Virtual Gourmet

  February 3,  2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in "Ground Hog Day" (1993)


By Geoff Kalish & Jack Spinak


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By Geoff Kalish & Jack Spinak

Mamilla Hotel Rooftop Restaurant

    The 21st century has witnessed a culinary revolution in Israel. For example, while 30 years ago street food in Tel Aviv was primarily pita bread filled with falafel, often cooked in frequently re-used oil, on a recent visit to Tel Aviv’s historic Rabin Square, we ate kosher poke—bowls brimming with rice or quinoa and slices of raw tuna or salmon, topped with fresh greens and a tasty sesame-based sauce. And the area is now chock full of numerous small storefronts, each featuring food ranging from cronuts, to wood-fired gourmet pizzas to hamburgers and, of course, classic Israeli salads (a mix of diced cucumber, tomato, onion and parsley doused with oil and lemon juice).
    Moreover, while 25 or 30 years ago good service in restaurants usually meant getting the food to customers as soon as possible (often one course served before the plates from the previous one were removed), the service at most even modest eateries is now quite professional, with knowledgeable, well-trained servers. On the other hand, we found the food offered at hotel buffets mediocre at best, the fish and meat often overcooked and tasteless. Fortunately, on our recent visit, although we were with a group of 70 people from our synagogue, we were able to partake of a number of meals on our own and the following comments are based on our experiences at restaurants in Jerusalem.

(Prices listed are based on a U.S. dollar at the current—and fairly stable—rate of 100 shekels equals $27)



Nahalat Shiva 4

      Situated in a century-old building off an alley just outside the walls of the Old City, this establishment has a décor and vibe reminiscent of a Manhattan Soho bistro in the 1990s, featuring a bar and a few wooden tables just inside the entrance and a second, larger room with creamy yellow walls adorned by colorful modern paintings.
    Owned by chef Alon Sela since its inception in 1992, the restaurant offers a menu of simple sounding choices that provide an eclectic mix of  Middle East flavors that will awaken even the sleepiest taste buds. And, of particular note, the service here is warm, welcoming and extremely helpful with selections, without being overbearing. Before our starters, we were brought a large pizza-shaped focaccia bread (left) with an assortment of dipping sauces and toppings.
    And for starters we shared an order of roasted eggplant coated with tahini and chopped tomatoes, drizzled with a dressing of rich olive oil and lemon. Red drum ceviche came tossed with cilantro and scallions, while beef carpaccio was served with labneh (Israeli yogurt), and cappellaccio round pasta dumplings (right) filled with earthy-tasting beetroot and creamy ricotta cheese. Notable main courses included succulent grilled prawns spiced with chili and sea salt atop white rice, and a large bowl of homemade gnocchi with shrimp, mussels and calamari, all swimming in a rich, tasty cream sauce. A special of a sizable, moist, naturally sweet barramundi filet on a bed of buttery mashed potatoes was wonderful.
    For dessert we shared a large blintz filled with sliced banana and topped with vanilla ice cream, and for wine we drank a cassis–scented 2017 Dalton Estate oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon from the Upper Galilee area.

Open Monday through Saturday for dinner with service into the wee hours: expect dinner for two to cost a very reasonable $100-$120, not including wine, tax and tip.

Mamilla Hotel Rooftop Restaurant
11 King Solomon Street


    Like Shanty, this restaurant is located just outside the ancient walls, but sitting atop the Mamilla Hotel. This open air, very popular kosher dining spot overlooks not only the old but the “new” city, providing memorable views from all dining areas, albeit on the rainy night we were there a plastic enclosure decreased the magnificence of the images. 
    While this restaurant serves quite traditional upscale Israeli restaurant main courses like fresh, moist sea bass and done-to-order-medium rare lamb chops (left), all prepared with an experienced hand in the kitchen, it’s the appetizers that deserve the spotlight, with layer upon layer of flavor from deft spicing, as evident in an antipasti of roasted fresh vegetables doused with a truffle and honey vinaigrette; small open buns, titled “Duck in a Blanket” on the menu, were filled with teriyaki duck and cucumber greens seasoned with a coriander and ginger-laced vinaigrette.

     And there’s a choice of creative salads, like a mix of fresh sprouts and herbs, almonds, sun-dried cranberries with strips of crispy tortilla and a pomegranate vinaigrette. We accompanied the meal with a light, raspberry-scented 2014 Evitar Syrah from Israel, and for dessert we shared a decadent chocolate tart, filled with peanut butter crème on top of which was poured hot salted toffee, playfully listed as “Snicker” on the menu.


Open daily for lunch and dinner (with special Friday night and Saturday lunch cold “Shabbat” menus); expect dinner for two to cost $120-$130, excluding wine, tax and tip.





4 King George Street



    Located down a pathway off King George Street, on the outskirts of Independence Park in Jerusalem’s “city center” area, this establishment has a New York Upper East Side vibe, with dining on a covered outside patio or around a large, crowded, semicircular bar and an open kitchen. The fare from a daily changing menu can be described as New York Steakhouse meets an Israeli chef—Eran Peretz—with appetizers like crispy calamari and artichokes served with a Moroccan-spiced aȉoli and smoked eggplant topped with tahini, accompanied by a tomato salad, as well as typical oven-roasted cauliflower served with not so typical goat cheese labeneh. 

    Main courses of note were a sliced charcoal oven-roasted ribeye steak for two, and a whole charcoal oven-roasted sea bass topped with green salsa.

    For wine we chose a Clos de Gat Syrah that had the bouquet and taste of plums and cherries with notes of apricot in its finish.

    Desserts range from homemade pistachio ice cream to tiramisù.

     Of note, our only complaint with this establishment was the very long wait between the appetizers and main course.


Open daily for dinner and lunch on Saturday; expect dinner for two to cost $140-$150, excluding wine, tax and tip


4 Ha-Eshkol Street



    Located in the Iraqi Section of the Mehane Yehuda market, often referred to as “the shuk,” this kosher breakfast and luncheon spot is a favorite with local foodies. They do have a phone, but reservations are not accepted. But the wait is worth it to dine at this storefront site inside a small, non-descript rectangular room with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths or at tables outside the restaurant along an alleyway.

    Along with the thick bread and hummus, notable choices were the Kurdish-inspired sweet and sour kubbeh soup, with beef-infused semolina dumplings and a beetroot broth (left), as well as the eggplant Azura, the vegetable grilled and topped with a thick layer of ground beef, pine nuts and a tomato-based, cinnamon spiced sauce The thick beef goulash (right) was like Jack’s grandmother from Safed used to make. 

Open for breakfast and lunch Sunday – Friday; expect lunch for two to cost $40-$50,  excluding, beer, tax and tip.



10 Beit Ya’akov Street



    As opposed to Azura, this very popular non-kosher restaurant accepts reservations via phone or an on-line booking site. But to get one at a reasonable time for dinner takes booking at least two months in advance, which we did, and during the height of the tourist season (around Christmastime), as they say in Brooklyn, “fuggetaboutit.”

    It’s located on a side street near the Mahane Yehuda market in a casual space that features an open kitchen and upstairs balcony, with walls lined with wine bottles whence at least a partial view of the kitchen is afforded most tables. As to the food, it’s sublime, a mix of the fare of many different global areas with a bit of updated spicing and cooking techniques.

    And, as advised by the friendly yet very professional waitress, the way to go is to share. So we did, with appetizers of a decorative mix of three varieties of tomatoes, labeneh, arugula and a tangy vinaigrette called a Bandora Salad; an order of tuna sashimi topped with pomegranate and pistachios and dabs of crème fraîche;  a large octopus tentacle served with sweet potato and zesty chimichurri glaze;  shikshukit, tahini and yogurt atop ground kabob beef seasoned with a hint of cinnamon;  and the piéce de résistance, a  jar filled with truffle-flavored polenta mixed with earthy mushrooms and topped with slices of parmesan.

    Main courses were orders of lamb T-bones with lamb crumble, pumpkin and labneh,  as well as a dewy fillet of sea bass atop a mélange of vegetable and a tomato-based sauce.

We enjoyed a bottle of Galil Brut sparkling wine that had a floral bouquet and taste of apples and strawberries, and for dessert we shared a rectangular tin filled with rich Bavarian cream coated with gooey toffee, and a take on the British Banoffee Pie as a slice of creamy cheesecake, with a graham cracker crust, topped with toffee and a whole banana (left).


Open nightly for dinner and daily for lunch except Saturday; expect lunch or dinner for two to cost $120-$130, excluding wine, tax and tip.




By John Mariani



3 Hanover Square (off Old Slip)

    Comfort, a civilized ambiance, attentive service, generosity of spirit. It seems such virtues once associated with good restaurants have been replaced by cramped, naked tables, ear-shattering noise, a “who-gets-what?” attitude and portions of food the size of a shoe polish tin.
    Indeed those virtues that once distinguished the joys of dining out are now dismissed as outmoded, Old School, too fancy and too much food on the plate. Yogi Berra’s observation about a restaurant so popular that “No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded” has a double-edged wit about it: On the one hand the buzziest new restaurants are packed for a while then fizzle, while many long-established restaurants keep thriving year after year.
    So it is with Joseph’s Downtown, which has fit snugly into the Financial District’s Hanover Square for a quarter of a century, right across from Harry’s, itself almost a half century in business. Under an expanded family, including Ramo Cosovic, Benny Balidemaj and Astro Ulaj, and wholly renovated, Joseph’s is still down a long flight of stairs that open onto a splendidly spacious dining room with widely separated tables and a feeling of true comfort at the big tables with sturdy chairs. Good overhead lighting provides warmth, and if the wall paintings of Venice look more Bob Ross than Canaletto they evoke a time when many Italian-American restaurants had much the same artwork. And softly in the background croon Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Dean Martin and Jerry Vale.
    The menu is new under Chef  Frank Langello, recently of Babbo, and he has a sure touch with Italian classics while enhancing them with his own ideas.
    You’ll receive a small hors d’oeuvre, perhaps meat-filled agnolotti, along with bread, butter and olive oil. The wine list is mostly a screed of familiar names—why is boring Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio still there?—with one page of trophy wines. The list is strongest in California and Italian reds. Another of those civilized touches at Joseph’s is that when you order wine, it arrives at your table a minute or two later from its bin, opened and poured immediately.
    Portions are substantial, so a table of four might share two appetizers, like the caramelized fennel salad ($16) with pear and pungent Gorgonzola; the grilled octopus ($19) with a slight char, crispy potatoes and salsa verde; a big bowl of small, tender mussels (
$15) with chorizo and chives; or fat marinated shrimp ($19) with endive, jalapeño and blood orange citronette.
    There are several out-of-the-ordinary pastas I highly recommend, like the aromatic, woodsy pappardelle ($23) with mixed mushrooms and a dash of thyme.  So often frozen lobster ravioli are purchased from outside a restaurant, but Joseph’s beautifully composed lobster pyramids ($29) with tangy-sweet oven-dried tomatoes and a rich lobster butter sauce (left) are carefully crafted to be a very sumptuous house special you shouldn’t miss. Orrecchiette ($24) is a homestyle dish of ear-shaped pasta with sausage, bitter broccoli rabe and pecorino, while linguine with clams in the shell with hot chilies ($27) has the right balance of pasta, oil, clam liquor and garlic. Garganelli alla Nonna ($24) is a hearty dish of nicely cooked twisted pasta with a meat sauce and meatballs.
    My favorite among the main courses was a crispy sea bass ($34) whose skin was indeed very crisp, which enhanced the moist white flesh underneath and picked up the flavors of squash caponata and black olive tapenade nicely.
    Large lamb chops ($41) came with eggplant caviar and grilled vegetables (a  bit overcooked), and the steak with roasted potatoes and balsamic vinegar ($42) had wonderful texture and beefiness all on its own, increased by the acid from the vinegar.  The obligatory veal chop ($44) came with cherry peppers, roasted potatoes and vincotto (cooked wine). At so many other chophouses and Italian ristoranti around town you’d pay more for the steak and the veal chop and not even get potatoes with it.
    Everything at Joseph’s has an added touch, straight through desserts, from a cheesecake with a dried fruit compote ($12) to tiramisù with coffee syrup added ($13); panna cotta with spiced poached pears and almond biscotti ($12); and warm apple crostata with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream ($13).

    Joseph’s owners are, as at so many other Italian restaurants in the Tri-State area, from one of the former Yugoslavian Republics, in this case Montenegro, and I have found pretty much across the board that the care and attention to the details of cordial service has become a distinguishing mark of their people. That, and the good cooking of Chef Langello makes Joseph’s an outstanding old restaurant all the better for having new owners.


Open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri.



For St. Valentine’s Day, A Good Sparkling Wine
Need Not Be A Pricey Champagne
By John Mariani


    Champagne long ago won the image battle for bragging rights about sparkling wine, but just in the past decade a number of countries have produced excellent bubblies that can vie with much more expensive Champagnes for St. Valentine’s Day.  Here are several.

Anna de Codorníu Brute Rosé ($14)—Codorníu was one of the first to proudly show that Spanish cavas could be first-rate sparklers at a very decent price. This charming rosé, in a distinctive white bottle,  at such a good price is made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, and according to the Champagne method, emerging as a well-aged, citrusy, floral wine that begins and remains refreshing on its own or with food. 

Mionetto Prosecco
($35)—Italy’s Proseccos, from the Veneto region, have soared in popularity, making competition among producers fierce. One of the best is Mionetto, whose prices are modestly higher than poor Prosecco examples but a lot lower than Champagne.  Its vineyards lie in the prestigious D.O.C.G. region, and its top-of-the-line bottle is the  prestigious—and at $35 its most expensive—Cartizze, a creamy, luscious Prosecco whose faint sweetness makes it perfect as a celebratory bubbly. 

Gruet Family Sauvage Blanc de Blancs
($20)—“Blanc de Blancs,” meaning “white from white [grapes],” are sparklers made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. This unusual bottling by a well-regarded producer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is made “zero dosage,” meaning no sugar is added to the liquid after the first fermentation, so it is a very, very dry example, more so than Brut. It’s meant to be drunk as an apéritif but also goes very well with strong cheeses. 

Argyle Brut Rosé
($50)—This lovely sparkling wine from the cool Willamette Valley of Oregon is pristine, with fine body and lively bubbles. Argyle is one of a very few West Coast producers that make an array of aged sparkling wines, including a 2008 Extended Tirage Brut and this 2014 Brute Rosé made with fully fermented Pinot Noir, which gives it more body than a Blanc de Blancs and makes it suitable for drinking with veal, pork or chicken.

Il Bolle di Borro Classico Metodo Rosé  2012
($50)—Rarely are Italian sparklers made from the Sangiovese grape, which more often goes into the so-called “Super Tuscan” reds. But this fine rosato (Bolle means “bubbles”) is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes with a low sugar content that keeps the alcohol at a reasonable percentage. It uses the traditional Champagne method of fermentation and disgorgement, which makes for far more finesse, and its age has given it more depth and roundness.

Marchesi di Grésy La Serra Moscato
($18)—Moscato is one of the most prodigiously produced grapes in Italy for both still and sparking wines, but suffers from an image of being too sweet and musty.  Marchesi di Grésy is a Piedmont producer that shows moscatos can be delicious, aromatic wines from Asti, with a low alcohol level that makes it ideal as an apéritif or to serve with canapés or desserts that are not too sweet.

Revi Paladino Extra Brut Riserva 2011 ($55)—The Trentino region of Northern Italy shows signs of being a major producer of excellent bubblies, as this 100% Chardonnay proves. With 12.5% alcohol and residual sugar of 2 grams/liter, it approximates a fine Champagne with just a hint of sweetness that allows the fruit to shine.  




The owners of Paris’s first nudist restaurant, O’naturel, will close in February, 15 months after opening, offering a three-course menu for $57.50. Owners Mike and Stéphane Saada, who are not nudists, posted on Facebook:  “We will only remember the good times.”




"How Restaurants Are Working to Destigmatize Menstrual Products: By offering free tampons and pads in bathrooms, operators are creating more inclusive spaces" by Naomi Tomky, (1/8/19).


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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