Virtual Gourmet

  January 13, 2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Travel poster by Sascha Maurer (1935)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By Geoff Kalish




By John Mariani

    Last month New York magazine’s fine, long-time restaurant critic, Adam Platt, announced—with only a “tiny tinge of nostalgic sadness”—that the magazine would no longer use the one- to five-star ratings system that had been in use since 2008. Instead he and the magazine’s other food reporters will use what he calls “a newfangled by-the-numbers rating scale” of one (“unfortunate”) to 100 (“nirvana”) that will assess “all of the hundreds of tangible and intangible factors that add up to an excellent (or terrible) dining experience, [so that a] world-class deli can sit alongside a top-flight tasting room; astonishing pizza will be given the same weight as life-changing pho, superlative khao soi, or the most elaborate flight of caviar at the most pretentious restaurant in midtown.”
    I’m not sure how this will work out and I’m not crazy about lumping a restaurant like Le Bernardin or Per Se together with a pho storefront or taco food truck. One of many problems with the Zagat vox populi system was that it was very rare to find any restaurants ranked below 21 points (out of 30), which meant “very good to excellent.” And most people merely glanced at the numerical rating and decided whether to visit or not.
    With few exceptions, newspaper and magazine arts critics—theater, movies, ballet, music, painting—do not award stars or numbers at all. When the late Jonathan Gold (below) took the job at the L.A. TImes, he refused to award star or number ratings.  How does one give a high grade to a show like Hamilton, a movie like Gone with the Wind or a performance of Lohengrin at the Metropolitan Opera if there is no textual context? I suppose there are people who would rush to buy tickets to Hamilton without knowing anything about it, but in the case of restaurants, a three- or four-star review is enough to make them hit speed dial to get a reservation ASAP at the hot new place in town. Still, when a play or a movie takes out an ad in a newspaper, magazine or on TV, the stars are splashed across it, usually with a half-sentence blurb containing word’s like “Best of the Year” or “Sure-fire Oscar contender.”
    I, for one, have always opposed giving out stars or numbers, preferring to think that reading my thorough assessment is the only way to really find out the high and low points, the ambiance and service, the noise level and the wine list. When I reviewed for the suburban edition of the Times and later for the Gannett newspapers, I was directed (forced) to award stars but, in the latter venue, tried to buffer my ratings by giving half-stars in many cases where the difference between two and three was a big gap.
    The fact is, most restaurant critics loathe being forced to award stars, lying awake the night before deadline wondering if people will misunderstand a two-star (“very good”) review as meaning “not so hot,” and never give it a try. (The New Orleans Times-Picayune awards red beans.)
    Star ratings for restaurants began as early as the middle of the 19th century, with Murray’s Handbooks for Travellers (later called the Blue Guides) and the German Baedeker Guides. But France’s Michelin Red Guides, which the French Michelin tire company began in 1900 as an aid to chauffeurs who needed both a guide to gas stations and repair shops along a route as well as one to provide their employers with a good meal, became best known for its stars (actually symbols called macarons): One indicated
 "A very good restaurant in its category"; Two meant ”Excellent cooking, worth a detour"; and Three identified ”Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey"—descriptors still in use today. (Back then, to get a star a restaurant had to prepare food for guests’ pet dogs along for the ride.)
    Later on Michelin began using other icons, like “Bib Gourmand” for restaurants serving good meals at a modest price, as well as forks indicating comfort level, wheelchairs for accessibility, even a beer mug for notable beer lists.
    Eventually Michelin came around to providing full-scale text reviews in its city guides, starting with New York. (The country guides still offer only a sentence of description along with the stars.) Nevertheless, when the Guides appear each spring and fall for various cities and countries, the media wait anxiously to be the first to report which restaurants received what number of stars as well as those that lost them. The award of a star or the removal of one can insure either success or failure.  In one infamous example, a chef in France, hearing a rumor his restaurant would lose a star, committed suicide before the guide’s publication, which, in the end, did not demote his stars.
    I’m afraid that, owing to the Michelin modus operandi copied by so many other media, that the stars and numbers are here to stay, especially since people’s attention span has been so drastically reduced by being overwhelmed by online information sources like Yelp and Trip Advisor. Of course, on you can get a four-start rating for a hair dryer.
    Headlines, including the size of the type used, have traditionally been media’s shorthand intended to announce the importance of a story, and I have no problem writing them, such as “Bing Bang Brings Modern Cantonese Food to Tribeca” or “Finally There’s Good Italian Food in Miami.”  Those are meant as enticements to read what I labored so hard to write and to get right. Stars and numbers are not enticements. Instead, they are like flashing lights giving either warnings or alerts, which are reasonable enough for car wrecks and circuses but not for restaurant reviews.


By John Mariani


29 East 61st Street (near Madison Avenue)



    Once upon a time Manhattan’s Upper East Side was the gastronomic playground of what was long ago referred to as “New York Society.” Very wealthy men and women, arrivistes, fashionistas, shady foreigners with Manhattan condos and oligarch wannabes packed a wide range of restaurants that knew how to cater to the often ridiculous demands for tables, dishes not on the menu and other follies.
    As Barbara Walters once said, “I just had my hair done, so I had to have lunch at Le Cirque,” referring to the epicenter for chic dining in its day, now long closed. Also gone from the scene, among others, are Lavandou, Mortimer’s, Elaine’s, Parioli Romanissimo, Primavera, Le Relais, La Côte Basque, Gino’s, and La Goulue.  This last, opened by Jean Denoyer in 1972, was the quintessential Franco-New York bistro, looking very much like any number of boîtes on Montparnasse, with its butter yellow façade and lace curtains, frosted glass and fin de siècle wood paneling, and a menu of bonafide classics ranging from onion soup gratinée to steak au poivre.
    La Goulue was ground zero for the Ladies Who Lunch, and New York Times critics like Ruth Reichl never failed to snipe at what she (all too enviously) called  a club [where] there are no dues and no secret handshakes, but its members know who they are. Interlopers are quickly put in their place.”

    However popular La Goulue remained for more than a quarter century, its demise came in 2009, owing to a Scroogey landlord who wanted the space (now a Prada boutique). Many devastated patrons would adopt Denoyer’s other brasseries around town—Ruhlmann’s at Rockefeller Center and  Orsay uptown—but they pined for La Goulue, with Denoyer swearing he would re-open soon, with all the original furnishings he’d wisely put in storage.
    Well, it took nine years, but last winter La Goulue did re-open elsewhere, and to everyone’s delight, it looks today precisely the way it did before, right down to the frog green matchbooks, now, in a smokeless dining room, transformed into little notepads.  The chef, Antoine Camin, is the same. Even the phone number is what it always was.
    What is new is an expansive, beautifully skylighted room to the rear (right) and a clientele that now includes a plethora of real estate developers—which I find ironic, given that one of them had put La Goulue out of business. Few of them bother to put on a jacket, much less a tie, to dine there, though women still dress up for the occasion to meet their friends. Can’t waste a new hairdo.
    Time warps have a great deal of appeal for those of us old enough to remember La Goulue fondly, even if we weren’t part of that imaginary club. Its timeless Parisian beauty is part of the allure, but, especially for those who’ve  never been to the restaurant before, it now epitomizes a rare, civilized ambiance that begins with a grand welcome at the door by the ebullient operating partner, Craig Pogson (left), himself a veteran of the earlier incarnation, whom the restaurant’s website calls “the naughty Maître D’Hotel of the fabulous ‘90’s.”  Perhaps he was, but today the impeccably dressed Pogson beams out far more savoir-faire than he does out-of-fashion naughtiness. He checks on your table throughout the evening, handles requests with aplomb and invariably meets you as you exit, saying, “Now, remember, this is your home away from home!”
    That, coupled with first-rate service by a young staff, might be enough to maintain old-timers and win new converts to La Goulue, but I’m very happy to report that the food, albeit much the same menu as before, has been improved and refined without losing any of its linkage to French bistronomy.
    I doubt you’ll find a more rigorously authentic soupe à l’oignon gratinée aux deux fromage ($15) than chef Camin’s perfectly browned version of caramelized onions, while tartare de thon “La Goulue” façon Japonnaise ($24 or $36) is a welcome novelty made with tuna instead of beef, well spiced with wasabi miso, coriander and crispy tempura. (Beef tartare is available as a main course.) A hearty winter’s terrine of duck and cèpes ($17) comes with a crisp golden pastry crust just thick enough to matter in the cooking and thin enough to enjoy as part of every bite. Sadly, the restaurant’s signature cheese soufflé ($28) is available only at lunch, which is good enough reason for me to return at midday.
    Rarely do I order salmon because it is invariably farm-raised and muddy tasting, but La Goulue’s wild Scottish salmon, pale pink, not orange, served with pecans, delicata squash and citrus jus ($35), redeemed my affection for the species.  So, too, was loup de mer (mis-named and mis-spelled on the menu as “bronzino” on the menu) delicious, with levels of flavor gained from quickly roasted cauliflower and a tangy citrus-saffron vinaigrette ($36).  Carré d’agneau ($48) came as a generous loin of Colorado lamb with dreamy fondant potatoes and a bite of chimichurri.
    And so we come to Le steak au poivre vert de Madagascar ($48), once ubiquitous on French menus, now rarely encountered.  La Goulue’s version, made from excellent beef with a creamy reduction flecked with green peppercorns (left), reminded me how much I miss this dish, and a plenitude of perfect frites clinched my high opinion of it.
    For dessert the classics endure: light-as-air île flottante bobbing in crème anglaise ($14); a caramelized apple tart ($15) that tasted very much like apples; and ice cream-filled profiteroles dripping with dark chocolate ($14).  Three cheeses ($23) are also available.
    Pogson proudly oversees a wine list filled with bottlings, especially Bordeaux, that he wants his guests to try, so prices are quite reasonable.
    The prix fixe lunch menu is a steal at $32, and there is a light Café à la carte menu available.
    The restaurant’s name refers a Moulin Rouge dancer, née Louise Weber, immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec, who garnered her sobriquet “La Goulue”  (the glutton) for her habit of slugging down patrons’ drinks.  The woman once called the “Queen of Montmartre” came to a sad, penurious, bloated end, but her colorful bonhomie lives at the New York bistro named in her honor.  In so many delectable ways, La Goulue is a nostalgic reminder of the true gaiety of the good life, now filtered through a New York skylight.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.




By Geoff Kalish

hile many consumers gravitate to rather hearty wines in winter like full-bodied Zinfandels, Amarones, young red Bordeaux and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, a number of lighter, flavorful, sensibly priced bottles are widely available that mate well with the fare of the season, especially roasts and hearty pasta dishes.  Moreover, many of these same wines mate well with so-called summer-time fare like grilled shrimp, barbecued lamb and pasta primavera, making buying in quantity a good option because of savings usually available on such purchases. And, based on a number of recent tasting, the notes below represent suggestions for ten such wines.



2017 Domaine Daniel Reverdy Sancerre ($24)—Following fermentation this Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley was left on its lees (wasted yeast) for six months to add some body to the final product. It has the bouquet and taste of a toned-down New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with grapefruit, lime and a bit of newly mowed grass in its crisp finish. It marries well with mild cheeses and a range of hors d’oeuvres from smoked salmon to chicken liver paté.

2016 Ravines Dry Riesling($17)—With grapes harvested from three vineyards around scenic Lake Seneca, this elegant 100% Riesling underwent cool fermentation and aging on its lees and minimal filtration prior to bottling.  It displays a floral bouquet and a dry, yet fruity taste of pears and nectarines with a crisp finish perfect to pair with sushi or spicy Asian or  Mexican fare.

2015 Lamblin & Fils Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaumes  ($30)—This vibrant, unoaked classic Premiere Cru Chablis hails from one of the two Chablis  vineyards on the side of the hills that contain the Grand Crus (Vaulorent being the other). It shows an un-oaked bouquet and full-bodied taste of ripe pears and apples with hints of herbs in its finish. It’s the ideal mate for bivalves, shrimp, scallops or  grilled calamari.



2016 Fabiano Collonge L’Aurore des Côte Chiroubles  ($15)—With its fragrant bouquet and taste dominated by ripe cherries with just a touch of banana in its finish, this very versatile bottle from a small northern Beaujolais commune harks back to the style of wines made before the late 20th century craze for light, very fruity and slightly sweet “Beaujolais Nouveau-like” styles.  Its flavor and vibrant acidity mate perfectly with the likes of braised chicken, butternut squash as well as hamburgers or pizza.

2011 Zenato Ripasso Superiore ($25)—This red from the Valpolicella region of Italy (just north of Verona) is made by passing the fermented wine over the skins and lees discarded from recently processed  Amarone—causing a second fermentation and adding some color and depth to the final product. It shows a rich bouquet and taste of cassis and dried apricots, similar to but a bit softer than most Amarones. It’s perfect to marry with braised short ribs or aged cheeses as well as pasta with red sauce or even grilled salmon. 

2016 1er Cru Givry Clos Solomon ($55)—Not to be confused with Givrey (also from Burgundy, but from the Cȏte d’Or, about an hour car ride north of the small town of Givry), this fragrant wine with a bouquet and taste of ripe raspberries, strawberries and cherries is French Pinot Noir at its best. It mates harmoniously with poached salmon, grilled duck breast, wild rice or even Caprese salad. 

2016 M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila- Haut – Occultum Lapidem ($15)—This well-priced wine was fashioned from a blend of hand-harvested Syrah, Grenache and Carignan grapes, which, following fermentation, were matured in vats (about 50%) or oak casks (about 50%). It has a deep garnet hue, and a bouquet and concentrated taste of liquid plums, pepper and herbs. It makes excellent accompaniment for a wide range of fare from hot dogs to roasted chicken or aged cheddar cheese. 

2015 Poppy Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($14)—Another bargain bottle of wine, from California’s San Luis Obispo County, this Cabernet Sauvignon was made from grapes that, following fermentation, were aged in small French oak barrels for a year and a half before bottling. It shows a bouquet and taste of crushed blueberries and ripe cherries with the flavor of black currant and a hint of vanilla in its finish—and pairs perfectly any time of year with steak, prime rib, grilled lamb, chicken or pork chops. 

2013 Thierry et Pascale Matrot Vielles Vignes Maranges ($22)—From a domaine in the small Cȏte de Beaune Burgundy appellation Maranges, owned by the same family for five generations, comes this easy drinking adaptable red. It displays a bouquet and taste laced with ripe strawberries and plums with a touch of acidity in its finish. Mate it with pizza, pasta with red sauce, veal Parmesan or even crab cakes or sautéed soft shell crabs. 

2016 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel($35)—Made from grapes harvested from younger vines (6-25 years old) on 20 different California vineyards, this wine shows a bouquet and flavor of ripe raspberries with hints of pepper and orange zest in its finish. Lighter than most of Turley’s other Zinfandels, this wine makes a good match for flavorful fish like swordfish, tuna or salmon no matter what the season.



Alameda County Sheriff’s Office extracted a 29 year-old near naked man (left) they found wedged for two days inside the grease vent of an empty Chinese restaurant in San Lorenzo, CA, where he was under suspicion of attempting to rob appliances. “We decided to be a little compassionate,” Sergeant Ray Kelly, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Department, told NPR. “We figured he’s been through enough and it is in the holiday spirit.”




“Seiji Yamamoto says that Japanese cuisine is a symbol of the richness of Japan. Paying respect to the blessings of Nature, he takes full advantage of the wealth of natural ingredients available. Presentations are placed on traditional handmade serving dishes and display the skills and mind of a chef. The preparations are analyzed from a chemical standpoint while placing value on spirituality above all else to present a new Japanese cuisine to the world.”—Ryugin, Michelin Gide to Tokyo 2019. 3 stars.



Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


   Wine is a joy year-round but in cooler weather one grape varietal has really taken center stage in my daily activities – that most Italian of grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression – Brunello di Montalcino.
    From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines are be harvested, culminating with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.
    Second, cooler weather here means it is time to start enjoying more red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines.  That includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura, literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino and a Riserva of Brunello.  Rosso is sort of like the younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to the four required for Brunello.  The Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year before release.
    What is so special about this cru Poggio alle Mura?  Well, it is the result our over 30 years of ongoing research at my family’s vineyard estate, Castello Banfi.  When we first began planting our vines there in the late 1970s studies from the University of Bordeaux indicated which strains of many varietals we should plant, based on the soil type and microclimate of each vineyard.  But when it came to the region’s native Sangiovese, there was only local lore, no scientific research.  So we took it upon ourselves to figure out this vine, and set off on three decades of incredibly detailed research.
    We started with 600 apparent variations on Sangiovese, because it is so susceptible to variations in weather and soil, and narrowed that down to 160 truly genetically different clones.  We planted a vineyard with two rows of each type, made wine from each of them, and charted the differences – remember, you only get one chance a year to make wine, so this took time.
    It took about ten years to get some concrete results, though we continue to experiment today and always will – you never stop learning in science and nature!  Once we determined which were the best, complementary clones that could be planted together to make the best Brunello, we chose to plant them in what we determined to be the optimal vineyard sites.  Coincidentally, the best soils and climate conditions are in the slopes surrounding the medieval fortress today known as Castello Banfi, known since Etruscan times as Poggio alle Mura – the walled hilltop.  Hence the name of our most special “cru” of Brunello, representing a synthesis between tradition and innovation.
    Though the focus of this study was our Brunello, all of our Sangiovese-based wines, including the super Tuscans SummuS, Cum Laude, and Centine, benefitted from this work.  And that’s the third reason for celebrating Sangiovese this month, for the range of wonderful reds that usher us into autumn!  One wine in particular was inspired by our research – the BelnerO, a Sangiovese dominant blend with what I like to call a kiss of Cabernet and a whisper of Merlot.  We grow the grapes a little differently for BelnerO than for Brunello, make the wine with less oak aging and released it earlier from the winery, providing a counterpoint to Brunello and a lovely terroir-driven wine in its own right.
     If you know Italians, you know that by nature we are multi-faceted, varying in mood, and always passionate.  As a nation, we span from the hot sunny beaches of Sicily near the African coast to the rugged mountains and Alpine ski slopes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north.  Sangiovese is grown in almost all of Italy’s regions and reflects the unique nature of each; it is most famous (rightfully so) in Tuscany, yet even there it reflects the nuances of each hilltop, valley and subzone.  It has something a little different to say in Brunello than Chianti, Morellino than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montalcino than Super Tuscan blends.
    Here is a smattering of Sangiovese-based wines that you may wish to get to know better, reflecting a spectrum that appeals to every occasion, every taste, and every budget.  We can assure you that the conversation will never become boring.

Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese 

BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites. 


Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage. 

Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish. 

Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation.  Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.

Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape.  Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name.  The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky.  Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red.  The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut.  It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note.  It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside in southern Montalcino.

SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet.  An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine. 

Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.

Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table. 

Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti.  An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes.  This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.

Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining. 

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.

Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice.  It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.  

Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.



 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

   The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) is a  novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The  story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring his master back from the edge of despair. 


“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.


The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe,  The Modern, and Maialino.



FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to 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:

Eating Las Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


If you wish to subscribe to this newsletter, please click here:

© copyright John Mariani 2019