Virtual Gourmet

  NOVEMBER  3, 2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


"Last Tomatoes of Autumn, 2019" By Galina Dargery


By Geoff Kalish

By John Mariani

By Geoff Kalish


By Geoff Kalish

Bouchard's, Newport

    As a top locale for wining, dining and a bit of golf , Newport, R.I., has a lot going for it, with a number of options for casual and elegant dining as well as a high-caliber winery and a scenic golf course in nearby Middletown. Moreover, the city boasts historic sightseeing, the Newport Mansions, streets lined with art galleries, boutiques and upscale chain-store shops in addition to sandy beaches and numerous possibilities for one-hour to day-long boat excursions and deepwater fishing.  Also, because of its island locale, it’s rarely as hot in summer or as cold in winter as its northern and southern neighbors.

Bouchard Restaurant & Inn
505 Thames Street

    Located on the main street of downtown Newport, this restaurant is run by Albert Bouchard, the long-time chef at Le Château in South Salem, N.Y., and his wife, Sarah. With its maroon draperies, dark green carpeting and tables dressed in white cloths, the restaurant takes on a formal ambiance, and the knowledgeable, prompt, professional servers add to the aura.
    As to the menu, appetizers range from a decadent puff pastry studded with asparagus and lobster bathed in a rich lemony beurre blanc to a tartare of smoked and raw salmon mixed with shallots, cucumber, chopped egg and garnished with sweet, crunchy Peruvian Drop Peppers, and from three salads to a special of thick freshly made gazpacho adrift with chunks of avocado and moist shrimp. From a selection of a dozen main courses we chose an order of seared, medium-rare breast  of duck that had crispy skin and flavorful medium rare meat, served with a heady brandy and balsamic sauce and accompanied by wild rice, and a dish of grilled striped bass topped with a zesty sauce of lemon, butter and capers.
    We accompanied the meal with an excellent 2017 Frederic Esmonin “Clos Priéure” Gevry-Chambertin that had a bouquet and taste of ripe cherries and vanilla and concluded the meal with a classic Grand Marnier soufflé.

Open for dinner nightly except Tuesday. Expect dinner for two to cost $120-$130;
 Also of note, there is a five-room inn atop the restaurant.

The Dining Room at Castle Hill Inn
590 Ocean Drive 

    High above Narragansett Bay, this historic Inn’s setting and plush ambiance are the same as when last reviewed in this publication some five years ago. However, I had lots of quibbles with the food and service, which were once highly praised. For example: a course of cavatelli was gummy and oversalted;  a course of miso-glazed sablefish with mushrooms contained more mushrooms than fish; a portion of dry-aged beef sirloin was served cold; and a serving of salty pork was overcooked and dry. And the service was slow and forgetful: no wine poured after the initial pour and the table cleared with an attempt to offer coffee before the main course arrived.
Open for dinner nightly. Dinner costs $85 a person for three courses or $125 a person for a five-course tasting menu.

The Lobster Bar

31 Bowen’s Wharf 

 Bowen’s Wharf, jutting into the Bay and lined with eateries, fudge shops, boutiques and souvenir stores, is always bustling, and this casual restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating affording a panoramic view of the Newport Harbor, is an obvious popular casual spot offering seafood-oriented luncheon and dinner menus. 
    Given its name, there are lots of sensibly-priced lobster dishes, running the gamut from a tasty appetizer of lobster (four ounces) and avocado chunks on a bed of arugula with a dollop of wasabi to a traditional “naked” lobster roll (right), with more than four ounces of lobster meat, crunchy celery, dill and a touch of mayonnaise,  served with a side of drawn butter. Baked lobster is stuffed with baby shrimp and bay scallops, and grilled salmon (certainly not drawn from New England waters) came with a lime-ginger butter. Service is friendly and prompt and there’s a surprisingly good selection of modestly priced wines available.

Open daily from 11 a.m. until very late during from spring through fall. Expect lunch for two to cost $90-$100.


Taproot Brewing Company

 909 East Main Road
Middletown, R.I.

    This restaurant resides within the main building of Newport Vineyards (see below), offering dining in a large tavern-like room and on an outdoor terrace area,  both overlooking a large expanse of vines. The fare is a cut above the usual lunchtime fodder, with appetizers meant for sharing, including an excellent cheese platter of 3-5 local seasonal soft and hard cheeses accompanied by an assortment of dried  fruit, nuts and honeycomb, and breads and a charcuterie board. Salads are enticing, too: fresh-picked local tomatoes with cucumbers, basil and sliced parmesan dressed in good olive oil and well-aged balsamic, and one of cold soba noodles mixed with shavings of summer vegetables and baby kale doused with a Thai chili vinaigrette.
    Main courses ranged from a New England lobster roll to a sandwich of house-cured pastrami to a clam flatbread and regular as well as vegetarian burgers. Also, there’s a clam flatbread loaded with the bivalves as well as house-cured bacon, oregano, parmesan cheese and a touch of garlic. And to accompany the meal there are glasses of the winery’s wine and beer available.

Open daily for lunch. Expect lunch for two to cost $40-$50. 
    As for wining, after recently visiting a number of Connecticut wineries with barely passable wares, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of what’s being produced at Newport Vineyards. Owned by the Nunes family, the estate now produces in excess of 28,000 cases a year from grapes grown on the 100-acre property, under the direction of affable winemaker George Chelf.
     Of the 29 wines he makes (14 whites, 7 reds, 4 rosés and 4 dessert wines) I particularly liked the following: the 2018 Dry Riesling ($22) that showed a zesty bouquet and taste of ripe peaches and lemons with a vibrant finish perfect to go with chicken, veal or swordfish;  a 2018 Pinot Noir Rosé loaded with ripe strawberry and raspberry flavors with a crisp finish, that makes a good match for appetizers as well as spicy fare like Buffalo wings; a non-vintage Rochambeau (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) that had a complex taste of plums and blueberries with notes of chocolate in its smooth finish, a worthy mate for grilled beef or lamb; and a non-vintage Vidal Ice Wine with a bouquet and taste of honey and lychee that had a surprisingly crisp finish with hints of lime, that would make excellent accompaniment to blue-veined cheeses. 

Open daily year round with tours available Sunday - Friday at 1 and 3 p.m., and Saturdays at 10 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

Newport National Golf Course

324 Mitchel’s Lane
Middletown, R.I.

 Originally designed by famed golf course designer Arthur Hills, this 7,244-yard meticulously maintained “links-type” tract, only 10-15 minutes by car from downtown Newport, features wide sloping carpet-like fairways as well as some deep rough, tall fescue, marshes, winds off Narragansett Bay and strategically placed bunkers. However, with four sets of tees, it provides ample rewards and challenge for novices as well as long-hitting low handicappers. Of note, we found the staff friendly and the pace of play quite reasonable.  Greens fees during the “season” run $125 per person, including a cart.
   And rather than stay amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Newport, we chose the recently renovated Sea Breeze Inn in Middletown  (147 Aquindnecck Avenue; 401-849-1211). It offers clean, comfortable, reasonably priced accommodations overlooking the Bay and a short car ride from Easton’s Beach and the famed Cliff Walk, and another 3-4 minutes car ride to downtown. Moreover, the owners, Telly and Leeza (Yiayia) Amarant, are a fountain of information about the area, restaurants and activities.


By John Mariani

1439 Second Avenue (near 75th Street)

     Once upon a time New York’s Yorkville neighborhood, whose main artery was East 86th Street, running from there north to 96th and south to 72nd, was heavily populated by German and Eastern European immigrants, many of whom ran restaurants in the area. Today the only vestige is Heidelberg and the butcher Schaller & Weber.  In their place are numerous restaurants of every stripe, and one of the most welcome is the northern Thai restaurant Thep on Second Avenue and 75th Street.
    Thep is operated by the V{IV} Thai Restaurant & Bar, which installed a crew headed by Executive Chef  Siwa Silasaat, who had worked at Qi and Highline. It’s quite a homey storefront, warm, inviting, with good overhanging lamps, Thai cooking utensils on the walls, and a popular bar up front. In good weather you may sit outside. It’s only moderately loud, despite an unnecessary sound track. Greeting and service, as in so many Thai restaurants everywhere, is extremely gracious and informative.
    There is a wine list and the usual exotic cocktails, but Chang beer goes very nicely with what can be a hot cuisine. Note well, however, that not all Thai food is supposed to be blisteringly hot in chile peppers; rather the complexity of flavors is supposed to be complemented by heat, not dominated. You will, in any case, be asked about your heat preference, which at our table of four ranged from moderate to hot.
    Best way to begin at Thep (which is the original Thai name for Bangkok, meaning “city of angels”), is with the Thep Platter, which is a lavish combination of “Golden Sachets” stuffed with crab meat, minced chicken and vermicelli in a light and fluffy filo pastry puff; a wrap of vegetables and vermicelli noodles with a sweet dipping sauce of pomegranate and plum vinaigrette; fried chicken dumplings and fried shrimp dumplings ($16).
    Just about everything is accompanied by a dipping sauce, some of mashed peanuts, others of fruit flavors, some tending towards the sweet, others hot or tangy.
    Crab fried rice comes in a pretty, carved-out coconut shell amply piled with jasmine rice, onion, scallion, egg and fat jumbo lump crab meat, as well as a tempura of soft shell crab set on top ($25).  The textures are as interesting as the savory flavors in this dish.
            There are a number of skewered satay dishes that really gain enticing tastes from the peanut and cucumber dipping sauce. A very good dish is called hung lay, made with succulent pork belly in a Northern style curry with ginger and peanuts, served with steamed jasmine rice ($20).   If you’re up for seafood, the steamed striped bass gains subtle flavors from a ginger soy sauce, Napa cabbage and sesame oil, served with steamed riceberry ($30).
    This is a long menu, with a whole section of noodle and rice dishes. Kanom jean nam ngeow is a rich soup abundant with rice vermicelli, minced pork, pork ribs, congealed pig blood all served in a spicy red cotton flower pork broth ($15). It’s a fabulous dish and so generously portioned that, even with four people feasting, we took some home.
    Thep’s pad Thai is a classic rendering of this stir-fried mix of rice noodles, chives, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and egg with juicy shrimp ($26).
    The only really hot dish we ate was the red curry, with bell peppers, bamboo shoots and fragrant Thai basil in a creamy coconut and red chili curry sauce ($17). Because of its heat, I recommend it should be the last main course of the meal.
    Then, you can, and should, cool down with some delicious desserts. The simple coconut ice cream ($10), the pineapple sorbet ($10) and the sea salt caramel ($9) will do the trick.





 By Geoff Kalish

                                                                                        Ciani Cantine Family, Campania

 While Italy’s southwest Campania Region has produced wine  since the 13th century B.C., with its very popular Amalfi Coast and ruins of Pompei, it’s better known as a tourist destination than   a wine region. However, based on a recent tasting of more than 30 brands conducted by the Wine Media Guild (a professional organization of wine communicators) at Il Gattopardo restaurant in New York City, some excellent, sensibly priced reds and whites are now being produced there. In fact, based on a tasting conducted by the same group only five years ago that revealed a number of just OK bottles, there’s a marked improvement now in the quality of the wines – with many of the reds showing a rich bouquet and concentrated taste of plums, cherries and oak and the whites revealing rich flavors of ripe peaches and pears and crisp, citrusy finishes perfect to mate with a variety of fare. The following are comments about my picks as the top 10 wines (5 whites and 5 reds) at the tasting (in order of preference).


    In general, these wines mate well with mild fish, like cod, turbot, sea bass, and branzino, as well as pasta with white sauce and even chicken. Of note, my top three wines were entirely or predominately made from the indigenous Falanghina grape, prominent in a number of areas in Campania, especially those with volcanic soils. And the other two wines were fashioned from  the Fiano varietal (of which 85% is required for the DOCG designation).  

2015 Mustilli Vigna Segreta DOC ($30)—This wine from Sant’Agata de Goti, about 20 miles northeast of Naples, showed a rich bouquet and taste of pears and lemons, with notes of almonds in its citrusy finish. 

2017 Donnachiara Resilienza IGT ($16)—From grapes grown northeast of Naples in the Taburno territory, this outstanding bargain-priced bottle had a bouquet and taste of ripe peaches and pears with hints of lemons and grapefruit in its refreshing finish. 

2018 Marisa Cuomo Furore Bianco DOC ($32)--Made from a blend of 60% Falanghini and 40% Biancolella grapes grown near the tiny, remote town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, and aged in stainless-steel tanks for four months following fermentation, the wine has a bouquet and taste of apples and earthy herbs with notes of almonds in its long, lingering finish.  

2018 I Favati Pietramara DOCG ($26)—This light easy-drinking wine shows a bouquet and taste of apples, herbs and a touch of pineapple in its crisp finish. 

2016 Tenuta Sarno 1860 Di Maura Adele DOCG ($22)—This complex wine with a bouquet and taste of pineapple, pears and papaya with a bit of apricot in its finish may seem too fruity to some consumers, but it mates well with bland cheeses like brie and Camembert as well as mild seafare. 


    While the majority of red wines produced in Campania are from the Aglianico varietal (100% or blended with other grape types), the Piedirosso varietal is making a resurgence. Originally   planted in Campania the 19th century, after most vineyards were devastated by the Phylloxera epidemic, wines made from Piederosso grapes seemed to lose popularity in the 20th century, but are now emerging as some excellent easy-drinking, well-priced products. Of note, all of these reds mate particularly well with flavorful seafare like swordfish, salmon and arctic char as well as with pizza, eggplant Parmesan and pasta with meat sauce.  And, although your neighborhood shop may not carry these bottles, they’re worth seeking out.

2012 Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico DOC ($45)—Made with Aglianico grapes grown in the mountainous Irpinia region, this big, bold wine shows a bouquet and taste dominated by ripe plums and cranberries with hints of clove in its long lingering finish.

2009 Cantine Ciani Taurasi DOCG ($38)—Even though this 100% Aglianico, from a winery in the hills high above Naples, is a decade old it shows a rich, concentrated bouquet and mouth-filling taste of ripe plums and cherries with a smooth, elegant finish (demonstrating the ability of these wines to age gracefully). 

 2017 Mustilli Sannio DOC ($20)—Made from 100% organically farmed Piedirosso grapes that were fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, this bargain wine shows a perfumed bouquet and taste of ripe cherries and raspberries with a bit of spice in its finish.  

2016 Donnachiara Taurasi DOCG ($36)—This Aglianico wine has a bouquet and taste of plums and cherries with a hint of thyme and chocolate in its long lasting finish. 

2013 Cantine Lonardo Contrade di Taurasi ($45)—Made from Aglianico grapes, this elegant wine shows a bouquet and well integrated taste of cherries, plums and herbs with a bit of tannin in its finish.




Approximately 414 Germans and tourists were 
caught drunk scooting during this year’s Oktoberfest in Munich, and 254 people lost their licenses because of it, with drunk Oktoberfest patrons abandoning two-wheel rides all over the city.

"20 things you didn’t know about French fries" in Daily Meal (8/21/19) 

 ► Fries are toddlers’ favorite vegetable

►McDonald’s sells insane amounts of French fries

►Waffle fries aren’t made anywhere near similar to waffles

►Not all potatoes make fries of the same quality



 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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