Virtual Gourmet

October 24,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER



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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.
 THIS WEEK: The New Laws of Dining Out and The Best New Restaurants of the Year.


In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER Valentino's on the Green by John Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN by Christopher Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR Two New Wine Books Declare War Against Wine Geeks by John Mariani



Country Weekends
by John Mariani

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.
--John Keats, "Ode to Autumn" (1819)

       Autumn is surely here, at least in America's more temperate climates, and all that Keats wrote about an English autumn applies--with far more color--to New England and, in a different way, to northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Having had occasion to spend weekends in each of those three regions, I can easily say they are at their best in the fall, when temperatures and ripe fruit drop, leaves dry to gorgeous hues, and the chefs take a good long look at the provender available to them before making their menus.  Here are three stellar resorts where the kitchens are every bit as wonderful as the rooms and the inevitable spas.




155 Alain 155 Alain White Road
Morris,  Connecticut

     Set on 113 acres of the most bucolic of Connecticut landscapes, Winvian, now almost three years old, is a reverie in so many ways of the wholly un-typical New England inn.  For one thing it is spread out among a main house and 18 uniquely designed, themed cottages, including The Artist Cottage, based on a 1920s bungalow concept, with gingerbread exterior, stained windows, and atelier; The Beaver Lodge  (left)  crafted in woodwork and stone; The huge Stone Cottage,  constructed entirely from Connecticut boulders; The Secret Society,  a cunning nod to New England's fraternal societies like Yale's Skull and Bones;  The Golf Cottage, complete with interior putting greens of fake grass; and, among others, the amazing Helicopter Cottage, which encloses  a fully restored 1968 Sikorsky HH37 Sea King Pelican helicopter.  There is a superb spa, bocce and horseshoe courts, badminton, and a game room, and  the Litchfield area offers self-guided canoeing and kayaking,  car racing up at Limerock, clay shooting, fishing on the beautiful Housatonic River, hot air ballooning, golf at Fairview Farm, and on a paddleboat on Bantam Lake.
      Owner Maggie Smith has seen to every detail, not least in giving Chef Chris Eddy carte blanche to create wonderful breakfast, lunch and dinners--and pack picnic baskets--with what he feels is the best of the season, much of it plucked that very day from his huge and growing garden. With a background in the kitchens of Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud, he marries French, American, and international flavors deftly, subtly, without clashes or mismatches, evident in a recent dinner I attended where he began with hamachi ceviche with yuzu just glossed with Spanish olive oil, followed by impeccably cooked, fat lobster with a classic, light quenelle of pike, both dressed with a decadently  rich lobster jus, accompanied by a Parallel Russian River 2008 Chardonnay.   Next came a perfectly cooked pink pigeon atop salad greens and luscious, seared foie gras, served with Morris Ranch 2007 Pinot Noir, then a duo of beef--well-marbled tenderloin and juicy braised flatiron steak--with potatoes boulanger, with a Black Coyote Reserve 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The evening ended with patîssier Gile Ballay's delicate  rendering of local apple desserts and petits fours. The winelist, which can be accessed for private or in-room dining, is exemplary, with bottlings from 37 regions and 13 countries, and while there are some amazing trophy wines here, there is also a judicious selection of fairly tariffed labels and half-bottles.
      If such a menu does not sound extraordinary in its conception, it is not. Instead, it is exceptional in its artful balance of flavors and textures, richness and lightness, a ballet of refined culinary moves that makes Eddy a chef's chef, someone whose mastery of his ingredients only serves to make him all the more inquisitive as to how to bring out their best qualities. It is the kind of place you could literally eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and perhaps never see the same dish twice, although when my wife and I came down to breakfast to warm, buttery croissants and truffled farm fresh eggs, I begged them never to remove them from the menu. I might well have said the same of just about everything else I savored here.

2525 Allison Lane
Newberg, Oregon


     The Willamette (pronounced Wil-LAM-ette) Valley still maintains a rusticity that was sadly long ago lost in Napa. The farmlands and wineries are not quite so manicured, the rolling hills seem to stretch for miles without a condo in sight, and the hotels are few and far between. One that respects that distance is the new Allison,  set on 35 acres about 45 minutes from Portland and within striking distance of 200 wineries; you can literally peer into the vineyards of Parrett Mountain, Chehalem Mountains and Dundee Hills.
    This LED certified resort has 
85 rooms with  20 Suites, all with a private terrace or balcony and fireplace.  Deluxe guestrooms run $295-325, grand deluxe $325-375, one-bedroom suites $450-550, two-bedroom suites $900-1100. There is a spa and indoor pool, and nearby is the new  Chehalem Glenn golf course, along with options for hot air ballooning, helicopter winery tours, cycling, equestrian, heritage sites and museums, including Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (home of ‘Spruce Goose’) in nearby McMinnville.
     The restaurant at The Allison is named Jory, with 100 seats,
and features the stellar varietal of the Valley, pinot noir, in profusion, along with pinots from around the world. There is a Chef’s Table in the Open Kitchen that seats eight,  a private dining room seating 10,   and informal counter seating  and terrace.    The adjacent Bar offers 50 wines by-the-glass available.
     Chef Sunny Jin obviously has great local bounty to draw from; right outside the kitchen door is the restaurant's own garden, which produces everything from mascara lettuce and Easter egg radishes to Oregon giant snow peas and Bloomside spinach.  With these, along with meats whose provenance is identified on the menu, Jin puts a lot on the plate, sometimes a few too many ingredients, but the results are impressive, beginning with his Yukon Gold potato gnocchi with baby artichokes, porcini, favas, and shaved Parmigiano, as well as some lush basil agnolotti with English peas, carrots and pea tendrils.  The simple presentation of glorious morel mushrooms (left) is everything you could ask from such a regional cornucopia. There seems a slight tendency to overcook meats here, so note the degree of doneness you want. Very good indeed was Atherton lamb loin with merguez sausage, peppery harissa-flavored chickpeas, red peppers, cilantro, and eggplant, while seared Alaskan halibut came with braised endive, roasted fingerlings, apricot coulis and pistachios for crunch.  My favorite dessert was a chocolate hazelnut jaconde cake with vanilla ice cream and sour cream caramel.
      Sitting overlooking that golden land at dusk, a glass of Oregon Late Harvest Riesling in hand--whether it's from Jory or your room--is one of the loveliest and newest pleasures in the Willamette Valley, which until now has had nothing that comes close to this level of luxury.



6774 Washington Street
Yountville, California           

     The town of Yountville has acquired a legitimate claim to being the smallest place on earth to have the most illustrious restaurants, first off, Thomas Keller's French Laundry; in addition, there are Bouchon, Bottega, Domaine Chandon, and Bistro Jeanty, all among the best  in Napa Valley.
      The newest implant is the Hotel Luca, an Italian-style villa with 20 rooms done up in  Italian linens and large California bathrooms.  Its quiet is one of the most pleasant of its appeals,  the rooms tucked away from a never-busy main street.  It is run by the Mirabel Hotel & restaurant Group of Carmel, which also runs the Cantinetta Luca and L'Auberge de Carmel, all small, all intimate. The new Yountville property has all the amenities of a Napa Valley resort, including spacious rooms and the wonderful California-size bathrooms, with heated floors. The walls are set with fine photographic artwork, and the enclosed patios, some with fireplaces, are extremely relaxing.
     The 80-seat restaurant is called Cantinetta Piero, said to feature the foods of Tuscany, though the menu rolls all over the Italian map. The night I dined there Chef Craig DiFonzo was away, but his staff delivered a good meal based on very well-selected ingredients. It's a handsome, casual and rustic setting, with a 15-foot vaulted ceiling set with rafters, a pizza bar and open kitchen, and wide glass doors open to a patio dining area with olive trees. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Best way to begin here is with the Italian charcuterie and country bread glossed with olive oil--a range of salumi including soppressata, finocchiona, Speck, wild boar, and housemade nostrano. A generous selection of eight is $24. Grilled octopus makes for another fine antipasto. The pizza also ranks with some of the best in the Valley.
      The pastas are the real stars at Cantinetta Piero, like the bucatini all'amatriciana rich with pancetta and spiked with chili; ravioli are plumped with pumpkin and amaretti cookies--a traditional holiday pasta--with ricotta and brown butter, chanterelles, almonds, and Brussels sprouts (which is not) traditional). A fine bolognese sauce dresses the pappardelle and risotto is a delicate dish with sweet Dungeness crab and preserved lemon and peas.
    For an entree, the 24-ounce bistecca all fiorentina is a stand-out, good to share with two friends, and the roast chicken is juicy and crispy, scented with lemon and rosemary.
    Desserts follow a lovable Italian  line, with vanilla panna cotta and scrumptious chocolate-butterscotch budino.
    After dinner, a stroll through Yountville is in order, peeking through the windows of the other restaurants, smelling the herbs from The French Laundry's garden, and meeting nice people from near and far in this magical, easygoing small California town.

Dinner antipasti run $8-$12, pastas $16-$19, main courses $26-$56.


by John Mariani

Valentino's on the Green
201-­‐10  Cross  Island    Parkway
Bayside,  Queens

    You can see it from the Cross Island Parkway, set just an exit away from the Throgs Neck Bridge, and although it does not look like the 1920s mansion you might expect as a former residence of silent movie star Rudolph Valentino, it has a spacious, spread-out look of a Long Island mansion.  Well-regarded NYC chef Don Pintabona, formerly at Dani and TriBeCa Grill, and partner Giorgia Kolaj took the premises over in September, and after extensive rehab have  fashioned  them to be a gregarious, multi-room restaurant and celebration venue, with the Valentino Room seating 60, the Vigneto seating 20, the Fiorello 70, and the upstairs banquet room 220.  The downstairs dining rooms (below) are extremely comfortable, with lots of varnished wood, commodious chairs and banquettes, and upstairs there are bright new banquet rooms.
     The menu is Italian with a "per la tavola" section offering cheeses and salumi, stuffed artichokes, and Littleneck Clams, while the cold appetizer items include a very finely texture, rosy rare-seared yellowfin tuna; the hot ones include grilled housemade sausage, fried calamari, and mussels steamed in Prosecco sparkling wine.
     There are already some signature dishes here, not least the delicious pasta al forno Zio Vincenzo, made with mortadella salami, smoked scamorza cheese, egg and sausage.  Also very good are the ravioli with four cheese and plum tomato-basil sauce, and tender cavatelli in a rich, gutsy braised short ribs ragù with wild mushrooms, ricotta and aroma of rosemary--terrific.
      The osso buco comes in a red wine reduction and is a massive shank, easy enough to take home for tomorrow's lunch, and the rib-eye, at 20 ounces, is of excellent quality, cooked perfectly.  There are some "classico" Italian-American items, too, like pork cutlet Milanese with the addition of fig sauce and apple mostarda, and creamy eggplant rollatini.  The best dish is named after Valentino's second wife, Natacha Rambova--two broiled, spicy lobsters with Tuscan beans, broccoli di rabe, crisp onions and a brandied lobster sauce dashed with a little Russian vodka--maybe a new "classico" in the making.  The side to have is the mascarpone polenta.
      Chef Lauren Ragone delivers a cheery fall dessert in apple-almond crostata with a honey gelato and a vanilla affogato with hot zeppole fritters dusted with cinnamon sugar.
        Veteran wine director Don Castaldo has come aboard and is busy building a list in every category and price range that should soon rank with the best on Long Island.
        Valentino's on the Green is easily accessible and has a fine view of the water, and for an easy getaway from Manhattan or Queens, it has some of the best Italian food in the area. It's worth crossing any bridge to get to.

Antipasti run $7-$14, full-portion pastas $16-$23, entrees $20-$49.       



by Christopher Mariani


      This past weekend I was down in Florida catching some rays at the famous Boca Raton Resort.  I dined at almost every restaurant on the property and will be reporting on them and my entire stay within the  month, but I can’t resist sharing with you one lunch that stood out as the highlight of my weekend.  The meal took place at the Resort’s newest restaurant, 501 East, (left) featuring burgers, ribs, short ribs, and steaks, real “Man Food.”  The restaurant opened in early June, replacing its predecessor, the Old Homestead Steak House.  The interior of 501 is just as masculine as its food, with high farmhouse ceilings with giant wooden crossbeams, yellow lamps hanging from each table’s life-size silver longhorns, and five enormous flat screen TVs located at the restaurant’s rectangular bar, great for watching sports.  The food and operations are overseen by Executive Chef Andrew Roenbeck and restaurant chef Troy Bonghi.  It was not only the food that made this dining experience so enjoyable, it was the pairing of nine different beers, all selected by resort chef John Rudolph, one of the resort’s young culinary talents.  Here is a rundown of the beer and food parings put together on that wonderful afternoon:

Blue Moon Belgium White (5.4%)--The Blue Moon had a very hazy, pale, orange color owing to the fact that it is un-filtered, leaving behind traces of yeast sediment throughout the beer.  The flavor of the beer has little to no “hoppiness,” a very citrusy orange flavor, and even a hint of coriander spicing.  Chef Roenbeck paired this beer with a shrimp dish coated by a citrus and cilantro mango sauce served over a pink salt rock.

Orange Blossom Pilsner (5.5%)--The Orange Blossom Pilsner comes from one of the few Florida-based breweries, Thomas Creek Brewery in Orlando.  This pilsner has a honey color similar to a burnt orange and a very white head of foam.  The aroma is very malty and floral, followed by a strong taste of honey, orange, and hops, in that order.  The Orange Blossom Pilsner also had terrific lacing, a term used to describe the residue of foam left on the interior of the beer glass once the foam has settled.  Chef Rudolph explained lacing as similar  to the meaning to that of wine “legs” left on the wine glass after the act of swirling.

Harvest Moon (5.7%)--Harvest Moon was created by the Coors Brewing Company and is a variation of the Blue Moon Belgium White mentioned above.  The Harvest Moon has an almost copper appearance with a tan colored head of foam.  The smell of the beer includes scents like sweet caramel, ginger and allspice, very different from the other nine beers tested that afternoon.  The taste is quite similar to that of the smell, also with hints of nutmeg and pumpkin, actually added during the brewing process.  The Harvest Moon was paired with a well-fatted order of short ribs drizzled with a rich jus and sided by an order of fried sweet potato gnocchi, possibly the best food and beer combination of the day.

Brooklyn Lager (5.2%)--The Brooklyn Lager was my favorite beer of the day.  The lager is golden brown in color with an off-white head of foam.  The flavors are bold, lots of hops, a pineyness and just a touch of sweetness, a perfect match for fried or smoky foods.  The owner of the Brooklyn Brewery, Garrett Oliver, is also the author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the pleasures of real beer with real food.  I haven’t read the book, but after this lunch I agree that great beer pairs terrifically with great food.  Chef Roenbeck sent out an order of ribs (left) flavored with brown sugar, paprika, pepper and tamarind.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest (5.3%)--What would be October with out a little Octoberfest?  The beer is brewed in a Marzen style, creating its deep red amber color.  The beer itself is very sweet and nutty with slight hints of fruitiness, uncharacteristic of most lagers.  Sam Adams Octoberfest is traditionally served in a sturdy beer mug to withstand the constant abuse of hard drunken glass clinking, getting knocked over onto the ground, and being held by its glass handle along with five other mugs carried by a beautiful beer lady.  The beer was paired with a mini-burger topped with smoked bacon, a Dijon dressing, and aged cheddar (below).  The actual meat was a combination of 501 East’s short ribs, brisket and sirloin, all hand molded before being grilled.

Roque Dead Guy Ale— (6.7%)--Moving on to the stronger and higher alcohol per volume selections, we tried the Roque Dead Guy Ale, brewed in a German Maibock style.  The beer had a very deep amber color and a sweet malty noise.  The taste of the beer was filled with surprising flavors of toffee, spices and even black tea.  Chef paired the beer with a crispy pierogi filled with portabello, chanterelle, and hen of wood mushrooms, topped by caramelized onions and sour cream.  This was a dish that I could’ve eaten the entire afternoon, skipping all its predecessors and dishes that followed, well, maybe not the short ribs.

Midas Touch—Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (9%)--The Midas touch was not my favorite beer of the day but possibly the most interesting in terms of flavor because of its uniqueness.  The flavors range from an initial blast of sweet honey to a flavor of wine grapes and even a touch of spice, all brought together by a minimal amount of carbonation.  The Midas Touch physically resembles a dessert wine, an almost identical resemblance to a Sancere.  This beer was tasted alone, but tastes like it would pair great with Indian food, or anything with a little spice.

Double Mocha Porter—Rouge Ales (8.2%)--The Double Mocha Porter was presented to us in a snifter glass that looked like it was filled with an espresso, with extreme lacing when swirled.  The appearance is almost pitch black with a very brownish head of foam.  Not only did the beer look like an espresso but also tasted and smelled like an espresso with a strong presence of dark chocolate.  The beer has almost no carbonation and was paired with chocolate s'mores topped with homemade marshmallows.

501 East may be the newest addition to a terrific list of diverse restaurants on the Boca Raton Resort property, including the seafood inspired Seagrille, Lucca, an Italian ristorante, Morimoto, a Japanese sushi bar, and Cielo, on the top floor of the pink tower, but it may be one of the best, if not the best.

 To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to christopher@johnmariani



Two New Wine Books Declare War Against Wine Geeks
by John Mariani

    The barrage of inane glossy books about matching wines to every food imaginable seems to have ceased this season in favor of books that bring the global flux of wine into better perspective.  They reclaim good sense and historical perspective to wine in the face of so much rapid change in the way wines are made, marketed, shipped, and sold around the world.
These are not massive encyclopedic tomes. The best wine writing has always been in small, personal books, like Terry Theise’s new Reading between the Wines (U. of California Press, 189 pages, $24.95), a book that can be read in an evening with a bottle of wine alongside. Theise is an importer of Champagnes and Austrian and German wines, so he knows how the market works by brandishing high-scoring wines on a 100-point scale, as if there is any difference at all between a wine scoring 92 and 95 was tasted and spit out along with 70 other wines in the same morning.  His approach can be summed up in what he so sensibly prefers: “I’d far rather read the genial musings of a humane spirit mulling over the little nimbus between his soul and the wine in the glass than to see how many arcane adjectives some anal geek can strong together.”

Theise is a true wine writer, not a compiler of notes and numbers, so he can extol a wine in a way that the oenophile can truly appreciate its character and nuances. He reminds the reader that “the most successful wine isn’t always the one with the highest score, it is the one the tasters reach for to drink after the tasting. `The best wine is the first one emptied,’ is a wise proverb.”

He is as shocked as any reasonable person should be at California cult wines that bound into the market with no prior history, recalling how a wine salesman whose dream was to “make wine” went out and bought grapes, had them “custom-crushed” for him by a “hired gun” winemaker out of U.C. Davis, then offered the finished wine for $125, at which time, writes Theise, “I knew the world had gone mad.”

Theise reminds us how certain wines are inextricably linked to human emotions and memories—the day a child was born, the night a father died—and he remains staunchly catholic in his belief that, “There are no `invalid’ moments of pleasure in wine,” only higher and lower pleasures, but insisting that “it’s good to stay in touch with your inner redneck, or you risk your taste becoming precious.”  Thiese is a man I’d like to drink with.  Anything.

      I have happily drunk wine with Matt Kramer, whose new collection of essays fills Matt Kramer on Wine (Sterling Epicure, 334 pages, $19.95), whose cover line calls him America’s most “Lucid Wine Writer,” and I’m good with that. Kramer is a columnist for Wine Spectator Magazine and loves nothing more than to puncture the pretensions of the same kind of wine writing Thiese deplores.  Kramer even has a hilarious essay on an imaginary visit to his doctor, telling him, “This is gonna be a little difficult to explain. . . . I’m afraid that I’m becoming a geek” and confessing his anxieties about wondering what’s the right glass for various cru Beaujolais.
      In fact, Kramer is never anything less than good fun to read, even when he’s being highly critical.  He characterizes the salivating human response to wines with the deepest color, most attractive nose, and scent as the “Low-Cut Dress Syndrome,” and he skewers California winemakers who contend it’s a “Good Thing” to drive alcohol content in their wines up to 17 percent (“about the limit of what a yeast can ferment before it dies from alcohol toxicity”), then “waters back” the juice—“jargon for taking a garden hose and pumping water into the vat” to dilute it back to a still high 15.5 percent.
      He takes on the manipulators who use lab techniques like reverse osmosis and microoxygenation, saying it de-humanizes the wine, comparing it to a Tour de France rider using performance-enhancing drugs.  “Want proof?” asks Kramer. “Recall (if you can) the taste of real cream compared with today’s ubiquitous ultrapasteurized versions . . . . We’re at a crossroads.  The fight for the soul of wine has begun.”
      Kramer wrote that in 2001, and the battle was joined by many of his colleagues, including myself, who believe that a passion for tradition is not at all the same thing as mere nostalgia.  With Kramer on the front lines, we have a good shot at pushing back the forces for whom wine is really only a commodity to be both rated by and priced by the numbers

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.



Responding to complaints about the noise made by eating from its SunChips biodegradable, recyclable bags, Frito-Lay is switching to the old plastic bags for most flavors. Groups on Facebook complained that "I wanted SunChips but my roommate was sleeping" and "Nothing is louder than a SunChips bag."


"If you want sushi shaped like a serpent in a lake of vermouth fire, take your pleather mini elsewhere."--Kevin Pang, "Chizakaya," Chicago Tribune.


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

From now thru Nov. 4, Hakubai Restaurant at The Kitano New York Hotel will participate in the Asian Restaurant Week, organized by the Asia Culture Exchange Org. The restaurant will feature a 3-course meal for $25 pp for lunch and $35 pp for dinner. Call 212-885-7111 or

* From Oct. 18 to Nov. 7, Jean-Louis in Greenwich, CT, offers a  Prix fixe Menu at $35 pp only, in collaboration with the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Maitres Cuisiniers de France. A special wine selection by the glass featuring Alsace and Cotes du Rhone. Call 203-622-8450. . . . On Nov. 19, Beaujolais Nopuveau luncheon featuring Laurent Drouhinand Duboeuf too. $50 pp. Call 203-622-8450.

* Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22 - Dec. 31 Two E at The Pierre in NYC will be celebrating the hotel's 80th Anniversary with a trio of organic caviars and oyster tasting. by Executive Chef Stephane Becht's tasting menu for $65pp with additional wine or vodka pairings for $14pp.  Call 212-940-8113  or visit

* On Oct. 27 Quartino in Chicago will celebrate Chef John Coletta’s cookbook 250 True Italian Pasta Dishes at October Wine Bash.  Sparkling wine, rosé selections and pasta samplings from the cookbook will be served.  $20 pp.  Call 312-698-5000 or visit

* On Oct. 29, the Cooking School at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, CA, is hosting two classes by Christoph and Isabell Wiesner of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association to teach seam butchery, charcuterie and a cooking class, all featuring the Mangalitsa pig.  $95 pp and the cooking class and sit-down dinner at 6 p.m. is $145pp. Call 888-651-2003 or visit

*  On Oct. 30, in Dallas, Chef Stephan Pyles will host a unique food experience celebrating the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos at his namesake restaurant, Stephan Pyles.  $105 pp.  Call Brandi Gray 214-999-1229 ext 112 or email

* On Oct. 30, Orient Express in New York, NY, will have a “Murder on the Orient Express” hallows eve, inspired à la Agatha Christie’s famed novel.  Staff will be dressed like characters from the novel, Clue board games will be on hand for customers to play, and 3 Halloween themed cocktails will be available in addition to the regular menu of vintage cocktails and small plates. Call 212-691-8845.

*  On Oct. 30 & 31 in Wash. D.C., Chef Robert Weland and Poste Moderne Brasserie will host a Halloween-themed ‘Ghost Roast’ at Poste featuring spit-roasted capretto in the courtyard and costume contest. 3-course dinner plus beverage pairings $48 pp. 202-783-6060 or visit

On October 30 in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will participate in a Day of the Dead Celebration with the New Orleans Office of Health Policy and AIDS funding, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and the Mexican Consulate. With readings, music, food, and Day of the Dead altars, we will welcome the Mexican and Latin American tradition to New Orleans. Free and open to the public. Visit <>  for more information.

* On Nov. 2 in Point Reyes Station, CA, Osteria Stellina will host a wine dinner with Pey-Marin Vineyards., incl. an hors d’oeuvre wine reception for $35 and a 4-course wine dinner for $80 pp.  The reception and dinner combined is $110 pp . Call 415- 663-9988,

* On Nov. 4, in ChicagoLa Madia Chef / Owner Jonathan Fox and Chef de Cuisine Brandon Wolff will host winemaker David Hirsch for a 6-course feast that will pair seasonal cuisine with the celebrated wines of Hirsch Vineyards.  Call 312-329-0400 or visit

*  On Nov. 4 in Phoenix, AZ, the Arizona Biltmore will host a “Winemaker Dinner” featuring a reception and four-course gourmet menu paired with the wines of Francis Ford Coppola Winery of Sonoma, CA. A haute couture element will be fashion and jewelry shows by Saks Fifth Avenue.  $95 pp.  Call 602-381-7632 or visit

* On Nov. 5-7, The Joule Dallas will host "The Big Red" celebrating Texas wine and agriculture. Hosted by Charlie Palmer and Scott Romano, incl. the Texas Red Hoe-Down (a Master Sommeliers tasting to select The Big Red), a Game Time - Tournament Cook-off using in-season Texas game meat featuring Charlie Palmer and Dean Fearing vs. Michael & Brian Voltaggio of Bravo’s Top Chef, and The Big Red Gala, where the winner of The Big Red will be revealed. (After-party will be held in The Joule’s Penthouse). $50 pp - $250 pp.* Nov. 9 – 13 in Sausalito, CA Poggio will offer their 7th annual Festa del Tartufo Bianco with a special Piemontese menu featuring imported white truffles. Market price. 415-332-7771 or

 * On Nov. 7, McCormick & Kuleto’s (415/929-1730) in San Francisco, CA and Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto (510-845-7771) in Berkeley, CA will be offering all U.S. military veterans a free lunch or dinner entrée in appreciation for their service to our country.

* On Nov. 11, Longest Chef’s Table in Dallas, TX benefits Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Top Chef DC Season 7 Fan Favorite and Top Chef All-Star Season 8 Chef’Testant Tiffany Derry, Go Fish Ocean Club, Dallas; Chef Tamesha Warren, Top Chef DC Chef’Testant, The Oval Room, Washington, DC; Dean Fearing, Fearing’s, The Ritz Carlton, Dallas; Chris Ward, The Mercury, Dallas; John Tesar, DRG Concepts; Tim Byres, Smoke, Dallas; and more.  Six courses with wines and desserts.  $125 pp.  Call 214-561-8860 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: AMSTERDAM--THE IDEAL DAY


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: Christopher Mariani, 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.

 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