Virtual Gourmet

  May 19,  2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Holland Travel Poster, 1930


By Geoff Kalish


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



By Geoff Kalish


    While the Miami/Coral Gables locale offers numerous established restaurants, like Joe’s Stone Crab, Flemings and Morton’s, all featuring straightforward American cuisine, upscale ethnic fare is now where the most excitement is. 
During a one-week stay my wife and I managed to dine at five ethnic gems. Others were not so wonderful, and suffice it say we found the fare at La Dorada and Aromas del Peru underwhelming.Of note, we stayed at the historic Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel, built in 1926 by George Merrick (founder of Coral Gables), which became a military hospital during World War II through 1952, when it housed the Medical School of the University of Miami until 1968, then shuttered its doors until it became a hotel again in 1987.
    In addition to the Donald Ross-designed, par-71 golf course, featuring wide fairways, lots of sand traps and numerous species of birds and reptiles (think alligators and iguanas), the recently refurbished hotel houses two top-tier restaurants—the haute French Palme d’ Or and the classic Italian Fontana.


45 Miracle Mile

    Located on Coral Gable’s main drag, this restaurant offers classic as well as modern Italian fare, with enough choices to satisfy even the most selective diners, in an elegantly rustic setting, with exposed brick walls, wooden floor and trim and butcher block tables.
    From a list of over two dozen appetizers and salads we shared orders of tender black tiger shrimp bathed in a spicy garlic and tomato sauce; grilled whole calamari atop a mound of greens and flavorful diced tomatoes, all doused in a dressing of good oil and lemon juice; crisp-on-the-outside, moist on-the-inside grilled octopus mixed with purple potato chunks, green beans, radicchio and capers; and a salad of grilled shrimp, organic mixed greens and cherry tomatoes. And from a list of an equal number of pasta dishes, we shared an order of perfectly cooked risotto chock full of fresh seafood.
    Already almost full, we passed on a choice of over a dozen and a half pizzas and calzone. We accompanied the meal with a bottle of well-priced 2011 Roverone Ripasso that had concentrated flavors of berries and spice and for dessert couldn’t pass up the highly touted, dense chocolate Baci bombe.

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




Ortanique on the Mile
278 Miracle Mile

    Also located along the Miracle Mile, this long-standing eatery with a Caribbean bent is run by Delius Shirley and partner/chef Cindy Hutson and her daughter Ashley. As the name suggests, the interior walls of this restaurant are orange, with a number of island touches, like wooden slatted blinds, orange flowing draperies and pillars painted with bright vines and fruit.
    Appetizers range from a large portion of spicy tuna tartare mixed with avocado to West Indian curried jumbo lump crab cakes, to a salad of tender calamari lightly dusted with Caribbean spices and tossed with a mix of greens and tomatoes. From a choice of a dozen main courses we selected a dewy, seared ahi tuna that was marinated in sesame oil and heady Caribbean herbs and spices, and accompanied by wasabi mashed potatoes, as well as one of pan-seared salmon with a mélange of fresh vegetables.
    We accompanied the meal with floral-scented Helfritz Gewürztraminer from Alsace that had just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to counter the spice of the fare. We concluded with a slice of rich chocolate cake.

Open weekdays for lunch and dinner and Saturday and Sunday for dinner only. Expect dinner for two to cost $110-$120, excluding wine, tax and tip.


Madrid Tapas y Vinos
525 NW 42nd Ave., Miami

    Don’t let the location along a nondescript street leading from Coral Gables to Miami International Airport turn you off. This restaurant serves first class, authentic Spanish fare in a cozy room with dark wood tables and at one end a wall of corks in front of which talented musicians perform nightly.
        We started with an appetizer of Galician-style octopus (left), the thin slices of the easy-to-chew mollusk atop small potato rounds coated with a zesty, garlic-laden sauce, and an order of Gambon à la plancha—six tender grilled jumbo Spanish shrimps with the shells and heads still on, providing a briny taste of the sea. A salad of mixed greens, tomatoes and sweet corn kernels and ripe olives was a perfect intermezzo, which we followed with large individual plates of paella—a paella marisco (right), a tasty mix of the rice with shrimps, calamari, green beans and red pepper, and a paella negra, rich mineral-laden black rice loaded with octopus tentacles, shrimps, calamari and green beans.
     We accompanied the meal with a bottle of 2011 Ferratus Tempranillo from Ribera Del Duero that had complex flavors of ripe plums and herbs with hints of chocolate in its smooth finish.
    For dessert we enjoyed a thick slice of caramel-scented flan.

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Expect dinner for two to cost a very reasonable $100-$110, including tax and tip (which the restaurant automatically adds to the bill,) but not including wine.


La Mar
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
500 Brickell Key Drive

    Housed in the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which features a private beach, an infinity pool and plush, spacious rooms, this five-year-old restaurant offers spectacular views of the city of Miami from the sleek indoor dining room as well as from the popular outdoor terrace. What’s offered is the unique Peruvian fusion cuisine of acclaimed chef Gaston Acurio as interpreted by Executive Chef Diego Oka.
    As explained by knowledgeable, professional servers, the menu features raw, slightly cooked, fully cooked and wok-fired fare. Although the tasting menus are popular, we choose à la carte, starting with an order of raw seafood accompanied by smoked heirloom tomatoes and charred Peruvian peppers atop a tasty inky sauce, as well as two huge, barely cooked scallops in their shells topped with a tangy parmesan cheese foam, and one totally cooked item—a large tender octopus tentacle coated with a potato cream and topped by capers and piquillo peppers.
    For main courses we chose an order of Lomo Saltado, a tasty stir fry of tenderloin, red onions, tomatoes, cilantro, fried potatoes and white rice, and a dish of succulent salmon accompanied by a mix of bok choy, kale and broccolini doused in a curry of coconut milk and heady Peruvian pepper.
     We accompanied the meal with a CUNE Gran Reserva, made from Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes that had a concentrated flavor of strawberries, herbs and oak, and concluded with a “Besso de Mar” dessert  that combined chocolate, strawberries, ricotta, meringue, crisp quinoa and yogurt and had a good mix of crunch and sweetness.

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Expect dinner for two to cost $130-$140, excluding wine, tax and tip.


The Biltmore Hotel
1200 Anastasia Avenue

    Seating at this restaurant is either outside in a palm-dotted courtyard surrounding a large fountain at tables dressed in white cloths or inside in one of a number of large beige rooms with tiled floors and walls with beautiful mosaics. The fare is standard regional Italian cuisine, prepared with fresh, top quality ingredients and a deft hand in the kitchen as regards seasoning and the time food spent on the grill or in the oven.
    From a choice of a dozen and a half appetizers and salads, we selected an order of baked eggplant, mozzarella, and savory aged Grana Padano, coated with thick tomato sauce, and a salad of baby arugula, beets, heirloom tomatoes and goat’s cheese dressed with a spicy lemon vinaigrette. Our main courses, again from a large selection of pastas, veal, chicken and seafare, were an order of a whole wood-roasted Spanish octopus coated in a zesty salsa verde, and a special of moist black bass filet atop diced vegetables. For dessert we shared a too-sweet raspberry tart.
    And, while service could have been more attentive, the manager/sommelier was quick to replace the wine we ordered—a 2012 Vallena Amarone—that was oxidized as well as being served refrigerator cold, with glasses of a smooth St. Émilion, without any charge for wine.

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



By John Mariani



    Little Frog opened two years ago as the construction of the Second Avenue subway dragged on and the excavation’s noise and dust kept a lot of people away from the restaurant.  Now that that boondoggle is finally over, Little Frog is thriving in a Yorkville neighborhood once crowded with French bistros with names like Bis, Pascal, Le Boeuf à la Mode, Café du Soir, Fleur de Lis, Le Jacques Coeur and Le Réfuge, all now gone.
    So the neighborhood was certainly in need of a good, honest bistro, and François Latapie (left) provided it, with Gallic whimsy, real comfort and solid bourgeois cooking, via chef Xaviar Monge. Now that the weather is turning warmer, there are tables outside—with only the sound of passing cars and taxis to disturb the peace.
    Latapie is a veteran of New York’s French restaurants, including a stint as maître d’ at Le Cirque and as a partner in La Goulue. He knows his guests well and they depend on him and his fleet-footed staff to recommend what’s special each night, which currently includes the season’s first, fattest soft-shell crabs.
    Little Frog is a long room and bar with 75 seats, done with white brick walls, green tufted banquettes, bentwood chairs and a cosmopolitan mural (right).  You can happily carry on a conversation with your friends, and Latapie has gotten rid of the canned music.

    The one-page wine list is very much geared to the style of the food, with ten selections starred as “Recommended” by Latapie, and plenty of bottles under $60.
    Do order the Provençal rosemary-flecked whole-wheat fugasse bread ($20), and you’ll probably order another. It’s delicious.  There is also a small section of tapas (all $10), which include slick, hot, spicy shishito peppers to pop in your mouth, and thinly sliced pink Iberico ham comes on a crunchy garlic-swabbed baguette. Best of all are the plump fritters enclosing oozing Comté cheese.
    Frogs’ legs—once a staple of French restaurants—make a welcome re-appearance at Little Frog, nicely garlicky, sprinkled with parsley and served with spring’s ramps and asparagus ($17). The duck parfait is as rich and creamy as ever, given sweet-sour inflections from brandied cherries, served on a baguette with cornichons.  Little Frog’s onion soup gratinée is still one of the best in town, with a deep, dark mahogany broth and plenty of bubbling, browned Gruyère on top. Bouillabaisse has all the right shellfish in a ruddy, Pastis-scented broth with garlic mayonnaise rouille (above).
    The specialty of the house, which I did not try this time, is worth knowing about: a whole Normandy duck seasoned with Asian spices with a bourbon-orange sauce that is flambéed, and a side of spinach and kumquats ($79 for two).

    The onglet cut of steak has been replaced with a 10-ounce New York strip (above), with an abundance of French fries in a paper canister, at a very reasonable $35. The beef has a pleasing chewiness to it, as it should. For two bucks more, you can have it with a sauce au poivre.   Currently there is a whole grilled dorade with Provencal tomato and olives ($29), and they always have mussels with frites ($26).
    For dessert my favorite is the big bowl of oeufs à la neige, or île flottante (floating island), as light as spun sugar with a rich crème anglaise (left). Last time I ordered the apple tart, it was undercooked and the pastry mushy; this time it was overcooked and the pastry needed a sharp knife to get through. Practice has not yet yielded perfect results on this item.
    Aside from that, Little Frog has hit its buoyant stride, and Latapie is eagerly waiting for a tall condo to open across the street to bring in a new crowd of what will inevitably become regulars.  I hope he saves some place for us old regulars who don’t live in the neighborhood and those who have yet to find it.  Little Frog is worth searching out.


Open for dinner nightly, for brunch Sat. & Sun. There is a three-course, fixed price dinner with wine for $29 from 5 to 6 p.m. nightly. 





By John Mariani

      The rosé wine season is upon us and it is therefore incumbent upon all wine writers to write their annual rosé wine story.  This year I had the good fortune to learn about what’s going on in France’s Provence, where most rosés come from, by having dinner in New York with François Matton (below, with his brother Etienne on the right), whose Château Minuty is among the biggest and best producers in the region.
    If anyone could be called a crusader for rosé wines, it’s Matton, who makes it clear that people who drink rosé only in spring and summer are denying themselves the pleasure of a fresh, brisk, acidic aperitif at any time of year. Most of his wines, which come from estates in and around Gassin, near Saint Tropéz, are harvested in the fall and released the following spring, which is why we were drinking the just-released 2018 vintage.
    I asked him straight out what seems both a foolish yet wholly reasonable question: Why make rosés at all, since the grapes commonly grown in Provence—Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah—are all red? Matton, 50, who is a third-generation vigneron of the Matton-Farnet family, made a typical French pout and said, unequivocally, “I do not use red grapes to make my wines. I use rosé grapes!” He explained that those three red grapes are intended by nature and the terroir to make good rosé wines, rather than mediocre reds.  (The estate does also make red and white wines.)
    “Our wines go perfectly with our food,” he says. “We are on the Mediterranean, close to Italy, and the seafood, fruits, herbs and spices we use need an acidic, delicate wine to go with dishes like bouillabaisse, pissaladière, tapenade and aïoli. We use olive oil, garlic, tomato, fennel, basil and thyme in our cooking. You don’t want to drink a red wine with such food.”
    His point was well taken, not least because the aromas and flavors of Provence are vividly evident in rosé wines. One can smell a bouquet of roses, hyacinth and lavender, and they taste of sage and olives and rosemary.  They come in a wide range of pastel colors, from very pale gold to burnished pink. Some are very dry, and others very floral. The best will indeed have that brisk acidity and the alcohol will rarely be above 13 percent.
    “If you don’t drink rosé within the year,” said Matton, “the acid decreases and, although the alcohol doesn’t get any higher, the wine will seem heavier and lose its freshness.”
    The 80-year-old company produces a lot of wine—600,000 cases—and is also a distribution company for others’ wines. Recently Matton and his brother Jean-Étienne have worked to restructure the vineyards, replacing Carignan and Ugni Blanc grapes with Grenache and Rolle, and modernizing the winery and tasting rooms for visitors. Their wines are now sold in 75 countries, with the U.S. taking 10% of the exports.  They are also very involved in clonal research, using a proprietary clone for their finest estates.
    I asked him if his rosés, which do not need aging, would be better off with non-cork closures. Matton leaned towards me and said, “To be honest, yes. We already use screwcaps for bottles we ship to Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand.  But the rest of the market is not ready for them.”
    We drank three wines, all from 2018, over a dinner that included a good deal of seafood like soft-shell crabs, golden snapper and Dover sole. The first was the “entry level rosé,” called M de Minuty ($21), a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, which served as a bracing aperitif. Matton said he thinks this wine should be served cold and is not against plopping ice cubes in this wine in warm weather. The wine is in the now-familiar shapely bottle for Provence. There is also a limited edition of this same wine in a new bottle (at $23). The alcohol is 12.5%.
    The next wine, enjoyed with the first course, was called Rose et Or ($40), a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Tibouren, which had more finesse and body, of which Matton said, “The aroma of this wine is of the white peach that grows in the region.”
    The third wine was another step up in refinement and complexity of flavors, adding pear to the peach notes.  It is called 281 ($79)—which has no mysterious meaning other than being the number on the international standard chart for a royal blue (right) that designer Hubert de Malherbe used for the unique bottle (he also does Dior’s perfume bottles).
    It is made from a single clone developed by Matton’s grandmother and from vines that average 25 years old. The Grenache and Syrah grapes are hand harvested and free-run juice is used. The alcohol is 12.5%. Production is 35,000 bottles.
    Overall sales of rosés have been booming, with plenty of novelties being made in California, and many traditional examples pouring out of Spain and Italy. But it’s tough to convince Matton that nature favored any other territory outside of Provence with the perfect conditions to make great rosé.




"There is a sequence of scenes in Batman Begins in which Bruce Wayne goes to a remote dojo in the mountains. There, apart from society, Wayne can leave behind the bustle to focus and train. By the time he returns to Gotham, Wayne is Batman. In early 2018, Dom Ruggiero left Chelsea’s Kitchen for an 827-square-foot butcher shop in Carefree. . . .  After nine months away from the restaurant kitchen, Ruggiero returned in February. And if you have eaten at his new restaurant, Hush Public House, you probably know that if Ruggiero wasn’t Batman before he went away to cure salumi and carve oyster steaks, he is definitely Batman now."--Chris Molloy, "Eat at Hush in North Scottsdale," Phoenix New Times (May 9, 2019)


A London-based company named HushHush posted a job opening seeking someone to test luxury yachts to ensure the luxury yachts listed on the e-commerce site meet high standards.
The job will entail spending a week on the boat to evaluate "every plug socket, door, bed, shower, tap -- everything to make sure that the yacht is up to our standards." The job pays $1,300 per yacht review, and candidates could potentially inspect up to 50 yachts per year and collect up to $65,000. The listing states no previous yacht experience is required.




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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© copyright John Mariani 2019