Virtual Gourmet

  April 14,  2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbach, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor,
Abigail Breslin, Julia Roberts, and Margo Martindale in "August: Osage County" (2013)


Puerto Rico
By Geoff Kalish


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


Eating Around Puerto Rico,
By Geoff Kalish

    Hearing stories of “doom and gloom” about Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, I wondered before going  if the crime rate was up, the service down, the drinking water potable, the beaches clean, the golf courses in good condition and whether all the good chefs were still on the island. To my delight, during a recent week-long stay, what I found was a relaxing experience with great weather, no crime, fine water, scenic beaches, great golf, flavorful fare and generally accommodating service (albeit not without some minor glitches).


The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar 


  As they say in real estate, it’s “location, location, location!” And the reasonably priced,  400-room Wyndham Grand Rio Mar (about a 40-minute car ride east from the San Juan Airport) is set on prime real estate. It overlooks the El Yunke rain forest on one side and a number of pools, scenic beaches and turquoise ocean on the other. In addition to a spa, tennis courts, two well-maintained golf courses and a small casino, it features a number of dining options, like La Marbella for breakfast, and the four notable dinner spots (open nightly) discussed below.




    Situated a short shuttle ride from the main door, above the recently built golf shop,  this large, casual eatery offers salads and a range of appetizers like sweet plantains stuffed with tasty beef  and zesty garlic shrimp doused with lemon and rum. Also, there are a dozen main courses available, particularly a moist, meaty Caribbean lobster, served with either a spicy Creole or tangy garlic sauce, and, of course, a variety of flan creations for dessert.
    Of note, the wine list (shared by two of the other restaurants) features a number of top-producer bottles from California. And, while pricing is generally three times retail, on Wednesday evenings all bottles are half-price, making an excellent, cassis-flavored, velvety smooth 2014 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon all the more enjoyable at $89 a bottle.



    Located on the ground floor of the east wing of the hotel, this is an upscale steak and seafood establishment, with white-clothed tables, good china and stemware and friendly, professional service.  Starters include fresh spinach and burrata salad, meaty jumbo crab cakes and a seafood tower of bivalves and crustaceans. Classic main courses run the gamut from perfectly prepared prime rib to a dry-aged New York strip steak, from grilled or broiled whole Caribbean lobster to sautéed jumbo gulf prawns served with a flavorful onion and heirloom tomato confit. Also available are the usual steakhouse sides like creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms and baked potatoes.
    For wine we chose a 2013 MUGA Reserva that showed rich flavors of ripe plums and strawberries with a hint of chocolate in its finish and we concluded our meal with a honey-scented popcorn crème brûlée.

Roots Coastal Kitchen

     This very casual spot, also located on the ground floor of the hotel, features “build-your-own” gourmet pizzas and burgers, as well as slow-roasted spare ribs coated in a tangy guava barbecue sauce and a whole deep-fried crispy snapper (for two) served on a bed of crisp arugula topped with slices of “flame throwing” peppers. And desserts like banana bread accompanied by ice cream and a chocolate peanut butter banana split are very popular.


Caicu Bar & Tapas

     As part of the hotel's main lobby and providing bar, table and outdoor seating, this casual spot offers “bar bites,” ranging from shrimp tacos topped with slaw and a spicy chipotle sauce to tender shrimp bathed in a garlic-infused lobster sauce to chicken potstickers served with pickled ginger and a soy sauce enlivened by ponzu and sriracha. In addition, there’s a salad of heirloom tomato and baby spinach as well as one made of shaved Brussels sprouts; large plates include a grilled prime tenderloin and catch of the day.
    For wine we chose a cassis- and strawberry-flavored 2015 Hess Select North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon that had notes of vanilla in its finish and we concluded our meal with creamy flan atop rich chocolate cake.

Expect dinner for two at any of the above restaurants to cost $110-$130 (perhaps a bit less at Roots), not including wine, tax and tip.


Rio Grande and Loquillo

Don Pepe
Highway #3

    This small, unpretentious roadside storefront, just down the road from the entrance of the Wyndham, is a room with a bar on one side and a wall with colorful local prints on the other. It offers prompt, knowledgeable service with a large selection of well-prepared Puerto Rican favorites. We enjoyed appetizers of a tasty mix of fleshy octopus and potato atop a basket of mofongo (fried green plantains) and a large portion of greaseless deep fried chunks of fresh grouper served with a variety of mild and spicy sauces.

From over a dozen main course choices we selected a whole fried red snapper (above)  stuffed with local lobster and an order of a trio of garllicky, breaded shrimp on  brochette served with a mound of yellow rice and crisply fried bits of pork.
    We accompanied the meal with a 2010 easy drinking Don Pepe Rioja and concluded with a slice of chocolate cake topped with vanilla flan.

Open nightly for dinner. Expect dinner for two to cost $90-$100, excluding wine, tax and tip.


Kiosko #20, Kioskos de Loquillo

    Located in a large, nondescript space among a row of “kiosks” along Loquillo beach, this locally popular establishment serves Puerto Rican food with an emphasis on seafare. From an extensive selection of appetizers, we chose an order of crisp, grilled octopus tentacles and one of a large, tender squid stuffed with a tasty blend of lobster bits and bread crumbs and coated with an herb-infused cream sauce.
    Our main courses were less enjoyable. An order of langoustines came floating in a rather gloppy tomato-based, Creole sauce, while an order of whole Caribbean lobster was overcooked and served with a bland garlic-butter sauce.

Open nightly for dinner. Expect dinner for two to cost $110-$120, excluding wine, tax and tip.



A BIT OF GOLF (at Wyndham’s Grand Rio Mar Country Club) 

    Managed by Troon Golf, both courses were in excellent condition, with manageable rough and divot-free greens. And while only one hole (the long par-3 16th) of the 45 year-old Ocean Course—par 71, 6,700 yards from “the tips”—is actually on the ocean, it offers an enjoyable experience for seasoned long hitters as well as the average golfer. In fact, designed by George Fazio, it has plenty of ponds alongside the fairways as well as elevated greens surrounded by sand traps to require accuracy by all player levels. And, adding to the experience, there’s lots of wildlife on and alongside the course, like colorful iguanas and birds ranging from herons, to egrets to wild ducks. On the other hand, the River Course—designed by Greg Norman and measuring over 6,900 yards from “the tips”—features rather narrow fairways and a number of forced carries over water and marshy barancas, providing even the best golfers a memorable, invigorating experience.
    Play on either course is open to all, with an average daily fee of $215 per 18-hole round. (Special rates are available to Wyndham hotel guests and Troon members.) 800-424-6627  


By John Mariani

85 Second Avenue (at the corner of 5th Street)

Beet-flavored rice with poached egg

         Upon opening ten years ago, Nai Tapas was one of a very few restaurants of its kind anywhere in New York, and now that it’s moved to new, two-story quarters in the East Village, chef-owner Ruben Rodriguez (left) has become even more committed to offering the city both traditional and very modern-style tapas.
    Rodriguez is from Galicia, where nai means “mother” in the local dialect, and he credits his mother as being an indelible influence, especially from the days he cooked alongside her at her restaurant Merendero Cave. He was equally excited by the innovations made in Spanish cuisine over the past decade, not least in expanding the style and variety of traditional tapas and by using some of the more sensible modernist techniques to create colorful contrasts and unexpected combinations.
    Operations and Wine Director Raul Oleaga, who’d worked with master chef Sergi Arola in Madrid, is an energetic and congenial host, so trust whatever he suggests for wine pairings from an all-Spanish list of contemporary labels at good prices.  They also serve excellent white and red sangria.
    The menu is divided into Tapas Modernas and Tapas Traditionales, and the best course of action is to let Rodriguez send out plate after plate, which changes all the time, for you to marvel at until you cry, “No mas!”  The tasting menu is $89 with sangria, $110 with selected wines.
    You might begin with a traditional dish of almejas à la brasa, broiled clams with lemon zest, cilantro and yuzu. 
    Far more adventurous is a suquet, a Catalan seafood stew of monkfish and langoustine in a cockle fumet with Marcona almond picada sauce.  You don’t see much salmon on menus in Spain, but Rodriguez does a delightful turn with the fish, cutting it sashimi-like, with saffron and a garlic aïoli and seared in a brûlée treatment that makes its flesh creamier. Chilean sea bass comes with 12-months aged Serrano ham,  heirloom asparagus, a sweet-sour orange emulsion and  saffron-colored sea salt flakes.
    Clearly Rodriguez has moved far beyond the dozen or so classic tapas offered at every bar in Spain. He borrows the idea of ramen noodles—not radically different from Spanish fideuà—and gives it a Galician twist in a Savoy cabbage broth with alubia beans and semi-cured smoky paprika chorizo for ballast and heat.
    Borrowing from Japan is nori-wrapped manchego cheese with beet-colored basmati rice and Portobello mushroom slices marinated in truffle oil—an exquisitely beautiful dish of great flavor and texture. So, too, the idea of breaded katsu-style ribeye in a beer batter takes on the spice of sweet-hot peppers (left), while chicken is enhanced with poblano peppers, an avocado puree and  chipotle aïoli.
    You then cool down the palate with watermelon and seasonal desserts.
    The bi-level interior has a rustic cast, with raw cement walls minimally enlivened with artwork, vintage food containers and a series of portraits on glass of Ruben’s family. When the downstairs bar is crowded, it can be crashingly loud, but upstairs it is less so, except on the wonderful nights—Thursdays and Saturdays—when they have flamenco musicians and dancers, who make this a very special place indeed. The flash and color, the brisk strumming on the guitar and the clacking of the castanets heighten all the sensory pleasures of the food and drink at the tables.  (Two shows each night.)
    The New York area is blessed to have three of the very finest Spanish chefs and restaurantes in America—Luis Bolo of Santina on Ninth Avenue, Ignacio Blanco of Ibiza in Chappaqua, N.Y., and Ruben Rodriguez at Nai, each, in very personalized ways, at the forefront of Spanish cuisine in the 21st century.  And for further enticement and a sense of being truly in Spain, Nai brings the added spirit and passion of flamenco.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.



By John Mariani

    Winemakers come in different shapes, sizes and sexes, but all share a passion for what they do—turning grapes into a wonderful beverage. In the case of Dan Petroski, winemaker at Napa Valley’s Larkmead Vineyards, he is of a tall, large size, bearded and looking like he’d be a good choice for a Judd Apatow comedy as a sidekick to Seth Rogan.
    Petroski  (left) met me for dinner at New York’s Union Square Café and, despite just having come from a prodigious industry wine exhibition, he bounded into the dining room, immediately ordered a martini (I drank a daiquiri) followed by dinner for four of us with three bottles of Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignons. Then he was off to have a drink with a friend uptown—the true image of the passionate gourmand.
    Petroski arrived at Larkmead, which is considered one of the most prestigious and priciest wineries, by a circuitous route. Born and bred in Brooklyn, he attended Columbia University, where he played football, got his MBA from NYU, then worked at Time Inc. managing advertising clients, a job that required expense account meals at New York’s finest restaurants on a regular basis—this at a time when magazines were flush. He recalled one night dining with Time Inc.’s publisher, who blew $4,000 at the wine-centric restaurant Veritas. But the evening that changed his life, as well as his career plans, was at the French seafood restaurant Le Bernardin in 1999.
    “We were drinking Sean Thackrey’s Pleiades,” he said, “and it completely blew me away. I begged to get on his mailing list, and I was hooked on fine wines, especially the romance surrounding them. For me, great wines always have romantic vignettes attached to them, not just technical stats and chemical analysis.”
    The result of that evening was his moment of falling in thrall to great wine. Five years later Petroski turned down an offer to work at the Wall Street Journal in favor of moving to Sicily for a year, where he interned at Valle dell’Acate, then returned to the U.S. to work for Andy Smith at DuMOL Winery in Sonoma Valley for the 2006 harvest.  Smith thereupon offered him the job of cellar master at Larkmead and by 2012 he’d been appointed winemaker. In 2017 the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed him Winemaker of the Year.
    Petroski, now 46, is especially known for big, muscular Cabernet Sauvignons at Larkmead, which is owned by Cam Baker and his wife, Kate Solari (right), who revived the vineyards as of 1995—a century after Larkmead was founded—now encompassing 110 acres of vines in southern Calistoga.
    Over a meal of pasta and pancetta and a massive ribeye, Petroski spoke of California’s “Golden Age of Wine” being 2000 to 2010. “It’s the time we really changed the way wine is bought, sold and enjoyed by Americans. The wineries opened some pretty impressive, beautiful tasting rooms, where people could buy the wines or have them shipped home. You can stop by a chateau in Bordeaux, but you have to load the cartons of wines into your trunk. We also have our mailing lists for our faithful customers.”
    At Larkmead, the tasting room is open daily, with tastings at $75 to $90, “depending on the experience.” Memberships range from a guarantee of 10 to 12 bottles per year at $1,400-$1,500; 20 to 24 bottles at $2,800-$3,000; and 30 to 36 bottles for $4,200-$4,500. Some wines, like The Lark, are allocated.
    None of Larkmead’s wines are made in large supply. Only 3,029 cases were made of the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ($120), made from 94% Cab and 6% Petit Verdot, aged for 19 months. The 100% Cabernet Dr. Olmo 2013 ($180) production was only 1,635 cases, aged for 17 months; and the 100% Cabernet Solare 2015 ($240) only 565 cases. (Consider that Petroski’s favorite Bordeaux, Château Haut-Brion, produces about 9,000 cases annually.)
    These were all deliciously bold Cabs, unquestionably in the brawny Napa Valley style, but their complexity and spice kept giving up more flavors as they mingled with the ribeye’s, with tannins already softened up.
    My tolerance for high alcohol stops at 14.5%, but though these were 14.7%, probably higher, by meal’s end they still showed finesse over mere power.
    As I do whenever I speak to winemakers, I asked about the effects of global warming on the wine industry in California.
    “It’s very real,” he said, “and we in Napa and Sonoma have problems with drought and now chronic wildfires. If I had to guess, I’d say that within the next 20 to 30 years the industry and the vineyards will have to shift 250 miles to the north, where it will be cool enough to grow wine grapes.”  Which, I calculate, would put them just south of the Redwoods National Forest, where temperatures currently range from 40 to 80 degrees through the year.
    Knowing Petroski, I imagine him pulling up stakes whenever he gets a great notion and go wherever he thinks he can make better wines. I’ll check back with him in twenty years.






Chicago Tribune food editor Joe Gray promised, "In 2019 and beyond, the Tribune food team will laser-focus on sometimes-overlooked neighborhoods, where the culture and history that produced specific foods is largely unknown to a larger public. A beautiful example of this is Nick Kindelsperger’s investigative work on the peppermint stick-in-the-pickle snack, a street treat that really does exist."--"Big Heat 2019: Chicago’s Food and Drink 50," Chicago Tribune (2/28/19)


The James Beard Foundation has chosen model Tyra Banks to host its Media awards in May.


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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