Virtual Gourmet

  January 20, 2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Hattie McDaniel and Vivien Leigh in "Gone with the Wind" (1939)


By Joanna Pruess


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By Joanna Pruess

    This past October, I spent six days eating my way through Hong Kong while attending the 10th Annual HK Wine & Dine Festival, where guests nibbled and sipped at 450 booths over four days.
    While there I tasted a couple of dishes from locally born entrepreneur Vivian Shek. Her restaurant, The Drunken Pot, (left) opened last year in a chic, artsy space at 8 Observatory Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Shek has re-imagined the traditional hot pot with unique broths, like drunken chicken, and unconventional dipping components like clams and chicken in sake-coconut broth.
Hong Kong continues to be a magnet for global food enthusiasts and here are some restaurants I enjoyed.

—Long known in the media for his expertise in fine wines and for hosting impressive tasting events, James Suckling recently opened Wine Central to share his passion with a broader audience. His new wine bar in Hong Kong’s Soho has about 500 bottles on his personally curated list, which is heavily Italian but with a global reach. There are 300 wines available by the glass and all scored above 90 points by his rating team.
   Suckling believes Asian food partners well with some of the world’s great wines. Chef Ho (left), formerly at London’s Jinjuu, demonstrates this with a limited modern Korean menu featuring refined spins on dishes like Korean fried chicken; scallops with leeks, jalapeño and lemon; grilled salmon with saffron, daenjaeng (fermented bean paste), seaweed and squid ink; and pork belly with braised kimchi, golden beets and apple. For dessert rice donuts were garnished with chocolate, raspberries and mascarpone. There are also several platters for sharing. The tastes are flavorful but subtle.
    Suckling’s partners are his Korean wife, Marie Kim-Suckling, a former wine merchant, and Italian-Korean restaurateur Francesco Lee. Beyond an expansive bar and casual lounge, there is a somewhat glitzy, 80-seat dining room. The restaurant is on the second floor of Staunton Suites on Staunton Street. 

James Suckling Wine Central 22 Staunton St, 2nd floor, Central (Soho) +852 2539 7999

This is a dazzling restaurant that opened last June in the Tai Kwun Centre. The complex’s name means “Big Station.” It refers to the restored and re-purposed former law enforcement compound that included the Central Police Station, Victoria Prison and the Central Magistracy. In 1995, it was designated an historic area. There are already five new restaurants there, with more slated to open soon, along with art and cultural areas.   
Old Bailey is in a Herzog-de Meuron-designed building that artfully combines colonial architecture with a contemporary aesthetic. The menu similarly focuses on traditional and modern interpretations of food from Jiangnan province, known for clean, delicate flavors with a focus on healthful, seasonal eating.

    The menu’s unique dishes, crafted by chef Wong Gwan Man (left), begin with seductive plates of pickles brought to the table. His signature dishes include Mala Ibérico pork dumplings in rich soup (xiaolongbao); Hangzhou duck soup with handmade fish balls, ham, bamboo shoots and reeds; double boiled lion's head are hand-minced pork meatballs with hairy crab, and the Longjing green tea smoked pigeon is garnished with fried leaves and dramatically presented at the table under a birdcage. Village-style handkerchief pasta with seasonal greens was also delightful.

Old Bailey, Shop 20, 2/F, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central. +852 2877 8711 

This restaurant is located inside the Lee Garden Two shopping center in Causeway Bay. To enter, you pass through a striking, circular Chinese moon archway into an elegant art deco interior where live music from the ’30s is playing. It recalls Shanghai’s glamorous Golden Age of nightlife.     
The retro setting provides a sophisticated venue to showcase executive chef David Chen’s Huaiyang cooking that emphasizes the natural flavors of ingredients. His dishes deliver purity of taste and are aesthetically stunning, often thanks to his expert knife skills. A seemingly simple sliced turnip disks in chicken soup was bursting with taste, the turnip disks artfully complemented with vibrant greens. His recent Great Northern Feast Menu included dishes like xiaolongbao, dumplings with thin, strong skins that hold a rich, aromatic soup and a delicious meatball inside. Other signature dishes included crispy Darjeeling smoked chicken with tea leaves, as well as Longjing tea-smoked soft-boiled eggs with black truffle pearls. Rice dumplings in sweet ginger soup were a fittingly light but flavorful finale to the meal.

10 Shanghai, Shop 101, Lee Garden Two, 28 Yun Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, +852 2338 5500.

I also dined in the venerable, three Michelin-starred T’ANG COURT (left), in the Langham Hotel, Kowloon, where timeless Cantonese dishes were exquisitely created and presented in the luxurious setting.
    At the beautiful, contemporary one-starred ÉPURE, the menu is uncomplicated yet elegant. I had a six-course caviar-tasting menu (right)  that was well conceived and inventive. Finally, I also took a delightful foodie walking tour in Sham Shui Po, a lively blue-collar neighborhood. Loved the dumplings and rice noodles with hoisin, sweet chili sauce and sesame seeds.

: Funky kitchen in the style of cha chaan tengs and old school NY Chinatown hangouts in the 60s. Great dumplings, roast goose (left) and French toast served with peanut butter, maple syrup and condensed milk.
   FUKURO, an izakaya concept, is next door, both belonging  to the Black Sheep Restaurants group. I ran in briefly and had dessert of seaweed flavored Monaka (Japanese sweet azuki bean paste) ice cream sandwich with cherry compote.
    GRASSROOTS PANTRY (right) on Hollywood Rd. Uber chic destination for vegans and vegetarians in a rustic, plant-filled wooden space focused on plant-based food and sustainability.


By John Mariani

21 East Main St, Elmsford, NY


    The neglect by the New York food media to review steakhouses, unless it’s to bash a buzzy place like Nusr-Et, run by a preening Turkish chef who tosses salt on your food from two feet away, is near total. And none of the critics ever returns to see if classic New York steakhouses like Peter Luger, Palm or the Old Homestead are living up to their reputations.
    The rationale among the critics is that so many steakhouses are so alike, which is as preposterous as to say that all the city’s French bistros or Italian trattorias are alike. The fact is, except for overlap on the menus, Smith & Wollensky is no more like Porter House than Abbott is like Costello.  In all restaurants that serve traditional dishes everything depends on the quality of the ingredients and the way they are cooked, which is the reason the New York media are constantly searching out yet another hamburger joint or pizzeria for some form of novelty.
    I, on the other hand, love going to steakhouses whose competition with all the rest means they must buy the best beef, seafood and vegetables they can find.  Too many these days claim to serve Prime beef dry-aged for outlandish periods of time, when anything over 28 days is actually counterproductive, despite the hype.  Some may use lump crabmeat in their crabcake, others jumbo or even colossal. Some may make their own desserts, others buy the always wonderful S&S Cheesecake.
    These considerations don’t even begin to address ambiance, design and service, which can vary from the fake macho of so many to the cheery hospitality of others. All these are factors I consider when going to a steakhouse, and returning to a classic New York place, albeit in Westchester County, like Flames, which I do with the expectation that it’s among the best in the region and considerably better than many in Manhattan or Brooklyn.
    Owner and executive chef Nikola Vulaj worked in many of them before opening his own back in 1992, in Chappaqua, N.Y., and now his new Flames in Elmsford. With a fine white marble bar, a main dining room and a lovely private room, Flames has the old-fashioned look of an American chophouse—stone  fireplace, soft overhead lighting, dark wainscoting, very comfortable chairs, tilted mirrors and white tablecloths. The service staff are veterans and work in teams to bring out all the courses and side dishes people order, though if there’s a party in full swing, service in the main room slows down.

     As soon as you sit down you’ll get a good loaf of bread with a generous slab of butter at the right temperature. At the bar fresh hot potato chips cooked in beef fat are offered.
    The crabmeat cocktail and crabcake are indeed made with big, sweet lumps of colossal size ($21.95), as are the shrimp. Fried calamari are always crispy and meaty, and I usually order the eggplant rollatini with prosciutto and melted fontina ($12.95), though on a recent visit it was too firm. 
    The menu description for spaghetti alla carbonara reads “done the right way,” that is, without cream, onions or parsley, and it is easily one of the best I’ve had this side of Rome.
       The veal chop with mushrooms ($48.95) weighs in at about 16 ounces, and the American rack of lamb comes as four well-fatted chops. The usual cuts of beef, from filet mignon ($48.95) to porterhouses sliced for two to four people ($98 to $188), are of the best quality available, impeccably seared and rosy-red inside when medium-rare. I applaud Vulaj for taking wagyu beef off the menu, because his American Prime is so much better than the American wagyu and most Japanese kobe out there.
    Some steakhouses have dropped whole lobsters from their menus, but not Flames, and they are all giants, from three to four pounds (MP), served with a big ramekin of clarified butter. (You  might ask for just melted butter, which has more flavor.)
    The creamed spinach is luxurious, with a touch of nutmeg, and both the French fries and mashed potatoes are excellent. Last visit the onion rings came to the table limp, but I suspect that was a momentary slip-up.
    Desserts are largely housemade and the longtime specialty is the zucchino ($10), with layers of English cream, white chocolate and mocha mousse and meringue.
    Vulaj has always been proud of his 250-label wine list and he prices it carefully. There are trophy wines galore but a lot of pretty good bargains among the lesser choices.
    If Flames were merely as good as any in Manhattan, it would be noteworthy enough. But with the quality of food it serves, it might even deserve a trip from the city by the same New York critics who ignore steakhouses in their hometown.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.



By John Mariani

Given winter’s sudden blasts of snow, I find myself dining happily at home a good deal and, since I don’t have to drive back from a restaurant meal, I tend to drink somewhat more full-bodied reds and allow myself an after-dinner drink while settling back for a little binge-watching TV.


FONTANAFREDDA SERRALUNGA D’ALBA BAROLO 2014 ($59)—Serralunga is Piedmont’s most illustrious region for Barolo, and Fontanafredda has 250 acres of it, rich in minerals that give this wine exceptional depth. Winemaker Danilo Drocco aims for finesse and, even though this is a young vintage, the richness and levels of flavor are dazzling, and the 13.5% alcohol perfect. It will get even better with two to five years of age.


CASADEI SOGNO MEDITERRANEO 2016 ($25)—A good price for a full-bodied red, even if it’s only from the 2016 vintage. The lush fruit comes from the 60% Syrah used, with 20% Mourvèdre and 20% Grenache, so this is an unusual Rhône-style Tuscan wine at 14% alcohol.  It gets an IGT appellation, and the blend may differ year to year. It’s delicious right now with lamb or spicy chicken.


CUVAISON SYRAH DIABLO 2016 ($45)—Compare this 100% Syrah with the Tuscan Syrah blend above and you’ll find the extra half-point of alcohol here provides a slightly bigger boost to the plum-like flavors without being jam-like. It’s a little less bold than the 2015 vintage but is rewarding with all kinds of meats, particularly well-fatted pork, even barbecue ribs.


CHÂTEAU PATACHE D’AUX 2013 ($20)—A nice entry-level Bordeaux from a small estate in the Médoc with vines averaging 35 years in age.  The mix is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, which is fairly typical of the region’s wines. It spends a year in French oak, so its essential grape flavors are still forthright, without too much oak in the taste.  With a hamburger this is a very good choice but it will match as well with a strip steak or rack of lamb.


LONG MEADOW RANCH PINOT NOIR 2015 ($40)—This Anderson Valley Pinot Noir has great charm, starting with its soft touch on the palate, its rich fruit à la the California style, and a reasonable 13.5% alcohol, which makes it a fine winter wine with any veal dishes, even roasted wild salmon.


KAIYŌ CASK STRENGTH WHISKY ($120)—Coming straight out of the cask at 53% alcohol after being aged in porous Mizunara oak, this gives a whole lot of bang for the big bucks it sells for. But it is not a curiosity, for it’s so cleanly made, quite Japanese in its refinement.  The name means “ocean,” referring to the three months it spends aging at sea in barrel, which sounds gimmicky but actually rounds out and adds nuance via changes in  temperature, air pressure and the rocking on the waves of the tankers it’s placed aboard. Those changes endemic to a sea voyage are all well-known to spirits and wine producers. It just came out in September in limited release. 


MICHTER’S LIMITED RELEASE TOASTED BARREL FINISH BOURBON ($60)—Michter’s takes its straight bourbon and ages it for an additional period in a second, custom-made barrel made from 18-month air-dried wood that has been toasted but not charred, then bottled at 91.4 proof. The result is a silky smooth bourbon with considerable subtlety in terms of nuttiness and hints of vanilla and cinnamon. With just a splash of water, the aromas really emerge.


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.


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