Virtual Gourmet

December 5,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER



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

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

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

DINING OUT IN DC by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER adour ALAIN DUCASSE NY by John and Christopher Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN: 1500 Degrees, Miami by Christopher Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Robert Oatley Does It Again  by Mort Hochstein



by John Mariani

   Capital city dining has very little to do with politics,  now that our highly lobbied legislators are not supposed to accept so much as a slice of pizza from vested interests.  But the restaurants are full, and new ones pop up all the time.  Here are some of the best of the current crop.



1100 New York Avenue



     Ten years ago the idea of an Indian restaurateur, even one as accomplished as Ashok Bajaj, opening a ristorante in Washington would have made Italophiles wince. For however high Bajaj’s expertise at running superb power haunts like the Oval Room and one of America’s finest Indian restaurants, Rasika, the effrontery would have been difficult to blunt. Now, with greater access to great Italian ingredients and a chef named Nicholas Stefanelli who’s worked with Roberto Donna at Galileo in DC and Fiamma in New York, the chances were good that they could pull off something creditable.

     Did they ever! Bibiana is the best Italian restaurant to open in the capital in years, as true to form as it is stylish all on its own, with huge mural photos of Roman icons, from the Coliseum to a vintage Vespa.  Indeed, Bibiana gives the lie to those stuffed shirts who continue to contend that there is no authentic cucina italiana in America.  What fools! They should be so lucky as to dine at Bibiana.
        You might begin with an array of fine imported charcuterie or go to antipasti like "Black Pizza" made with an octopus salami, tomato, garlic, capers, and red chili; or braised polpette meatballs with white polenta and gremolata; or braised and fried beef testa with mostarda radish and green tomato; sweetbreads are smoked over hay then combined with Jerusalem artichoke puree, a little anchovy and black truffles.  

     The secret to all good cooking is constant care, and that’s what Stefanelli delivers, whether it’s the grilled Mediterranean sardines with peperonata and breadcrumbs, the cavatelli pasta made with burnt wheat called grano arso, with fennel sausage, broccoli di rabe, and chili, or the gently steamed cod with fennel and onion compote.Canaroli risotto, gently cooked to a light creaminess, comes with taleggio cheese, green apple, and apple salad, while agnolotti are packed with ricotta, a tangy lemon, marjoram and spinach.
      Clearly Stefanelli (left) puts a lot of the best stuff up front, though the or the entrees, in the Italian tradition, are a little simpler, although not by much, like his poached wild striped bass, braised fennel, almond puree and dill. Red mullet comes with leeks, charred eggplant puree, and pistachios,  while the meats to try are the lamb with shallots and parsley root or the grilled strip steak with salsa verde, radicchio, and lardo.
     Desserts range from a bombo  al cioccolato  to a cassata siciliana, and the restaurant even offers its own Sicilian-a spiced and flavored amari digestives.
     The design of Bibiana, with 120 seats, is done up in 
dark wood, layers of art glass, black leather and Milanese lighting accents, with black and white photos of iconic Italian architecture.   that speak of high-style Milano design.

Antipasti are $8-$14, pastas $18-$21, main courses $24-$29.


1099 New York Avenue, NW


             I won't even attempt pronouncing Againn, which is Gaelic for "with us" and sounds nothing like it looks. 
It's an odd name really for a modern British pub of a kind I wish they had more of in the UK, where pubs have generally languished for decades serving the same dreary food. Exec Chef Wesley Morton will have none of that, and you'd never mistake this handsome 5,600 square-foot, 140-seat restaurant features  and 19-seat bar--there are also 130 private Scotch lockers you can reserve per year for $500--and  patio seating for 20.
     The black-and-white interior draws on a few traditional decorous touches--
dark paneling, roomy booths, tilework, raw bar--with neat additions like faux fox heads in shadowboxes.
      The menu will not disappoint anyone looking for traditional pub fare, but at Againn it's all done with Morton's flare, from
cured Lock Duart salmon salad served with fennel, watercress and pumpernickel; to a hearty shepherd’s pie; House-made corned beef comes with an assertive with horseradish crème, brown bread and pickles, and the  Scottish Highland beef burger comes on house-made bun with caramelized onions, farmstead Cheddar and chips; with malt vinegar. Of course, there's bangers and mash, done in a very rich, dark gravy atop buttered mashed potatoes (left). I love the idea of starting off with a "pint of prawns"  and the charcuterie is gutsy. No pub is complete with fish and chips and the  ale-battered fish fingers with English egg sauce are first rate here, certainly the best in town.  Somebody's "Grandmother's Roast Chicken" is here with root vegetables and bacon, along with braised Shenandoah shoulder of lamb, and a roast of the day.
     For dessert a modern sticky toffee pudding is served with toffee sauce and stout ice cream, and there's  and chocolate Cambridge cream pecan shortbread, jam cookie and ginger snap.
      In every case there is a decided tilt to the best American ingredients to buoy the British dishes, and that's not only reasonable but improves the quality of such dishes immensely.  Againn is a very likable place to hang out, have a beer, down some oysters, or have a full meal, and it's got expansionism written all over it if it clicks in DC.


Againn is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat. Starters run  $6 to $15, entrees $22-$32 at dinner.


1527 17th Street, NW
202- 332-6767


      Washington has no lack of Middle Eastern-style restaurants, from cheap eateries like Cafe Diwan to Meze in Dupont Circle and Zikrayet in Alexandria. Agora focuses more specifically on the savory food of Turkey, via chef

Ghassan Jarrouj and  pastry chef  Imam Gozubuyuk, with a good proportion of its offerings cooked over a wood-fired oven and charcoal fired BBQ grill.
      The place itself doesn't seem like it seats 170 because only 74 are on the first floor, while a patio seats 34 more. The decor is not going to put you in mind of restaurants in Istanbul, for its brick walls and bar are almost requisite in DC bars and bistros.

       As in most restaurants of this kind, you should get together a gang of four or more, order anything and everything on the mezes menu and have a ball.  At Agora that means exotic cheeses like kasar, helim,tulum; stuffed eggplant with onions and tomatoes; grilled octopus with capers, olive oil, lemon, and vinegar; mucver zucchini pancakes; crispy phyllo borek rolls with goat's cheese; and much more.  Hpiti (below) is a dreamy blend of roasted peppers, thyme, and olive oil. "Chef’s Borek" is a phyllo roll with goat's cheese, herbs, and crushed peppers.

Crispy phyllo roll, goat cheese with savory herb and crushed peppers  A simple mash of fava bean with olive oil is cause for celebration of wholesome goodness.

      Seafood items include pan=seared brook trout with black olives; turbot simply brushed with lemon and honey and seasoned with oregano; and dorade with grilled lemon. Then there are the meat dishes, like charbroiled grilled lamb and spicy chicken wings in the Turkish style. I love the manti--Turkish ravioli stuffed with beef in a red pepper and lush garlic-yogurt sauce.
      To scoop it all up there are those steamy, smoky breads like peynirli pide stuffed with feta and kasa cheese and lamacun topped with ground meats, tomato and parsley. Sukulu pide is topped with spicy sausage.

      Desserts are not nearly as sweet as they too often are in the Middle East.
        Twenty wines by the glass are offered  (ranging from $5 to $20)., with others by the ¼ liter, ½ liter , along with Mediterranean beers and Turkish ouzo.

        So, you and your friends will be quite happy and quite full, depending on how much you order or can stop yourself from ordering.  And with low prices here, you can order a lot and get out feeling light in the wallet.

Agora is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch Sat. & Sun.,  and for dinner nightly.  Prices range from $5 to $13.




6825 Redmond Drive

McLean, VA


    It has become something of a cliché  to say that a chef, especially an Italian chef, cooks "con amore," with love.  But all you have to do is  meet Beatrice Zelaya (below), owner and chef of Capri in McLean, VA, and you'll feel that this is as true and authentic a way to describe her  cooking as could be. Her maternal heart and soul are in all that she does, and while her English is weak, her heart and spirit are very strong.  Nothing makes her happier than to see her guests well fed.

     "My name is Beatrice Zelaya," she writes on Capri's website. "In 1976, I was lucky and fortunate to be part of a well-known restaurant, Romeo & Juliet on DC's K Street--fortunate because I worked with incredible people such as Mrs. Juliet, the heart of the kitchen in those days. Also Roberto Donna and Savino Recino in the prime of their careers. And Mr. Romeo Salta from the famous Romeo Salta restaurant in Manhattan. In addition, I was part of the opening of Galileo and Primi Piatti restaurants in DC, the leading Italian restaurants of the 80's & 90's. Eventually, I went to Potomac to take over Renato restaurant, which has become a landmark today. Now I am happy to announce that I am at Capri in McLean."

      So the woman's résumé is in no doubt, for she is from a long line of classic Italian cooks, and the discipline and attention to detail shows in everything she sends from the kitchen, beginning with antipasti like her eggplant parmigiana, rich with tomato and mozzarella, and her mussels cooked in a light and spicy fra diavolo sauce, with toasted Italian bread. A simple salad of arugula comes with goat's cheese, walnuts, and cherry tomatoes, dressed with the best virgin olive oil and a squirt of lemon for acid.
      Among the pastas you'll love are the paglia e fieno of white and green angel's hair spaghetti with diced prosciutto and baby peas  mixed with mascarpone and put under the broiler, as close as any example come to the original at Harry's Bar in Venice. The agnolotti with spinach and ricotta are, of course, housemade, and Beatrice's meatballs are terrific, a reminder of what meatballs used to taste like before getting all trendy.  Calamari, mussels and clams are abundant in a plate of linguine with a seafood reduction. Risotto with large shrimp is prepared perfectly al dente--both rice and crustacean.
      Zuppa di pesce (right) is a signature dish here, again with mussels, clams, and calamari, with the addition of shrimp and tilapia in white wine, saffron and peeled tomatoes. If you favor meat, have the simply done breaded veal scaloppine milanese style, with arugula and cherry tomatoes, or any of the grilled chicken dishes.
      As you might expect, Beatrice is family oriented and thus offers a children's menu, including individual pizzas.
      The wine lists has substance and good prices across the board.
      So, if you like restaurants where the food is both an expression of the chef's individuality and the chef is the person who gives the restaurant its warmth, Capri is a place well worth a short drive outside of DC to experience.

Capri is open for lunch Mon.Fri. and for dinner nightly. Antipasti run $6-$9.95, full pastas $14-$19.95, entrees $18-$23.



by John and Christopher Mariani

Photos by Bruce Buck

St. Régis Hotel

2 East 55th Street (near Fifth Avenue)

       Adour Alain Ducasse NY is now almost three years old and has settled in, after a few chefs de cuisine changes, into one of New York's finest French restaurants, with all that implies in elegance, grand luxury, impeccable service, and, of course, haute cuisine.        Still, Adour ADNY is not the most expensive French restaurant in town. Even if you ordered on the highest end of  the 3-course à la carte, say, the bill, (before wine, tax, and tip) would be $92, with  wonderful breads, amuse bouches, and petit-fours thrown into the bargain.  Consider that a prix fixe three-course menu at Restaurant Daniel is $105, Le Bernardin $112, and La Grenouille $95. If you ordered the cheapest items at Adour ADNY, the bill would run  $78; its 7-course tasting menu is $115.  (By the same token, a 4-course dinner at Le Cirque runs only $88.)  In Paris, where Ducasse runs his namesake restaurant within the Hôtel Plaza-Athenée, the average 3-course meal is $350,  the  tasting menu  a whopping  $485!

      This is still a high-cost night out, but when you consider that a  dinner of crabmeat cocktail, NY strip steak, creamed spinach, onion rings, and shipped-in cheesecake at any of NYC's top steak houses can easily run  $90-$95, and you start to realize that AADNY makes a lot of sense.
       But enough about the vulgarity of money. As the Michelin inspectors are fond of insisting, "judge what's on the plate," and in this Adour ADNY is now a match for the best in town.  Recently appointed Chef de Cuisine , Monégasque Didier Elena, (right) has a 20-year working relationship with Ducasse (whose own presence in the restaurant would be a rarity and behind the stoves an astonishment), having been the original chef at Ducasse's first foray into NYC, at the former Essex House.  He returned to France as chef at the illustrious (non-Ducassian) Château Les Crayère in Reims, and is now, happily I trust, back with Ducasse at Adour.  After two recent visits we have been duly impressed with Elena's new spirit.

        This is food full of finesse but perhaps with a little bit more brio than might be found in Paris. Thus, you might begin with a pasta, not quite an Italian one, but delicious housemade pasta swathed in sea urchins, fennel and a creamy uni sauce. Sweetbreads and lobster--surf-and-turf soul mates--come in a delicate feuilleté with a poached egg and mushroom duxelle. Lobster also shares its cocotte with roasted artichokes, truffle sauce, and maltagliati pasta and another lobster rendering with  a coconut-curry court-bouillon, which further indicates the globalization of French menus.

       For the lighter side, we recommend the Alaskan King crab with a celery root rémoulade, citrus and scent of basil, and for the vegetarian (for whom they offer a 5-course tasting menu at $85), autumn vegetables as carpaccio, with a black truffle vinaigrette. The diver sea scallops are generous in portion, three sweet scallops, coated by an aromatic black truffle condiment and shavings, and garnished with artichoke. Sea bass (left) comes with seasonal vegetables and a rich matelote sauce of seafood and red wine.

       The veal chop here is a magnificent cut of meat, served on the bone, tender, full of flavor, and sided by crispy fingerling potatoes and braised lettuce. Roasted saddle of lamb, from Niman Ranch, comes with a light vegetable fricassée, navarin, and creamy quinoa. Quality of ingredients need never be in question here.

    For desserts, pastry chef Sandro Micheli, here since the opening,  does a wonderful job of combing beautiful presentations with flavors to match, including the honey-pear composition served with homemade caramel ice cream, and the dark chocolate sorbet dessert topped with coffee granite and caramelized brioche croutons.    
    As noted, the number of global influences on Adour's menu show how far French cuisine has evolved in master chefs' hands, though in Paris, Ducasse stays truer to classic French and European recipes. You can find similar dishes around NYC, but not so often with such refinement.  When Adour first opened, we thought the food was very good but rather safe--
sweetbreads with lentil casserole, lobster Thermidor, pork tournedos with a golden apple ring and blood sausage--a weak cry from what Elena is serving.

      The winelist, an interactive marvel at the bar (right),  is broad and deep, with not much that would be called inexpensive.  Service in the dining room, under manager Karim Guedouar, is extremely attentive, with staff working in tandem to serve dishes, sauce them, and explain them.
      Ducasse's interest are worldwide--there is another Adour in Washington, DC, too--and some are haute cuisine restaurants while others are auberges and swanky Vegas nightclub/dining rooms.  But he knows that a restaurant with his name on it in NYC is crucial to his reputation, and his staking it on Didier Elena shows that he is making a real mark of excellence.  Smartly, he is also keeping the price tag in line with the current economies of scale.



by Christopher Mariani

1500 Degrees

Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel

4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach


Photos by Brett Hufziger


    During my stay in Miami, after a lengthy cocktail party fueled with minimal hors d’oeuvres, I was in need a wholesome meal and so decided on 1500 Degrees inside the Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel on Miami Beach.  My decision was based on a previous meeting, months prior, with executive chef Paula DaSilva  (below), who cooked alongside host chef Dean Max of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale at a James Beard Dinner.  It was apparent at the JB dinner and re-affirmed in Miami that DaSilva, a truly gifted, young culinary talent, exudes enthusiasm and passion for her food and cooking.  1500 Degrees, DaSilva’s first restaurant, is run independently from Max's DJM Culinary, Inc., and although she showcases similar cooking styles to his, she clearly displays the distinction of her own  innovations.

    The interior of the restaurant is impressive, relatively large in size, seating close to 200 guests, with elegant cream-colored chairs and tables, a gorgeous view that looks out at the hotel’s patio, and a terrific bar where I dined that evening.   It was not only the notable design of the restaurant that grabbed my instant attention, it was also the service staff’s full understanding of what it takes to flourish in the hospitality industry.  The staff was attentive, knowledgeable, and most of all friendly, a trait that works well in such a vibrant atmosphere.  But even on trendy Miami Beach, no restaurant ever survives without good food, and thankfully DaSilva is an imaginative chef who produces great food.   Here are some of DaSilva’s do-not-miss items.

         For starters, order from the raw bar; DaSilva has obviously hooked up with some of the best seafood purveyors, and it shows.  The Kumomoto oysters are delicious, served with a tarragon mignonette; the ceviche is a mixture of Florida hog snapper, cilantro, chopped peppers, and lime juice, and a plate of stone crab claws, my first and, I hope,  not last taste of the season.  DaSilva also puts together a wonderful tuna tartare mixed with an avocado mash, baby radishes and a yuzu sauce.  The pork belly tacos placed inside a crispy wonton and topped with a creamy lime and cilantro aioli instantly brought me back to my recent trip to Colombia where I ate chicharrons any chance I got.  I must return for 1500's  steaks,  which includes USDA Prime cuts cooked, appropriate to the restaurant's name,  at 1500 degrees Fº, but I did order the fried snapper with Thai chili sauce, and what a smart decision that was!  Dessert was skipped that evening, only because I was beckoned by the Miami nightlife, so I cannot report. 

          DaSilva and cast are doing a terrific job for such a new restaurant and seem to have already found their rhythm, a quality most restaurants take months to find, if ever.


Here's a tidbit of information for Dallas readers:  Chef Dean Max will be opening his newest restaurant in early January, inside the Renaissance Hotel just outside of the downtown area, serving a farm-to-table cuisine, focusing around a mesquite grill that will be producing a modern interpretation of both Mexican and Texas dishes, not to be mistaken for Tex-Mex.  The official name of the restaurant has not been decided upon, but do keep your eyes pealed for chef Max’s new restaurant.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to



by Mort Hochstein


     There’s an aphorism you hear frequently about  the wine industry. It goes this way: “If you want to make a small fortune in the wine business, start with a large one.”

     Luckily,  that particular   fate seems never to have befallen  Robert Oatley (left), an Australian entrepreneur who has put his Midas touch on coffee and cocoa plantations in New Guinea, vineyards and wineries,  cattle stations, thoroughbred horses, an entire island devoted to luxury tourism on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, well as competitive yacht racing, the sport of the wealthy. His Wild Oats XI super maxi yacht holds a record of four consecutive wins in   Australia’s famed Sidney to Hobart race.

    After two successful decades of   coffee and cocoa trading in Southeast Asia,  Oatley returned to his native Australia to start a second career as a winemaker. In 1969, he  planted  vines in the Hunter Valley north of Sidney, founding Rosemount Estate, and brought in his first harvest   in 1974.

    Two years later Oatley enlisted Chris Hancock, who had been an executive for Penfold, where he produced some of the great Penfold Grange wines of the seventies.  Hancock came aboard as a winemaker for a short while, but soon applied his skills to marketing and helped make Rosemount an Australian icon, familiar to wine buyers on several continents.

      Oakley’s marching orders to Hancock and the winemakers who served under him were simple, Hancock recalled recently.  “Bob would make these lip-smacking sounds. He’d say ‘Chris, that’s what it has to taste like --like you want some more.'” It was a formula that worked. Oakley’s success in those years was comparable  to today’s Australian phenomenon, Yellow Tail. Rosemount however, successfully targeted more affluent and more wine-knowledgeable consumers.

     By the early 1980’s Rosemount wines defined the robust, fruit-forward style that other Australian winemakers were quick to emulate. The brand was available almost worldwide and was featured on notable  restaurant wine lists. In 2002, Oatley found it hard to say no to the Australian corporate giant, Southcorp, and sold out –for more than a small fortune---at a time when Rosemount was producing more than four million cases of wine annually.

     He retained ownership of several choice vineyards and also acquired additional properties in the Mudgee region (below) of New South Wales where his latest venture is based.  In 2006, at  80, Oatley returned to winemaking, luring Hancock out of semi-retirement for a new start.

         In their second coming, they are building the Robert Oatley  brand with a near-term goal of 60,000 cases, and an eventual output projected at nearly three times that figure. “Bob (Oatley) is still making the kind of wine that calls for more than one glass,” Hancock said recently, “but it’s more in line with today’s cuisine and tastes. The new wines are basically lower in alcohol, and rich in texture with an emphasis on flavor.”

    While he and Oatley have turned the winemaking over to younger hands, they supervise production and remain very much hands-on at headquarters in the Mudgee. Hancock, still piling up airline miles, was in New York shortly before Thanksgiving where he led  us through a tasting of several Robert Oatley labels.

      I’ve never been a fan of   Riesling, but the 2010 Oatley Great Southern from Western Australia is a mind changer. Most Rieslings seem to require a lot of investigation in an often disappointing effort   to find why people revere the varietal. The Oatley version, however, is memorably outgoing from its start, projecting an ethereal perfume that alerts the senses and signals the graceful wine that follows,  lively,  firm and concentrated with a good mineral backbone and a long finish. It’s a wine that does not overpower or  dull the palate, and certainly demands a second and a third tasting.

      The 2010 Gewürztraminer that followed was on the same high level, without the profusion of sweet, pineapple scents and flavors usually associated with this sibling to Riesling.  From mature vines and fermented to a pleasant dryness, it   showed pure fruit character on the nose, lychee  most notably, followed by crispness and balance not usually achieved in wines made from this finicky grape.

     The same firm characteristics prevailed in the crisp, fresh, lemon and lime flavors of an ’09 Chardonnay from Mudgee.     We also tasted a lush, black-fruit flavored Cabernet Sauvignon and a fragrant, delicate and charming Pinot Noir which ranked  with the Riesling as my two favorites in the group. The reds sell at $30 and the whites at $25.  Other Oatley labels, just beginning to arrive on American shores, carry suggested retail prices ranging from $15 to $19.

Mort Hochstein, former editor and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, and former managing editor of Nation's Restaurant News, writes  on wine, food and travel for Wine Spectator, Wine Business  Monthly, Saveur and other food and wine publications.



The Darden Restaurants chain has sued T.G.I. Friday's for advertising "never ending shrimp" specials, because Darden claims its Olive Garden "never ending pasta bowl" and Red Lobster's "endless shrimp" are trademarks. Earlier Darden won a settlement from IHOP for serving "never ending pancakes" and "never ending popcorn shrimp."


"'Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together and running over.' The joyous and overflowing abundance of this image from the gospel of Luke is irresistible, and it describes, better than any other words I can think of, what it is like to experience Uchiko."--Kate Thornberry, "Uchiko," Austin Chronicle.


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 Dec. 1 - 9 in NYC, chef Bill Telepan will serve specialty latkes at his Upper West Side restaurant in celebration of Hanukkah, with house-made apple sauce and sour cream ($10) or with smoked salmon ($16).  Guests can call in their order for pickup.  Call 212-580-4300.

On Dec. 10 in Winnetka, IL, Restaurant Michael hosts a special four-course lobster dinner, complete with a lobster appetizer, lobster salad, lobster entrée and dessert. $59 pp. Live jazz duo of Petra Van Nuis and Andy Brown will also perform. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m.. . . . .On Dec. 17 Restaurant Michael hosts a special Candlelight Dinner. With the room lit by candles only, chef Michael Lachowicz will carve Whole Roasted Tenderloin of Beef tableside. , paired with truffle potato croquettes and classic Bearnaise sauce. $29 pp. A live jazz duo will also perform. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. Call 847-441-3100 or

* On Dec 7 in Astoria, Queens, 5 Napkin Burger will host a beer dinner featuring beers from Avery Brewing.   The evening will begin at 7:30pm with an informal reception followed by dinner at 8pm all prepared by Executive Chef Andy D’Amico who has created a beer friendly menu to be paired with each course; $45 plus tax and gratuity pp, inc. hors d’oeuvre reception, appetizer, entrée, and samples of 5 different beers; email or call 718-433-2727.  

* On Dec. 8, The Portage in Chicago will host an exclusive Brasserie Du Bocq and St. Sylvestre Brewery Dinner.  $35 pp.  Call 773-853-0779 or visit

* On Dec.  9 in Malibu Canyon (Los Angeles) Saddle Peak Lodge will host its final food and wine dinner of the year featuring legendary winemaker Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards located in California’s Santa Ynez Valley.  Chef Adam Horton will present a four-course dinner and exceptional wine pairings.  $95pp excluding tax and gratuity.  Call 818-222-3888.

* From Jan. – April 2011, Cap Maison and its Cliff at Cap restaurant in St. Lucia, will host a Guest Chef Series, incl. chefs from U.S. resorts.Rates start at $435, incl. full breakfast.  The 3-course dinner menu is $75 pp. Call 888-765-4985 or visit

* From Jan.  5 - 9, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is hosting the 2011 Food Blogger Camp, incl. one-on-one "speed blogging" meetings, blog critiques, photography breakout sessions, culinary demos and tastings, a food styling workshop, and seminars on brand and business building. Rates start at $1200 for media and $1,340 for non-media. Call 1-866-230-7221 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: WORLD'S WORST TARMAC DELAYS


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: 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