Virtual Gourmet

May 2, 2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

                                               "Elder Dempster Lines" (1925) by Odin Rosenvinge



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GOOD NEWS! now has a new food section  called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA.


In This Issue


David Burke Townhouse by John Mariani



Dining Out in Salzburg
by John Mariani

      A fter the monumentality of Vienna, Salzburg welcomes the traveler, wherever he or she may come from, as a kind of old neighborhood town whose smallness and ease of getting around makes it seem familiar even on one's first visit. I myself had not been back in several years, but it will always be a place I could nestle in and been treated like an old friend.
      The streets and the arcades had an embracing effect, the river flowed as calmly as ever, and the windows full of chocolate confections and ornately painted holiday eggs (right) made mid-January look as gaily decorated as Christmas or Easter time.  The clothing shops were full of beautifully made loden coats, even dirndls, the old restaurants had changed not at all, and the old Wurst stand by the river is still open very late.
        Salzburg is chocolate mad, with confectioneries everywhere, their counters beautifully lighted and full of candies of every color, arrayed and stacked  in rows on silver trays. Two particular specialties created in the city are the
Salzburger Mozartkugel (left) and the Cappezzoli di Venere (below, right), which means Venus's nipples.  The former, wholly expected in a city consumed with Mozart (it's said there is a Mozart concert or recital going on in the city every day of the year and you can visit the house he lived in), was created in 1890 by Paul Fürst, which took a gold medal in the Paris Exhibition of 1905. It is made of dark chocolate and wrapped in special paper, and you can buy it at the four Fürst confectioners in town.
    Venus's Nipples are made from
chestnut and nougat paste in white or dark chocolate, said to have been a favorite of  composer and Mozart competitor Antonio Salieri, the fellow who erroneously but infamously was linked to Mozart's demise in the play "Amadeus."  In any case, they are delicious candies and are to be found int heir little paper cups at Scio's Speceyern, here since 1994.
      Of course, the city also has its Sachertorte, the rich chocolate-and-apricot created in 1932 for Prince Metternich's court guests and forever associated with the Sacher Hotel in Vienna. There is a branch of the hotel in Salzburg equally as lovely, a bit more intimate, with an enclosed glass ceiling, a splendid, pale green Mozart Suite overlooking the river,  and a beautifully decorated restaurant, the Salzhauben (below), which includes an impressive array of antlers and a stunning carved ceiling ans walls.
       Its menu has just the right number of classic and modern dishes on it, nothing too extravagant, and you may go as simply as pike perch or a filet mignon with potatoes or have a fine fillet of sole with risotto and a rich lobster sauce.  Marinated fillet of red tuna comes on sesame brittle with asparagus and a mango chutney, while a heartier dish is the marinated shoulder of local beef on a truffle rémoulade accompanied by beluga lentils laced with balsamic vinegar. Of course you should have the Sachertorte for dessert.  Appetizers run €9.70 to €16.70, main courses €25.10 to   €29.10.
       Salzburg is a walking city, no, a strolling city, on both sides of the river Salzach. On the Sacher hotel's side, the narrow streets are far less tourist-polished than on the other side of the bridge.  On one particular street you can see where World War II American tanks  nicked chunks out of the buildings while trying to pass through.
   There is a fine outdoor market on this side and one of the loveliest gourmet stores I've run across in Austria, the family-run
Koelbl-Feinkost, stacked with local delicacies and wines, including an array of the best the country has to offer. Were you to hike off into the mountains, the provisions here would put you n good stead, from fine sausages and breads to local cheeses and wine.  Also on this side of the river is the institution known as the Café Bazar (below, right) whose  sturdy chairs and little tables have seated and served just about every important personage ever to grow up, live or visit Salzburg, from Marlene Dietrich to Max Reinhardt and Hugo von Hoffmannsthal.   Begin your morning here with excellent coffee and pastries, meet friends for lunch, or drop by for more coffee and pastries in the afternoon.  The Café Bazar seems perpetually full of locals, well-dressed matrons, young women with their school friends, and businessmen with their Blackberrys.
      Wander the little streets here and you'll find a slew of new bistros and trattorias, some with just a few tables, like Bruno Nuovo on Priesterhausgasse, a modern restaurant in deep gray, white, and red tones, where mustachioed Bruno Plotegher turns out pastas with truffles and modern cucina italiana.
     Across the bridge in the main part of the city, with one of the best restaurants (with hotel) and  an excellent winelist,  Blau Gans (Blue Goose), whose arched ceilings, casual but tasteful arrangement of chairs and tables, and a young, enthusiastic service staff led by owner Andrea Gfrerer, turns out contemporary Austrian fare. The premises supposedly are the city's oldest guesthouse, dating back 650 years. In the bar you can drink and eat lightly from items like marinated salmon trout with a pumpkin chutney; smoked goose breast with pepperonata; fried chicken with cucumber salad; and of course, Weiner Schnitzel.
     In the very cozy (non-smoking) main dining room (left), Chef Heidi Neuländtner's menu is more extensive but not very expensive at all, with the highest priced main course is €19.90, the lowest priced €14.90.  There are also multi-course fixed price menus between €31 and  €41.
    We were delighted with an array of dishes that showed the breadth of cooking here, from beef cheeks with risotto and fines herbes to  housemade liverwurst; a tender, flavorful char was simply roasted with a parsnip sauce. There was also ravioli stuffed with pike, and a dish of boneless butter-fried chicken.  Chicken also comes sautéed and scented with lime juice, and brook trout is sautéed and served with a fennel sauce.
     T here are five desserts, including the impossible-to-pronounce Powidltascherl, which are little prune-filled dumplings with a vanilla sauce,  and the city's famous Salzburger Nockerl (right), a kind of Austrian version of French île flottante and America's baked Alaska--a big froth of vanilla-scented browned meringue on a plate with raspberry sauce, really a guilty pleasure that you will find yourself polishing off with your friends (it's baked for two people). The story goes that the dish was created in the 17th century for Salome Alt, an excellent name for the mistress of the archbishop of Salzburg, and classically shaped to look like the three peaked hills that surround Salzburg.  Historically speaking, this is suspect, for the idea of browning egg whites has been traced specifically to an American experimenter named Benjamin Thompson in the late 18th or early 19th century. But whenever
Salzburger Nockerl came along, it was and continues to be a delightful dessert.
     Just a cross the street from the ancient Blau Gans is a very, very up-to-the-moment, swank bar and restaurant called Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood, mixing two non-Germanic languages into one name. Downstairs is a loud, terribly smoke-filled bar where the beer and cocktails flow; up a beautiful winding staircase is the restaurant (left) where, indeed, the menu is composed of foods best (below) eaten by picking them up in your fingers. A lounge is also in place where you can literally sink into leather sofas and armchairs that look like poured red taffy.  Then there is the Champagne Bar and the open terrace in good weather, overlooking the main thoroughfare, Getreidegasse.  So you see people here for lunch, tea, pre-opera or theater, and aprés-opera and theater, along with those who just come to meet someone they know or someone they'd like to meet.
     The finger foods really are terrific and very beautifully composed, not least their cones, which contain everything from chicken wings to beef tartare, even paprika couscous, a small hamburger and a dry version of Tafelspitz.  There are also a number of sandwiches, two or three of them making a meal, like pumpernickel stuffed with smoked salmon, caviar, and sour cream.  Desserts follow the same patterns, with cones of chocolate, even
Salzburger Nockerl, and the Carpe Diem Gugelhupf in various flavors of chocolate, hazelnut, and marzipan.
     F or something far more traditional, there is Triangle, a very low -priced hangout for locals, especially students, because the University owns the building and keeps menu prices in line so that a good meal can be had for very little.  The blackboard postings each day indicate what's most fresh and good, the cheery room is chockablock with old wood tables, and the beer flows freely.
     I visited but did not have a chance to eat at any of the numerous dining rooms at the marvelous Stiftskeller St. Peter's, a rambling structure that, like Blaue Gans above, claims to be Europe's oldest inn, based on a document dating back to the year 803 A.D. at St. Peter's Arch Abbey, where Charlemagne is said to have dropped by. Legend also has it that Faust met the demonic Mephistopheles here. The facility, which does hundreds of banquets and weddings each year (the website of course plays Mozart's music), has been run since 1992 by the Haslauer family who have spared no expense to provide just about any antique décor you could wish, including the Haydn Room, the Baroque Hall, the Virgil Salon, and Refugium.  At Christmas the seminary garden and cave (left) take on all the trappings and lights of an Austrian winter; they also offer a Mozart menu with musical presentation.

     I have said little about the maestro himself for you cannot walk a block in Salzburg without someone or something reminding you that Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart was born on Getreidegasse street--gold letters mark the spot--in 1756 and spent a good deal of his short life in the city, employed from 1773-1777 as a court musician by Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. Though often dissatisfied with Salzburg as too small and provincial for his ambitions and talents, Mozart traveled widely through Europe, and he died in Vienna, but Salzburgers know well that Mozart was theirs and the city nurtured him in its narrow streets and plazas, gardens, and riverwalks, a beautiful, quiet city whose churches and theaters sometimes rang with the sound of his genius.

Austria is a country of many cultural surprises, so I found it odd that  the Austrians, particularly the people of Salzburg, shrug at the mention of  "The Sound of Music." Despite the enormous tourist attention the movie and the Trapp Family have brought to the city, there have been few efforts to promote them. "The Sound of Music" has had, of course,  phenomenal success worldwide, with Julie Andrews singing her English heart out in the hills of Austria, marrying stiff-necked Christopher Plummer (who hated the movie!)  and forming the Trapp Family singers, escaping from the Nazis into Switzerland (although in actuality, they slipped across the border by train to nearby Italy).  I must say that watching a DVD of "The Sound of Music" in the Mozart Suite at the Sacher Hotel in Salzburg  added further luster to the city and the story, even if the movie is complete dreck, with all those cloyingly cute Hollywood children  and singing nuns. You can easily, however,  pick up a brochure that tells the true story of the Trapp family (who eventually moved to Vermont an opened a lodge-style hotel), and includes a guide to the film's shooting locations around the region, including Nonnberg Convent, Mondsee Church, Residenz Square, Mirabell Gardens, and Leopoldskron Palace Park.



davidburke townhouse
133 E. 61st Street (near Lexington Avenue)


       david Burke has for some time now been among New York's most highly regarded chefs, first distinguishing himself at River Café, then at Park Avenue Café, owned by the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group for which he became VP of Culinary Development.
In 2003, Burke teamed up with Donatella Arpaia to open davidburke & donatella, then went on to open David Burke at Bloomingdale’s, Burke in the Box and David Burke Prime at Foxwoods Resort & Casino,  David Burke’s Primehouse in The James Chicago Hotel,  Fromagerie in Rumson, NJ, David Burke Las Vegas, at Foxwoods Casino & Resort, and, last year,  Fishtail by David Burke in NYC.  Along the way, he has also gotten into food product lines and is a consultant to Hawaiian Tropic Zone in NYC and Las Vegas.   Ooooh-kay.
       If all that seems to be a lot on one man's plate, well, of course it is. And from rampant expansion comes plenty of room for error and a concomitant raising of the media's collective eyebrows about quality control. and real commitment.  Still, after buying out his partner Donatella Arpaia (who herself now runs nine restaurants) at davidburke & donatella, Burke has clearly sought to reclaim eminence at this, his flagship on East 61st Street. A recent visit, with Burke and exec chef Sylvain Delpique in attendance, indicated to me that when he is on, Burke is still one of NYC's most distinctive chefs with a generous style all his own. Some of his signature dishes are in fact still on the menu--the pretzel-coated crabcake and the lobster "steak"--and there is always a flourish in his presentations, which are always more fun than they are pretentious.
      The space has always been oddly configured since this was the old line Italian ristorante Nanni Al Valletto, with three levels and no windows in the high ceilinged  dining room. The bar (left) was once cramped and uninviting, now a glistening, handsome and roomy spot for a cocktail, with small tables set against banquettes. There is a backlighted pink Himalayan salt wall (Burke was among the first to use Himalayan salt blocks in his cooking, too).  The two dining rooms are festooned with Venetian glass balloons, and, for reasons that escape me, there is a dungeon-like door and keys affixed to a rear wall. There is also a wine display that holds a portion of the 5,000 bottles stored here by wine director Jared Shepard.
      The place gets a jolly crowd of regulars and plenty of upper east siders and shoppers from Bloomingdale's nearby, and Burke clearly wants everyone to have fun in a room lacking any stuffiness whatever.  Service fits that theme well.  There's a lot of playfulness on the well-balanced menu, too, starting with a Thai lobster consommé with lobster dumplings, snow peas and pineapple, served in a tall glass vial.  The concoction is delicious.  That signature pretzel-coated crabcake makes a lot of tasty, textural sense really, accompanied by tomato-orange chutney and poppyseed honey.  The "crisp & angry lobster" lives up to its billing, with an assertive whack of basil and lemon-chili sauce.
       Each of these appetizers show that while Burke can have some fun, the resolution on the plate is always about the true flavor of the ingredients, which are never deliberately manipulated in the molecular cuisine style.  Thus, truffled ricotta egg ravioli and shrimp chorizo taste of exactly what they are, with the surprise on the side of julienned apple and olive slaw with a charred tomato vinaigrette. 
      Main dishes are just as whimsical, and portions have long been a hallmark of Burke's cooking. So you get a big "Bronx style filet mignon" of veal and veal cheek tied to orange-infused cauliflower puree and pistachio ravioli.  Cavatelli nubbins are laced with long-braised, deeply flavorful shortribs with wild mushrooms, mushrooms chips, and a truffle mousse--a lavish pasta dish whose ingredients all make perfect, woodsy sense. For something simpler, there is always a whole roasted fish of the day--dorade that evening--with spaghetti and squash and charred tomato vinaigrette (curious, only because he used the same vinaigrette on the truffled ravioli).  The one dish I had that left me scratching my head was a marriage of a rack of lamb with roasted octopus, a cocoa bean romesco, arugula, and saffron mustard.  Little on that plate complemented anything else, and the octopus was, that night, quite fishy.  By the way, even if you don't need them, order the side of whipped potatoes with roasted garlic and lemon--terrific.
   There's still Jennifer Domanski's desserts to go, and they seem not tame by comparison but just about right--a wow of a simple butterscotch panna cotta with crunchy meringue and curried gelée; a caramelized warm apple tart with cider, caramel and dulce de leche ice cream, excellent gelato with cocoa nib foam and hazelnut-chocolate fudge; and then there's his signature cheesecake lollipop tree, which, with its real bubblegum whipped cream and raspberries, might confuse the palate even of a sugar-addicted child.  In any case, it's a $10 supplement to the prix fixe menu, but it serves at least two, if you like that sort of thing.
      So, you're not going to go to davidburke's townhouse for a simple repast.  Nor should you go expecting the extreme forms of avant-garde cuisine that has already become so passé.  You go here for David Burke's cuisine, which is wholly his and reflective of the big guy's generosity of spirit.  Just hope he's there when you go.

David Burke Townhouse is open for brunch Sat. & Sun and dinner nightly.  Starters run $14-$24, main courses $29-$44.





by John Mariani

       Fourth of July, Tacoma Park, 1922

    With the spring and summer holidays coming up, historic restaurants seem to fit the bill for Mom, Dad, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July.

    Although America has always had its taverns and inns serving food ever since the Pilgrims landed here, the restaurant as we know it—a place where you can sit at your own table, have your own waiter, and order from a menu—is of rather recent origin.  None is more famous than Boston’s Durgin-Park Café, still serving much the same kind of New England fare, although you’ll eat just as they did when it opened in 1827, at common tables with visitors from all over the world.

     Full-fledged restaurants began to open in Paris after the fall of the monarchy (the royal cooks needed the jobs), but the word “restaurant” doesn’t even appear in American print until 1824 when novelist James Fenimore Cooper made note of the “renowned Parisian restaurants.”  Seven years later, however, a Swiss sea captain named Giovanni Del-Monico brought the concept to New York’s Wall Street area and named it after himself, Delmonico’s.  Its success made him and his family rich, and he opened successive Delmonico’s further and further uptown, the last at Madison Square. The second of these (left), with marble columns from Pompeii as portals. opened on Beaver Street in 1832, is to this day one of the most popular restaurants in lower Manhattan.

       By then the restaurant had become synonymous with fine dining, and just about every important personage in New York and famous visitor to the city, including Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, dined at “Del’s,” as its competitors, like Rector’s and Louis Sherry’s, became equally notable for the grandeur and scale of their décor and cuisine.

    Other restaurants took their lead from the New York model, and in 1840 Marseilles-born Antoine Alciatore opened Antoine’s on New Orleans' Rue St. Louis in 1840, becoming so much a fixture of the city’s social life—surviving the Civil War, Prohibition, and Hurricane Katrina—that local food writer Gene Bourg contends, “New Orleans without Antoine’s would be like Giza without the Great Pyramid.”  It was at Antoine’s that dishes like oysters Rockefeller were created, and generations of New Orleanians claimed not only their favorite dining rooms but the same waiters over decades.

      As American expanded westward so did the restaurant concept, most often in grand new hotels like the Palmer House in Chicago, the Sinton in Cincinnati, The Planters in St. Louis, and the Brown Palace in Denver, which opened in 1892. Still the best hotel in the city, The Brown Palace  has maintained the glorious Gilded Age décor of its Palace Arms restaurant, a richly paneled, sumptuous place whose wine cellar is a ward winning.  Every U.S. president except Coolidge has visited The Brown Palace.

     Ethnic restaurants—German beer halls, Jewish delis, Italian pizzerias, Mexican chili parlors—proliferated at the end of the 19th century,  including many that are still going strong, like Barbetta (1906, right),  Gargiulo’s (1907), Katz’s Delicatessen (1888), and Heidelberg (1936), all in New York;  Locke-Öber in Boston; and El Cholo, which debuted in Los Angeles in 1923 as one of the first Mexican  eateries to attract a Hollywood celebrity crowd. The L.A. Times has said, “the El Cholo restaurants have pretty much defined Mexican restaurant food in the Southland, and, by extension, most of the rest of the country.” The original, on South Western Avenue, has pretty much kept most of the décor and all of the leafy garden ambiance of those days, and finely honed the hospitality for which it has long been famous. You may still find stars like Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty,  and Tom Hanks dropping by for the margaritas and enchiladas.

     Prohibition crippled fine dining in America throughout the 1920s, when most of the grand dining halls like Louis Sherry’s and Rector’s went out of business for lack of a drinking clientele.  In their stead came the speakeasies, most of them seedy places serving dreadful food and bad booze.  One exception was the notorious `21’ Club, which catered to New York society, show biz, and politicians—Mayor “Beau” James Walker entertained showgirls in the private wine cellar.  The liquor was the best money could smuggle in and the food, while outrageously expensive, among the finest in New York.  Today `21’ is thriving at its original location on West 52nd Street, its colorful jockey statues still stand on the stairs out front, its Remington paintings and sculptures are still arrayed, and its great bar room still hung with corporate toys. Scenes from “All About Eve,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” and “Wall Street” were filmed here.

      Of course, many of the grandest restaurants are in historic American resorts, which once catered only to the very wealthy but which now have large family clientele, and numerous restaurants for every taste. The Breakers, which opened in 1896, in Palm Beach is as spectacular as any resort in the world, with its magnificent verandah and long colonnaded hallways, and its superbly ornate award-winning L’Éscalier dining room (left), which has one of the greatest wine cellars anywhere.

     Much smaller—just 23 rooms--is the Maison de Ville, opened in New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1905. Tennessee Williams wrote “Streetcar Named Desire” here, and James Audubon lived in one of the seven Audubon Cottages nearby. Its Bistro at Maison de Ville has a reputation for  easy-going French fare with a Louisiana lagniappe.

     Few resorts can match the magnificence and period style of the Grand Hotel on Mackanac Island, Michigan, opened in1887, with its 66-foot veranda, its suites named after First Ladies, its pristinely maintained village, and its fabulous main dining room where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served, and its  more rustic, Carleton Varney-decorated Woods restaurant (below), with beamed ceilings and stag’s horns like a Bavarian hunting lodge, and a menu of German specialties like Wiener Schnitzel, pferresteak, and tafelspitz.

     Great food can be found in the most out-of-the-way places, the smallest hole-in-the-wall, and the most spectacular new Vegas casino hotel. But when you add a large dose of American history to the dining experience, you will have a sense of what it was like when sheer wonder was part of the pleasure of dining out. Here are some of my favorites.


Durgin-Park Café, Boston—Opened in 1827 in Faneuil Hall Market, Durgin Park looks pretty much the way it did when workmen and fishermen piled in here for hearty New England dinners at communal tables.  The chowder, the baked scrod, and the Indian pudding are as good as ever, and the waitresses put on a good act of seeming surly.


Delmonico’s, New York—The first true sit-down, white tablecloth, waiter-staffed eating place in America, Delmonico’s set the bar for fine dining in America.  Its second incarnation, on Beaver Street, as of 1832 is still the place the Stock Market guys go to ease their pain at the bar and eat great steaks and chops over dinner.


Antoine’s, New Orleans—Since 1840 Antoine’s has been a rite of passage for generations of New Orleanians who have their favorite room and favorite waiters. The rest of us can bask in the beauty of the front room (left) and feast on signature dishes like oysters Rockefeller and flamed baked Alaska.


The Palace Arms, Denver—Festooned like a Gilded Age hall within the Brown Palace Hotel (1892)--the sumptuous Palace Arms is as perfect for a blow-out celebratory dinner as for a quietly romantic one. Don’t miss the Colorado bison “Rossini” with foie gras, truffles, and Swiss chard.


El Cholo, Los Angeles—A humble opening in 1923 led to El Cholo becoming one of the best Mexican restaurants in California, a beautiful place with leafy patio, killer Margaritas, and a celeb guest list that includes Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Tom Hanks.



`21’ Club
, New York--As infamous during Prohibition as it became famous after its repeal, `21’ has never been a better place to dine and nowhere will you find a truer sense of New York sophistication and swagger in equal parts.  The `21’ burger is as good as they say, the main dining room (left) is still hung with corporate toys, the winelist stellar, the wine cellar worth a look-see.


Grand Hotel, Mackanac Island, Michigan—Since 1887, the Grand Hotel has been the ultimate in American hospitality, not least in its two fine restaurants, the main Dining Room, whose huge size is part of the fun of seeing people, and Woods, a reverie of a Bavarian hunting lodge. The best items are German-inspired, like crisp Wiener Schnitzel and boiled beef called tafelspitz.





The Australian edition of The Pasta Bible  printed a recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto required "salt and freshly ground black people" as ingredients.

 Penguin Australia blamed the issue on a spell-checking program. All 7,000 copies of the book  at the warehouse were destroyed at a cost  of $ 20,000. Penguin also said it would  willingly replace a copy of Pasta Bible owned by anyone who "feels uncomfortable" about having a copy of the book in their possession.





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



* On April 30-May 2 in Hamburg, NJ, the Crystal Springs Resorts hosts the 2nd Annual New Jersey Food & Wine Festival incl. a grand tasting, charity dinner and wine auction, exclusive wine cellar dinners with vertical wine pairings, seminars with winemakers and chefs, and a celebrity chef golf tournament.  Proceeds  to Share Our Strength. Tix $30-$400.  Overnight packages available on the website at Call 888-299-0585.

* On May 1  in NYC, Wildwood BBQ will celebrate the Kentucky Derby  from 11am-7pm. Visit or call 212-260-5444.

* From May 1 – Aug.  1, the Portland On Tap package at the Hotel Monaco Portland in Portland, OR, offers  a taste of the city’s burgeoning microbrewery scene. Package incl. 22 oz bottle of Oregon beer, Oregon Brewers Guild pint glasses, Oregon beer flights at Red Star Tavern & Roast House and a pocket-sized beer tasting notebook. Rates start at $169. Visit  or call 503-222-0001.

* On  May 8 the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, will be hosting a panel discussion called "Recipes of Resilience: Building Sustainable Food Systems in Post-Katrina New Orleans." led by Claire Menck and will incl. speakers representing Mary Queen Viet Nam Community Development Center, the Latino Farmer’s Cooperative, and Our School at Blair Grocery in the Lower 9th Ward. Free for members, $10 for non-members. 504-569-0405 or

On May 15 in Lodi, CA, Lodi Wine Country will host the 6th Annual ZinFest Wine Festival – Wine, Food & Fun at Lodi Lake, with  50+ wineries.     Live music. Browse a diverse selection of merchandise from regional vendors and take home a bottle of ZinFest Commemorative Old Vine Zinfandel, custom blended by Michael-David Family of Wines. $45 pp in advance, $55 pp at the gate. Call the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center at 209-365-0621.

*On May 15, in Chicago, IL, Ben Pao offers a Tofu Cooking Class with  guest Jenny Yang of Phoenix Bean along with  Ben Pao's executive chef Jim Hoveke.  The class includes tofu samples, a $10 Ben Pao gift certificate, and lunch consisting of a variety of Ben Pao's tofu-inspired menu items. $35 pp. Call 312-222-1888 or visit for more information.

* On May 15, in Chicago, IL, Ben Pao offers a Tofu Cooking Class with special guest Jenny Yang of Phoenix Bean and Ben Pao's executive chef Jim Hoveke.   class includes tofu samples, a $10 Ben Pao gift certificate, and lunch consisting of a variety of Ben Pao's tofu inspired menu items. $35 pp.  Call 312-222-1888 or visit

* On May 15 in San Jose, CA, Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row will host a Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Beer Brunch with a 4-course  menu by Chef David Bastide. $40  pp. Call 408-984-3500 or visit

* On May 16, in St. Helena, CA, The Brother Timothy Memorial Dinner Celebration, to benefit the Lasallian Education Fund, will be held at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. The leaders, founders, and owners of 30 wineries will host tables  Dominic Orsini, head chef at Silver Oak Cellars, will preside over the meal. $500 pp, a table of 8 co-hosted by a vintner is $3,000. Call 415-332-3471.


* On May 17, Share Our Strength’s premier culinary event, Taste of the Nation® NYC will be held at the Grand Hyatt NYC, featuring more than 50 of NYC's finest restaurants. $275 pp; $375 pp VIP. Visit or call 877-268-2783.

* On May 17, Thalassa in NYC, will hold a 4-course Wine Dinner hosted by Dennis Cakebread,   co-owner of Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley.   $125 pp.  Call 212-941-7661. . . . On June 7, Thalassa will host a Greek Summer Cooking Class celebrating the summer cocktail party.  Executive Chef Ralpheal Abrahante will demon how to cook Greek mini hors d'oeuvres in the restaurant's open kitchen.  $75 pp. Call 212-941-7661. . . . On June 14, Thalassa iill host a 2nd Summer Cooking Class celebrating the summer cocktail party.  Chef Abrahante will demonstrate how to cook Greek mini desserts in the restaurant's open kitchen.  $75 pp.  Call 212-941-7661.

On May 17, Share Our Strength’s premier culinary event, Taste of the Nation® NYC will be held at the Grand Hyatt New York, with a VIP reception starting at 7pm. More than 50 restaurants will feature signature dishes,. $275 for General Admission and $375 for VIP. Virtual Table packages are also available. Visit <> or calling 1-877-26 TASTE.


* On May 18, in Newton, MA, Chef Michael Leviton of Lumiere restaurant hosts an exciting wine dinner with Robert and Maria Helm Sinskey of Robert Sinskey Vineyards with a menu featuring Tub-Trawled Stonington Maine Halibut, Vermont Quail Breast and Raincrow Ranch Grass-Fed Beef Rib Steak.  $150 pp. Call 617-244-9199 or visit

On May 18 in New York, NY, Children of Bellevue Hosts Tom Colicchio’s 14th Annual “Toast to the Children” Food and Wine Tasting Fundraiser at Gotham Hall, incl. Blue Smoke, Boqueria, Colicchio & Sons, Craft, Double Crown, Graffiti, Hearth, L'Artusi, Pearl Oyster Bar, Peasant, Perilla, Porchetta, Public, and Tabla,  hosted by WNBC's Cat Greenleaf and Uma Thurman. Tickets start at $250. Visit  or call 212-562-4130.

* On May 20 in San Francisco, CA, McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant will host a Hope & Grace Winemaker Dinner with a five-course prix fixe menu prepared by Chef Liz Ozanich. $80.00 pp. Call 415-929-1730 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: RENT A FLAT IN LONDON; PUFFIN WATCH IN MAINE.


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


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

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

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by 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