Virtual Gourmet

  February 24,  2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

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Schrafft's Soda Fountain, 1954


Part Two
By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


Part Two

By John Mariani

Roasting suckling pigs at Botin. Photo: Gerry Dawes

    The new, innovative restaurants of Madrid that I wrote about last week are wonderful enticements to dine out in this splendid city. Still, the traditional tabernas, tapas bars and restaurantes that you find on every corner and tucked away in markets are where you’ll still find the culinary soul of the Madrileños. Here are three where it is always vibrant and true to the spirit of Iberia.

Calle de Cuchilleros 17

     No visitor can avoid at least consideration of dining at Botin, founded in 1725 and claiming to be the oldest restaurant in the world. The claim is arguable, but the founding date is indisputable, its history detailed in a brochure at the restaurante. This distinction, added to Ernest Hemingway’s claim to Botin being the best restaurant in the world and including it in his novel The Sun Also Rises, makes a visit almost a requisite pilgrimage.
    You will, however, be told by many Madrileños that, while Botin’s food is as good as ever, the day-and-night onslaught of tourists and the difficulty of getting a reservation at any hour makes it a trial to get in.        Debate still rages as to which room has the best tables—the brick walled downstairs room or the sun-lit, blue tiled upstairs (where the scene in The Sun Also Rises takes place).  Once seated, you will be treated to service by fleet-footed veteran waiters who go through the motions of serving the thousandth suckling pig and roast lamb of the week.
Photo: Gerry Dawes

    That said, a visit to Botin is to enter a significant marker of Spanish cultural and culinary history, its walls hung with reminders of all the great ones who have passed through its doors. The menu, sanctified over decades, offers a dozen appetizers, like roasted red peppers with codfish (€14.30), cured Iberian ham (€24.50), croquettes (€11) and Burgos black sausage (€11), along with four soups that include an unorthodox but very good, orange-colored Andalusian-style gazpacho with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and croutons (€9).
    There’s a fairly extensive, and expensive, wine list, but no vintages are listed for most bottles; they also offer house wines (€15.70 and €18.90) and Sangria by the pitcher (€13.70).  My requested daiquiri (Hemingway’s favorite cocktail) was much inferior to others I enjoyed around Madrid.

Photo: Gerry Dawes

    We began with bubbling hot garlic shrimp (€23.90), which could have used more garlic and seasoning. Then came the two famous dishes. The roast suckling pig (€25) was excellent, a crisp crust sliced to ooze succulence within the creamy, fatted meat. (You can watch a video of its preparation on the restaurant’s website.) The roast baby lamb (€25) was just as delicious, cooked to the point where the flavors of suffused garlic and herbs emerged.  Boiled  potatoes were the accompaniment.
        Mediocre desserts like cheesecake with white chocolate (€6.70) and tarta Botin, a cream layer cake (€6.70), are hardly necessary after such heartiness.
    There is a house menu in spring and summer (€45.90) for that fine gazpacho, the pig and ice cream, with a half-bottle of wine and mineral water.
    You can eat as well at similar restaurantes in Madrid, but Botin has a cachet well worth savoring for its history and its consistency, and it is also located in an old neighborhood buzzing with nightlife from every doorway and outside patio. I wouldn’t fret about what room you sit in. Hemingway may have overstated the case for Botin a bit, but it’s not a place I would want to miss on a first trip to Madrid.

Open for lunch and dinner daily. 

Calle de Narváez 68

Photo: Gerry Dawes

    Madrid’s restaurants like Botin may be famous for their pig and lamb, but excellent seafood is abundant in the city, which has a huge seafood market named Mercamadrid—second only to Tokyo’s in size—just on the outskirts, that supplies the best, well-established restaurants, like Rafa, with superb product. Rafa was opened in 1958 by brothers Rafael and Rodrigo Andrés, first as a small bar, and today it is a large establishment managed by their sons Rafael (right) and Miguel as one of the city’s most respected traditional dining spots. It’s also nice to know that it’s one of the few restuarantes in town open on Sunday nights.      
                                                                                                                                   Photo: Gerry Dawes    
    Many Madrileños come around 8:30 p.m., when the restaurant opens, to stand at the handsome tapas bar and sip cava sparkling wine. My wife and I, on a perfect autumn evening, sat outside under a white umbrella at a table just feet from the bustling avenue, but it was not too loud for a good conversation with Rafael, who made suggestions from a wide menu with a superb wine list to back it up.
    We began with incomparable, sweet and nutty Joselito ham (€18), expertly cut in thin squares, and nibbled on two kinds of fresh anchovies in olive oil (left).  Fried Andalusian calamari with tomato (€12) were crunchy and sweet.
    For a main course there were fine filets of baked sole (€24), carefully cooked for texture and juiciness.  A grilled bogavante (lobster) was very expensive at €75, especially since European lobsters don’t have the amount of meat or the rich flavor of American lobsters. Bizcocho borracho (€7), “drunken biscuit,” soaked in rum, was a fine and simple ending to the meal.


Plaza de Santa Ana, 10
914 29 36 35

    There are so many places in Madrid that claim a Hemingway connection that there used to be a bar with a defiant sign reading, in English, “HEMINGWAY DID NOT EAT HERE.” One place he did frequent, largely to hang out with Madrid’s matadors, was Cerveceria Alemana on Plaza Santa Ana, which began as a brewery in 1904. Today it’s a big tourist stop and the menu is limited to tapas like fried seafood and cured meats.  The Plaza itself, until 1810, was home to a convent of Carmelite nuns.
    My wife and I headed dutifully to Alemana for a return visit, but it was Tuesday and it was closed. Fortunately, two doors away, Cerveceria Santa Ana was open, and the tables on the Plaza were too. Inside, the décor looks like a thousand other bars in Madrid, though the place only debuted in 1985.
    There are plenty of tortas, bocadillos and the usual tapas. The menu is longer than Alemana’s, with a lot more gutsy items like tripe stew (€10), which is as hearty a dish as I’ve ever had in Spain—not to everyone’s taste but certainly it is to mine (right).  We began with the ubiquitous plate of
pa amb tomàquet—slices of toasted bread spread with the juice and filet of tomatoes and a mess of glistening sweet green peppers cooked in olive oil (€7.50)— along with ice cold Cruzcampo pilsner. We also had baked ham that came in thick slices, topped with boiled potatoes (€9), and for dessert shared a pastelito of torrone meringue and hazelnuts (€3).
    Cerverceria Santa Ana stays open till 1:30 a.m.—an hour later that Cerverceria Alemana—and the plaza is a wonderful place to watch the locals come and go and to end a night in Madrid.



By John Mariani


4 Park Avenue

    For some free-spending carnivores, Peter Luger in Brooklyn is the totemic steakhouse in America, a claim I would rebut by saying that, although its famous sliced porterhouse is a nonpareil piece of beef, the décor, the side dishes, the restricted menu options, dreary décor, rudimentary service, cash only policy and the month’s long wait for a table keep it far from the top of my list of America’s best steakhouses.
    Still, Luger’s stylistic influence has been significant in New York, and it was a smart move when Luger’s long-time headwaiter, Wolfgang Zwiener, opened his namesake steakhouse at 4 Park Avenue fifteen years ago. The menu, much enlarged from Luger’s, mimicked the service of sliced porterhouse served on a tilted, sizzling platter, but in its décor achieved a grandeur that Luger’s never dreamed of. The space was once the old Vanderbilt Hotel, whose lower vault was tiled in Della Robbia-style tiles by R. Guastavino, who also did the magnificent tile work at Ellis Island and the Grand Central Oyster Bar.
    The ceiling is uniquely beautiful but low, so that when Wolfgang’s is full—which is pretty much every night of the week—with an overwhelming number of large men who prefer bellowing to conversation, the noise level can be fierce. Fortunately, on my last visit, I learned of a small back room, also beautifully tiled, where you can spend an evening enjoying your guests’ company.
    The veteran staff has learned all the nuances of coping with the rush of men and Martinis that fuel the atmosphere. You’ll be well greeted and seated, and, with a large complement of émigré Eastern European waiters, each with his own buoyant sense of humor, getting your drinks, wine and food has become a matter of canny timing.
    There are now 22 units of Wolfgang’s around the world, all claiming to serve the finest USDA Prime beef, as do all their direct competitors.  I haven’t the first-hand experience to guarantee that the quality elsewhere is the same as at this Park Avenue original, but the original serves dry-aged beef as good as any in New York.
    All the usual cuts are in evidence, including New York strip, rib-eye, filet mignon and the porterhouse for two or more, all cooked on a 1600º grill, which renders the outside as charred as you wish it to be. The tradition of putting those gorgeous steaks on a red-hot platter is not, to my mind, a boon, for it continues to cook the meat.   I therefore like to get it off those plates ASAP.
    Start off simply with jumbo crabmeat ($24.95) or shrimp ($24.95) or the crab cake packed to the right texture without much filler ($22.95). The lobster bisque ($13.95) is richly flavored with lobster, if a little thin, and the chopped salad ($15.95) is big and abundant with greens and vegetables, easy enough for two to share. So is the massive slab of fat-rich bacon (left), a steal at $8.95.
    Not all New York steakhouses serve lobsters these days—Luger doesn’t —but Wolfgang’s always has the big ones (market price), steamed or grilled to perfection and expertly cracked.  I like to take the meat out by myself; otherwise it loses heat fast if done in the kitchen or at the table.
    Our table of four had a porterhouse for two ($53.95 per person) and took much of it home, a very juicy, huge rack of lamb chops ($49.95), and a five-pound lobster with clarified butter.
    The side dish of buttery, onion-inflected German potatoes ($12.95) was very generous (left), and the creamed spinach ($11.95) had a that nice hint of nutmeg in a well-balanced mélange of spinach, cream and butter.
    Desserts are what you’d expect and the cheesecake ($11.95) is the best of  them.
    Wolfgang’s wine list is long and deep, and top-heavy with big Cabernets at hefty prices, with very little under $100. The commodious bar is where you’ll find an impressive collection of international whiskies and other spirits.
    I don’t think of Wolfgang’s as a competitor to Luger, because to that Brooklyn institution’s basics Wolfgang’s has added beauty of décor, excellent, amiable service, and an expansive menu with something for everyone. That, and the fact that you can pretty easily get a reservation, makes it a far more appealing option for a whole lot of people who don't happen to live in Williamsburg and carry a lot of cash around.

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.






By John Mariani

    To paraphrase Thomas Wolfe’s opening of Look Homeward, Angel, it is a strange destiny that leads a young woman to start making rum in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and naming it after a Prohibition rum runner named Owen “Owney” Madden.
    But when you learn that Bridget Firtle (left), who looks more than a little like a young Sheryl Crow, was raised in Rockaway Beach, Queens, (the next borough over) in a house that had a speakeasy in its basement, it starts to make more sense. Her parents were small business owners, and that kind of personalized entrepreneurship stayed with her, causing her to leave a job on Wall Street in 2012 to found The Noble Experiment, the first rum distillery in Brooklyn in nearly a century. The idea was met with a good deal of skepticism.
    “Raising money was very hard,” Firtle, 34, told me over dinner in Manhattan. “Having worked on Wall Street and watched tremendous amounts of money fly around, I thought it would be relatively easy to find the amount I was looking for.  It was not.  It took months of networking and tons of energy pitching to close the financing.  And, as most entrepreneurs would attest, the first round was not enough.”
    Still, given her own investment experience on Wall Street, she developed a solid business plan, a pro forma financial statement and accompanying model, and an aesthetically pleasing pitch deck.
    “I could predict the glaring questions that would be asked, so I was then able to prepare responses,” she said. “Ultimately, the people who initially invested in the distillery were people who believed in the market opportunity, but more so in my ability to execute the vision.  They were big risk takers who had either worked with me or studied with me. At the seed stage you really are investing in people.”
    She did indeed go through a myriad of experiments before settling on a final recipe that is unique in at least three other ways, besides being made in Brooklyn.
    “I noticed a lack of high-quality white rums in the market, so I set out to create an expression different from everything else in that category—a complex and flavorful un-aged rum without additives, sugar or colorings. Then I made sure I obtained the best ingredients to use for fermentation and distillation. We use an all-natural, non-GMO domestic sugar cane molasses from farmers in Florida and Louisiana.
    “Second, we use our own proprietary yeast, and third, we use New York City filtered tap water, which is chemically perfect and balanced, not too soft and not too hard with minerals.”
    Contrary to most large-scale production that seeks to maximize speed by using esthers from oak barrels for flavor and aiming for a high alcohol proof, Owney’s Rum instead undergoes a long and cold fermentation process that may sacrifice yields for flavor.  “We flip typical commercial rum fermentation style on its head in hopes of forcing a process called esterification in this step, as opposed to in the barrel,” she said, referring to the chemical process by which an alcohol molecule binds with an organic acid and creates an ester, or flavor, molecule.

    After finding the recipe she favored, Firtle and friends took over an old warehouse on Meadow Street, used a four-spout bottler to make the rum, stuck the labels on by hand, then began hustling the rum from the trunk of her car. 
    Owney’s Rum ($28) is a blend of Firtle’s original Distiller’s Reserve New York white rum with a two-year-old rum from the sugar cane farms of the Dominican Republic, which enriches the flavor, making this the rare white rum that has any real complexity. The process actually imitates what Prohibition era rum runners used to do by bringing Caribbean rum to New York to be blended with locally distilled white rum. (France’s Maison Ferrand’s Barbadian Plantation Rum is actually finished in Cognac and Calvados barrels in France.)
    Firtle enters a highly competitive but fairly conservative segment of the spirits market, for while high-end rum sales, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, were up 5.5% last year,
low-end rum sales have fallen over the past decade. Still, Captain Morgan Rum and Bacardi are in the top five best-selling brands of liquor in the U.S. (Smirnoff Vodka is Number One.)
    “I was born in Brooklyn, and I found the best location in the borough, so here we are,” says Firtle. “So, obviously, I wanted to own New York as our home market and, of course, it’s one of the great cocktail cities in the world.  Outside of the city, I want to share the spirit of New York with larger audiences and also introduce more people to rum.”
    At the moment the main markets for Owney’s Rum outside of New York are Texas, Massachusetts, California, Illinois and Florida.
    The key, Firtle believes, is in advancing rum’s excellence as a mixer in a cocktail, especially one like the daiquiri. “Owney is not just a sipping rum,” she insists. “I’m on a mission to free the daiquiri from the blender and change the perception of what the drink has become over the past 50 years or so, and I firmly believe that the daiquiri deserves to sit amongst the classics—a martini, Manhattan or an old-fashioned—and become a true signature drink of quality for a bar.”




KFC's newest item is the Cheetos Sandwich, stacking Cheetos and fried chicken into a bun, then pouring on "a custom Cheetos sauce made by Frito-Lay."


"Skip these in favor of another butcherly art: the sausage. The snappy “borscht” links are a phenomenal marriage of brilliant-magenta beet purée, caraway, and fatty ground pork, served on a bed of finely diced braised cabbage and carrots, with a generous dollop of crème fraîche. I thrilled to a spin on chicken parm: a whole peppery ground-chicken coil that was breaded, deep-fried, topped with chunky tomatoes and a drippy slab of burrata, and ringed with garlicky sautéed broccolini." —Hannah Goldfield, "The Butcher Cooks the Meat at Hudson & Charles Dinette," The New Yorker (2/11/19).




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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