every eight years because they were made out of sheet metal, which broke down. And all that grease didn't help, either."
       The fat guy widened his eyes but could only get out, "Really?"
       "Really," said Rick, now wagging his finger. "So whatever ovens they got over at Smitty's couldn't be more than 10 years old, 'cause that's when we moved over here on Colorado Street. We built these new"--Rick came down hard on the word=="ovens from steel. A lotta people think our 'cue is as good or better than ever."
        The fat guy stammered, figuring he had to say something nice.
        "Unnerstand, sir, unnerstand. So y'all still smoke the meats about, what, 12 hours, maybe overnight?"
      "Four, maybe five. Any more questions?" Rick leaned forward. "Mind telling me where you're from and how come you know so much about our barbecue?"
        "Me and my family drive up here special, from Dallas, a couple times a year."
        Rick pushed another smile. "Figured as much. Enjoy your meal."
       The fat guy went over to the counter, ordered some brisket, sausage links, some beans, and two bottles of beer, then paid the bill and walked past Rick, raising the paper bag to say goodbye. When he got to his SUV, Rick heard him say to his family, "Guess what I just learned from the old guy who runs the place!"
        Rick shook his head and muttered to himself, "Lot more than you need to know," and went back to check the ovens.

Kreuz Market

619 N. Colorado Street
Lockhart, Texas

Photos for this article are by
Wyatt McSpadden
from his book Texas BBQ (2009), with a preface by Jim Harrison.



Vive Les Bistros et Brasseries!

by John Mariani

     The mourning over the demise of high-end French restaurants in America may be muffled by the jubilation to be taken in the evidence that the good French bistro has never been better represented, whether it's Bistro Niko in Atlanta, Petite Maison in Phoenix, or L'Albatros in Cleveland.  New York has never been without a slew of admirable ones, each quite similar, each quite different from one another.  The menus tend to stay true to the beloved form, the décors evoke one or another Paris originals, and the joie de vivre is free of the hauteur that helped drive expensive French dining salons out of business. Here are three that show the genre at its best.

Chez Lucienne

308 Malcolm X Boulevard (Lenox Avenue at 125th Street)

     A long, long time ago when I was a grad student at Columbia, I once got off the train at 125th Street and, since it was a lovely spring day, decided to walk all the way up to the University on Morningside Heights. Before I could get two steps, a NYC cop stopped me and said, "You'll never make it alive." I took a taxi.
     Since those days Harlem has come back to vibrant life, especially along 125th Street where, on a recent spring evening, the crossroads at Lenox Avenue were teeming with people going into the brightly lighted boutiques and big department stores. Parking spaces were tough to find, and as I passed by the newly refurbished townhouses, then past the ever-expanding Sylvia's Soul Food, where Reverend Al Sharpton was having a politico party that night, I saw the little storefront of Chez Lucienne, as happily situated as if it had been on Montparnasse.  Once inside, I found the place bustling with an array of locals, a few barhangers, and a crew of waiters rushing about trying to get drink orders, menus, and food with efficient aplomb.
      Bright white tablecloths were a joy to see at a time when so many restaurants have removed them, and the cheery red bar and awning and the bentwood chairs provide  nostalgic comfort to anyone who has spent many happy times in French bistros. It's a casual place and it can get a little loud if they turn the music up, so ask them to turn it down. There's belly dancing on Wednesdays, a night Bill Clinton, who has an office in Harlem, sometimes comes by to eat.
Owners Jerome Bougherdani and chef Matthew Tivy, formerly at restaurant Daniel, have other eateries in the neighborhood and I think they've bet right that Harlem and the expanding Columbia University area to the west are prime for restaurant development. Exec Chef Thomas Obaton hails from Lyon and worked for Guy Savoy in Paris, so he knows well what the classics of the provinces should taste like. Add to all this a complete $25 dinner, and you just better hop the subway or catch a cab and get up here and back cheap. There are also specials each night regulars look forward to.
     On a Tuesday evening Chez Lucienne was buzzing and we were hungry.  The winelist is as well priced as everything else here.  We began with a tomato-mozzarella French pizza with a tarte fine pastry crust shell and a deliciously creamy quiche Lorraine that will make you forget all those dreary examples on most brunch menus.  Best of all was the pâté of chicken livers. served with French pickles and a green salad.
    There aren't many French places left in New York doing seafood quenelles, so it was good to see them on the menu here, made with sole rather than the usual pike, poached with egg whites to make them light and served with a rich crayfish emulsion and fragrant basmati rice. Grilled salmon with a broccoli puree and balsamic sauce didn't seem to belong here, so lackluster was the fish and puree, so unexpected the balsamic.  Braised coq au vin came with pearl onions, bacon, mushrooms and unconventional angel's hair pasta (a wider noodle would have been better), but there was everything to enjoy in a grilled skirt steak--nicely chewy and streaked with fat--with good French fries and an wonderfully old-fashioned green peppercorn sauce.
     The dessert chef here is Tarik Slamani and he treats the old favorites with respect, like a vanilla-rich île flottante with crème anglaise and caramel, and crisp apple Tarte Tatin. Tarte à la crème et banane was called "classic" but that must mean an American classic, since I've never run across this in France. And of course there were vanilla ice cream profiteroles lavished with chocolate sauce.

       Chez Lucienne has caught on for the reasons that bistros survive and thrive among people whose interests are food and drink first and  in atmosphere that it doesn't veer from from the beloved norm of its Parisian antecedents.

Chez Lucienne will be open for lunch in April;  dinner nightly, for brunch on Sun. Dinner appetizers run $6.95-$12.95 and main courses $17.95-$24.95.

1057 Lexington Avenue (at 75th Street)

   In size, Orsay is more a brasserie, which are traditionally larger than bistros and have a grander Alsatian bourgeois bonhomie. Also, the art nouveau fonts and flourishes, the mahogany accents, 24-foot pewter bar, and frosted glass easily put you in mind of places like La Rotonde and Le Dôme in Paris.  The restaurant, here since 2000,  is named after a fashionable boulevardier and dilettante in the arts, Count Alfred Guillaume Gabriel d'Orsay.
     Its owner
is Jean Dénoyer, who was long-time operator of La Goulue, now closed but due to re-open on new premises this fall.  In the meantime La Goulue's chef Antoine Camin is running the kitchen here, and has fine-tuned the menu, which Monday through Friday is price fixed at just $35 for dinner. Right about now the outdoor tables will be filling up on one of the few avenues that allows for good people-watching on the crowded upper east side.
     The winelist has more than 225 selections, most, as they should be, French, with a good number of reasonably priced regional vins du pays.
     Dependability is a virtue, but  the food at Orsay  is also of a kind that is so delectable year after year, even decade after decade, that you only want it to remain as good as it always was.  So begin contentedly with cold appetizers from a rolling cart or go with hot, garlicky snails with a dash of Pastis.  A baked artichoke takes on a creamy dimension from Corsican cheese, baby arugula, and a walnut vinaigrette, and the foie gras maison, with poached figs and toast, is a perennial favorite here for good reason.  If you like blood sausage you'll like Orsay's, its robust flavor cushioned by caramelized apples.  Novel but within the traditional form is crispy scallop and leeks, the former done tempura style, the latter poached, sprinkled with chopped egg and a sprightly herb vinaigrette.  There are also offerings of shellfish and oyster platters and three kinds of tartare.
      Each night brings its own special--Monday cassoulet Toulousain; Tuesday osso buco; Wednesday, Prime rib; Thursday sole Grenobloise; Friday bouillabaisse; Saturday duck à l'orange; and Sunday shepherd's pie. We were there Thursday and gobbled up the tender sole with capers and dark green spinach.  Coq au vin here came in red wine, with noodles and bacon, while veal blanquette--one of the first dishes I ever ate in Paris--was a little too light, the cream sauce thin. The hanger steak at Orsay is, however, an absolute triumph--easily the best I've had in New York, with its characteristic chewy, mineral texture and taste, with excellent frites and a choice of bordelaise, green peppercorn, or yellow Béarnaise as a sauce.
        Orsay's tarte Tatin came with tangy crème fraîche, and the tarte du jour was raspberries of fairly good quality at this time of the year.  They also do homemade macaroons here, but ten will run you a hefty $20.
         The size of the room, divided by a staircase, makes this very close to the Parisian models, and although New Yorkers tend to be much louder than Parisians, it is still the sound of sheer enjoyment and civilized good cheer.

Orsay is open daily. Dinner appetizers run $8-$25, main courses, $22-$45.

Brasserie Ruhlmann
45 Rockefeller Plaza

  There is no better location for a bistro than this--right across from the fluttering flags surrounding the Rockefeller Center skating rink and beneath the towers of art déco skyscrapers that make Brasserie Ruhlmann a perfect melange of Paris chic and New York sophistication. Now, with glorious spring upon us, the outdoor tables under brown umbrellas make this one of the city's loveliest settings.
     Inside, that cocoa color is repeated in faux Macassar ebony, the tables well set with Christofle silverware, the banquettes roomy. Executive Chef Laurent Tourondel, who made his name at BLT Steakhouse,  is consulting here, while Jaime Loja works the kitchen nightly.  The menu is set with just enough dishes to make it both wieldy and appealing, nicely balanced with meat and seafood, along with a raw bar and "to share" plates of charcuterie that includes prosciutto and soppressata along with country bread, and a platter of five cheeses.  Here, too, are plats du jour: Monday salmon with sorrel sauce; Tuesday skirt steak with potatoes au gratin; Wednesday daurade provençale; Thursday breaded veal escalope; and Friday rosemary-lemon seabass.
      Portions are quite generous here, served impeccably by a very fine, friendly staff.  There's a blue crab salad on mâche to start with, and a superb lobster bisque with a lobster roll to boot. Whatever else your friends order, get the onion soup--a masterpiece of  three sweet onions cooked to golden brown succulence in a deeply flavorful broth, all topped with what seems pounds of bubbly cheese. It is the ultimate in French comfort foods.
      There is the requisite hanger steak at Ruhlmann and it's a good one, with Béarnaise sauce and first-rate frites you will eat every one of. The beef shortrib bourguigonne (right) shows off Tourondel's talent for hearty, deep flavors, and the accompanying mashed potatoes seem as much butter and spud, and who's complaining?  A nice, large breaded veal escalope came with a brown butter sauce, with artichoke and fennel. There was nothing wrong with a fat Dover sole (though pricey at $48) à la meunière except that it came with capers, which indicates à la grenobloise, but it was fine nonetheless.
    There are six desserts that include freshly baked cookies, île flottante, apple tart, and the best of all, chocolate-hazelnut millefeuilles.  There are macaroons available here, too, where a box runs $8-$16.
     What truly distinguishes Ruhlmann from its competitors is, on specific nights, jazz music by some of the real giants in the biz: the night I visited it was Bucky Pizzarelli, a guitarist of daunting technique and finesse. I was almost too spellbound to finish off my French fries.

Brasserie Rulhmann is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat., brunch  Sun. Dinner appetizers run $11-$16, main courses $24-$48.


By Brian Freedman

    For all of their obvious differences in grape varieties planted, winemaking styles, terroirs, climates, and the rest, the great wine regions of the world have a number of important things in common. The best are home to wines that embody a predictable, consistent expression--a sense of place--year after year. They have a track record of producing wines that, even in lesser vintages, are generally still quite good. And their internal divisions, based on years of vinicultural and viticultural experience, accurately embody the notion that even seemingly minute differences in the natural environment can leave a significant mark on the wines that are produced there.
    Burgundy is the classic example, whose small villages and estates demonstrate the full range of expression of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More appropriate, however, is Bordeaux. The region itself, and the appellations within it, all leave imprints on the fruit that you can, more often than not, clearly taste in the juice in the glass.
    Napa Valley and its constituent AVAs fit beautifully into that impressive fraternity. Indeed, it’s a testament to how far Napa has come in terms of both its own internal development as well as how consumers--at least the most ardent ones--perceive it that its best-regarded AVAs have gained as much traction as they have. Happily, that traction is wholly justified: from Howell Mountain to Oakville, from Rutherford to Stags Leap District and more, Napa Valley is home to some of the most distinct, recognizable Cabernets on the planet. The fact that they are so clearly differentiated is evidence of the potential--and, indeed, accomplishment--of the appellations and of the grape-growers and winemakers themselves.
    The last of the above-noted AVAs, Stags Leap District, is home to some of the most drinkable and readily expressive Cabernets in Napa. Jim Regusci, who helms the eponymous Regusci Winery and also grows grapes in nine other appellations, said, “Our Stags Leap fruit is softer, more supple. It’s the type of wine that’s universal all the way through--there’s a common thread through them all. You can try these wines,” he continued, “and they’re. . .more approachable and complex when younger. . . .And we’re fortunate that they’ll [also] hold long enough.”
    One of the reasons for the consistency of the wines coming out of Stags Leap District is the size of the AVA, a compact area approximately one mile wide and three miles long. As a result, the relatively close proximity of vineyards leads to an expression of fruit that’s fairly constant (though there are, of course, obvious differences from producer to producer, and vineyard to vineyard, each year).
    The soils, as well as the District’s often-noted cooling winds, are largely responsible for the expressivity of the wines. According to the Stags Leap District web site, “There is a great diversity of soils within the Stags Leap District but two main types predominate. Soils on the eastern elevation are the result of volcanic eruptions that took place millions of years ago, as well as the slow erosion of the arid Vaca Mountains. In the lowland area,” it continues, “where a much broader Napa River once ran, old river sediments have created a remarkable blend of loams with a clay-like substructure. These gravely soils, and those of the hillsides, are coarser and retain less water than most resulting in low-vigor vines that yield fruit of great intensity and flavor.”
    In practical terms that translates to “a combination of real elegance and power at the same time,” said Scott Turnbull, Sommelier at The Fountain Restaurant at The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. “The wines, I find, are almost like coiled springs in their youth, and then they just really come into their own after a few years of aging. You can just feel the energy and a true sense of place, which is rather the whole point of [identifying an] AVA in the first place.”
    That intensity of flavor, as well as the wines’ early approachability and excellent aging potential, are on clear display in the much-lauded 2005 vintage. In general, I find the wines to possess beautifully expressive dark berry and cherry fruits, terroir-driven notes of minerality, the inimitable hints of mint, eucalyptus, and chocolate that so often characterize the best of Napa Valley, and the velvety texture that Jim Regusci alluded to.
    Much of that success, in fact, can be traced back to 2004. Mr. Regusci noted that the health of the vines at the end of 2004, as they entered their dormancy, set the stage for a successful 2005. And a solid growing season built well on that foundation. Elias Fernandez, Shafer Vineyards’ winemaker, noted in a press release that “a perfect budbreak led to a long summer of warm, dry days and chilly evenings, ideal conditions that allowed us to leave the fruit on the vine until it achieved true physiological ripeness.”
    That ripeness, and the sense of structure underlying it, manifest themselves in wines that are as complex and promising as any I’ve tasted in a long time. The Regusci, for example, led off with a deep well of blackberries and black raspberries edged with a roasted-coffee aroma and something that vaguely reminded me of yerba maté. Dark cherry and more blackberry--like a perfect summer-berry cobbler filling--exploded on the palate, as well as cigar tobacco, lead pencil, and spearmint. I’d buy a case and follow it for the next 7 - 10 years and beyond.
    Showing a bit younger but still full of promise is the Robinson Family Vineyards bottling, its notes of fig and chocolate still working to integrate with the oakier end of things. Still, it’s ripe, balanced, and exuberant, the fruit countered by enough acid and mineral to indicate a delicious maturity. Hints of sandalwood on the nose and oolong tea on the palate nod in the direction of an exoticism that I can’t wait to see develop.
    Malk Family Vineyards’ 2005 offering leans more toward ripe strawberries on the nose and delicious red plum and dark cherry on the palate, with colorado-wrapper cigar and a touch of black pepper lending more complexity. This one still needs some time for all the moving parts to come together, but once they do, it’ll be a remarkable wine.
    On the higher-toned end of things is the Cliff Lede “Poetry,” a high-octane bottling that clocks in at more than 15% alcohol.  For all the wine’s power and ripe cherry fruit, though, it finds its clearest and most dramatic expression in more aromatic notes of roasted fennel and licorice. Hints of black plums, wild-berry compote, sweet rubber, grilled graphite, and vanilla round it all out.
    The Shafer “One Point Five” leans in the direction of exoticism, too, but with more restraint and subtlety. There’s mint, star anise, sandalwood, cedar, grilled sage, and something that reminds me of slate on the nose. All this leads to ripe berries and cherries on the palate, as well as gorgeous tobacco flavors. For all its ripeness and expressivity, however, this is a wine very much tied to its terroir, and maintains an exceptional sense of elegance.
    The Robert Sinskey Vineyards “SLD,” despite its almost hearty nose of hot clay, chocolate truffle, and ripe blackberries, is one of the brighter wines I tasted. The palate, bursting with berry fruit (blackberry, boysenberry) and fig confiture, is complicated perfectly with mouthwatering acidity, cigar tobacco, eucalyptus, and licorice.
    Last--but certainly among my favorites--is the Taylor Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe strawberries and cherries jump from the glass, as do chocolate, black pepper, graphite, asphalt, a touch of sage, bay leaf, and licorice, all of it wrapped up in something almost creamy. This is a wine with grip, as well as perfectly balanced and surprisingly bright acidity; it has the stuffing--and the long finish--to evolve for a decade or more. The mid-palate is explosive, with ripe, concentrated blackberries, black raspberries, and cherries. The finish comes in waves, first showing ripe fruit, then spice, then cedar and vanilla.
    All these wines, really, offer dramatic testament to the quality of the 2005 vintage in Stags Leap District. That year is, as The Fountain’s Scott Turnbull said, “Like an ace up your sleeve. It’s one of those wines you can just feel really confident with.” He is. of course, talking specifically about his guests’ response to them at The Four Seasons, but it applies to retail consumers, too.
    These wines are, as is the case with great ones from all over the world, both expressive of the unique conditions of a specific excellent vintage and firmly rooted in their special little part of the earth. In that regard, they easily fit into the pantheon of global classics, whether they’re from France, Italy, or, in this case, a slender one-mile-by-three-mile sliver of the Napa Valley.

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



A group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis insists that the smoked salmon called lox should no longer be considered kosher, because the fish often contain parasitic worms. But other rabbis disagree: "This issue has been resolved in Jewish law for hundreds of years already," said Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the Orthodox Union.


"Not every entrée shines. Sautéed steelhead, finished in Meyer lemon brown butter and plated with Brussels sprouts and chorizo, works as hard for its payoff as a spawning salmon does."—Josh Sens, "Frances," San Francisco Magazine.


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 April & May,  the Wine Road will be partnering with Art at the Source for its annual art and wine program. The special “Art at the Wineries” event will feature local Sonoma area painters, sculptors, photographers, potters, jewelers, fiber artists, and glass artists on display at over 30 Wine Road members’ tasting rooms, leading up to the 16th annual “Art at the Source Open Studios” held the first two weekends in June.  Visit; Call 800-723-6336.

* On Apr 4 in NYC, Travertine restaurant and owner Danae Cappelletto will host an Alice in Wonderland-themed costume party with music by Tyger Lilly, featuring candy coated brunch at 12pm that will float into an evening of music and fine food!   In-house Mixoligist, Courtney Bae has created a speciality cocktail using Vieux Carré absinthe. The 'White Rabbit.' Call 212.966.1810 and for table inquiries and bookings email

* On Apr. 8 in Washington D.C., Poste Moderne Brasserie has joined forces with Bokisch Vineyard from Lodi, CAor  a 5-course wine dinner by Chef Robert Weland. TMarkus and Liz Bokisch will be on hand to discuss the intricacies of Spanish-style varietals and organic and sustainable wines. $85. Call Stacy Isabella at 202-449-7062.

* On April 8,  NYC’s At Vermillion will present the "Secret Ingredient Dinner,"  a  multi-dimensional event featuring the 5-course menu Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan prepared during her Stadium Kitchen showdown with Iron Chef Morimoto, will incl. an interactive cooking demo and the airing of the Chauhan/Morimoto bout On Iron Chef America with live commentary by Chef Chauhan about the experience.  $65 pp.  Call 212-871-6600.

 * On April 8 in Oakland, CA, Ozumo will host a Cherry Blossom Festival celebration with food and drink specials, DJ entertainment and models showcasing traditional Japanese attire. No cover charge, no reservations are required. 510-286-9866

* April 10 & 11 in NYC, a  Quarantine Dinner based on ingredients that require isolation for their existence and / or to maximize their flavor and texture potential will be held at Storefront for Art & Architecture, as a culinary element to the gallery’s current Landscapes of Quarantine exhibit, which explore the concepts of quarantine beyond disease containment.  $152 per person.  Call 212-431-5795.

* On April 10 in Dallas, the 19th Annual Côtes Du Coeur International Fine Wine Auction & Celebrity Chef Dinner will benefit the American Heart Association. Featuring cuisine from 18 of the region’s top chefs, led by Richard Chamberlain, with wine pairings from 8 master sommeliers representing 30 world-renowned wineriess.  $750 pp. Call Nancy Wolff at 214-748-7212 or email;

* On Apr. 12 in NYC, La Fonda del Sol restaurant launches a series of Spanish wine classes that will take place every second Mon. of the month in the private dining room. Six wines will be tasted and discussed, accompanied by an assortment of tapas prepared by Executive Chef Josh DeChellis. $45 pp. Call 212-867-6767 or visit

* On Apr. 13 in Charlottesville, VA, Clifton Inn will present "An Evening with Thomas Jefferson" in honor of the Founding Father’s 267th birthday, hosted by a renowned first person historical interpreter as Thomas Jefferson and feature a 4-course, Jefferson-inspired menu prepared by Executive Chef Dean Maupin and paired with Virginia wines. $267 per couple for lodging and dinner; $67 pp. for dinner only. Call 888-971-1800.

* On Apr. 14 in
Scottsdale, AZ, J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician presents the Chef Tribute Dinner: Harvesting Arizona as part of the 32nd annual Scottsdale Culinary Festival.  Hosted by J&G’s Chef de Cuisine, Jacques Qualin, guests will dine on a farm-to-table, Arizona wine-paired menu while dining with Arizona chefs and farmers who produce some of the best State-sourced delicacies.  Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco will speak at the dinner,.    $150 pp.  Call 480-945-7193 or visit

* On April 14, 2010, Al Roker will host City Harvest’s 16th annual, "An Evening of Practical Magic"  in NYC at Cipriani 42nd Street with cocktails and a silent auction  followed by an awards presentation, dinner and live auction. Tickets range from $750 to $2,500 and tables are $10,000 to $50,000, with 100% of the selling price going to directly support City Harvest’s efforts. Call 212-843-8079.

* On Apr. 15 in NYC, Sonoma Valley Winemakers, incl. B.R. Cohn Winery, will be featured at an  of wines and cuisine at t Charlie Palmer's Aureole Restaurant.  $165 pp., seating is limited Call 707-935-0803 or to reserve.

* On Apr 17, in Santa Margarita, CA the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival presents a culinary experience as over 50 farmers, ranchers, chefs and restaurants put together an array of treats ranging from a bruschetta bar to barbecue, ahi tacos to osso buco, pesto pasta to risotto Milanese.  $25 - $600. or call 805-369-2288.

* On Apr 17, in NYC, Chef Daniel Boulud presents Burgundy, Bordeaux Blue Jeans & Blues an Annual Dinner &Auction in support of Citymeals-on-Wheels, with special guest Chef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck. Tix  $1,000, with gourmand tables $25,000. Contact Heather Gere 212-687-1290

* From Apr. 20 – 24, in Sausaltio, CA, Poggio will hold their third annual Allo Spiedo Festa honoring the Italian spring tradition of spit roasting meats over live fire. The restaurant is partnering with Marin County ranchers Devil’s Gulch Ranch and Marin Sun Farms to offer young goat, pig, rabbit, and quail.  $19 pp. Call 415-332-7771.

* From Apr. 20-23 in San Antonio, Texas: “A Night In Old San Antonio®” is a 4-night festival  that celebrates the city’s cultural legacy with 250 food, drink and atmosphere booths; 20 live musical acts; children’s games; decorations;  Sponsored by and benefiting the San Antonio Conservation Society. $12 for adults and $2 for children six to 12 years; children five years and under are free.  Call 210-226-5188, visit

* On April 22 in Berkeley, CA, Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto will honor National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day by offering a free lunch entrée to all children and hosting an educational cooking demonstration by Chef Devon Boisen. 510-845-777

* On Thursday, April 22, Pacci Ristorante in Atlanta will offer a special 3-course Earth Day menu filled with local ingredients from Chef Keira Moritz.  $35 pp.   Call 678-412-2402 or visit

* On April 23-25 in Greenough, Montana,  at The Resort at Paws Up will hold a  wine tasting and tail chasing weekend featuring a canine fashion show, training and wellness seminars, gourmet human and doggie treats, spa treatments, a dog parade and much more.   The all-inclusive Wine & Bitch three-day/two-night weekend package is for two adults and one dog and starts at $1825.  Call 800-473-0601 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."  THIS WEEK: 12 SUNNY DAYS ON A MED CRUISE


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,;;


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 2010