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eG Foodblog: David Ross - Black Pearls of Gold

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I do a lot of Asian cooking-especially Chinese. I love the smell of garlic and ginger sauteing in hot, toasted peanut oil.

Last weekend as I was preparing for this week's blog, I did a Lobster dish that I wanted to share with everyone to give you a peek through my small window of Chinese cooking.

If I'm lucky enough to be invited to do another blog in the future, I'll get some photos for you of the Asian Market I go to in Spokane. If anyone out there is from Spokane-try the 'Bay Market' on East Sprague just East of downtown. It isn't in the best part of town and the market shares a parking lot with an Adult Bookstore, but it is worth the trip. They have just about anything you might need for any Asian style dish. They get fresh seafood and produce every Thursday afternoon.

This is basically a Mom and Pop Asian market so don't expect that you will walk into a store with overhead signs describing what is in each aisle. And the fresh seafood is usually stored in a portable ice chest cooler out front by the cash registers. Yep, just open the cooler and take out you live Dungeness Crab!

I love their fresh pork belly. It is a big chunk of fresh pork belly with the 'rind' or outer skin left on. I use it for a 'Sweet and Sour Pork.' The fat melts into the sauce as the pork slow cooks. Delicious.

The dish I did last weekend was 'Lobster with Wood Ear Fungus and Cucumber.' I know it sounds odd doesn't it?

You can use any shellfish in this dish, but I'd recommend lobster, prawns or sea scallops. The cucumber adds a sweet, refreshing tone and crispness to the dish.

Wood Ear Fungus is a fungus that grows at the base of trees. The fungus is black on one side and light grey on the other side. It is curly and looks sort of like a furled up, dried out piece of leather. You reconstitute the fungus in hot water like you would do for dried mushrooms. Wood Ear Fungus doesn't have a lot of flavor, but it has a crunchy, chewy texture.

My local Rosauer's market had a sale on frozen lobster tails. They were only $5.99 a pound and the tails were about 8oz. each. I was skeptical to buy frozen lobster tails on sale. Had they been stored in the deep-freeze for 5 years and the market was just trying to free up some space in the back by moving the lobster tails for cheap? The lobster turned out juicy and tender so I had no need to worry that it was past its prime.


When I do seafood or chicken in a Chinese style stir-fry I 'silk' the meat first. I think I first learned this technique about five years ago from one of my Chinese cookbooks. 'Silking' the meat is a method of both marinating the meat and giving it a soft 'blanket' so that when you stir-fry it, the finished meat comes out incredibly delicate, soft and juicy.

The basic ingredients to silk meats are cornstarch and egg white mixed together. I added a bit of salt and black pepper.


I cut the lobster tails into big chunks and left the meat in the shells. While it may be a bit messy eating chunks of lobster meat in the shell-that's the Chinese way. The shell adds flavor to the sauce and it's certainly o.k. to 'suck the meat out of the shell' at dinner. You'll get some odd looks but who cares? You are simply sucking out all the delicious lobster flavor in the shells.


Here are the ingredients for the sauce in the stir-fry; cornstarch, 'Shaoshing' Chinese rice wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce and chicken stock.

You can find Shaoshing wine in the vinegar section of Asian markets. It tastes a lot like Sherry, so if you can't find Shaoshing, sherry is a good substitute. The cornstarch helps the sauce thicken.


OK, here are the vegetables for the stir-fry, and you can see the Wood Ear Fungus-it's the black, gnarly, dried shards of fungus in the right corner. You also see fresh shitakke, garlic, ginger and cucumber.


Everything is ready to go into a hot wok. I leave the skin on the cucumber because I want the crunch factor from the skin when the cumber is cooked. I seeded the center of the cucumber and ran a zester down the sides of the cucumber to make the slices a look a little fancy. In the lower left corner you see the reconstituted Wood Ear Fungus that has soaked in hot water for 30 minutes. Once it is soaked in hot water it turns from black and grey to brown. The surface has of the fungus is rough and looks like gritty sandpaper.


This is the finished lobster dish served with some steamed Jasime rice.


Good Lord-That is Good! This is the finished Lobster stir-fried with Cucumber and Wood Ear Fungus. The little bits of white are from the egg white used to 'silk' the lobster. Those little bits of creamy egg white made this lobster so 'silky' and soft. Delicious.


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Food looks great!

What is that upright brass cylindrical thing I keep seeing in your photos? (forgive me if I missed the answer) I'll guess a pepper mill or a heavy pounder. Or possibly an artillery shell.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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I just watched repeats of the first two episodes today.  What a poor show.

I do local cooking segments on the ABC affiliate in my home town, so I hope I'm pretty experienced when it comes to cooking on TV.

I also appeared in what was really the first 'reality' show about cooking that ran on US television-MasterChef USA on PBS six years ago.  MasterChef still runs on BBC today and is highly popular.

It was a 13 week series showcasing 27 amateur cooks from around the country, ultimately naming the top amateur chef in the USA.  I survived to the top 3 but didn't ultimately win.  Like all the cooking shows on PBS-we kept the food and the cooking as the main focus-not the personalities of the contestants.

I'm a food purist-I watch cooking on television to learn about food and cooking plain and simple.  While it is important that I connect with the host when I watch a cooking show, it makes no difference to me what shape, size, age, sex or tone of voice that the host has. 

I certainly loved Julia Child's crazy, high-pitched voice and her tendency to weild huge cleavers at sides of beef or ugly monkfish.  But that wasn't why I watched Julia.  I watched her because she was a good teacher of cooking and told us about food and ingredients.  That is what I think we captured on MasterChef USA-the 'reality' show tag was simply a hook, but I think we maintained our integrity as cooks by showcasing the ingredients, the food, the preparation and our talents in the kitchen.

I understand why this show is popular with viewers and why the Food Network pushes it.  I imagine it is because it gets good ratings.  Good ratings mean a lot of people watch.  If a lot of people watch, then the Food Network can raise the cost of a commercial because they can tell the advertisers that a lot of people are watching their commercial when it runs during this show.  WHile I do like many of the shows on the Food Network, I don't like this one.

The reality show has become mundane, ordinary and anything but unique.  The formula is basically the same whether the show is on CBS, NBC, Bravo, Fox, MTV, VH1, ABC or Food Network.  Take 'everyday' people and put them in a setting like a hotel or a fancy rental home.  They seem to spend lots of time drinking and deciding who sleeps where. 

The 'candidates' come loaded for bear as we say out West.  In other words, this is their moment to get on TV, so they come dressed in trendy clothes with trendy glasses, goatees and spiked hair and they will tear down anybody who gets in their way.  The one lady on this show that walked in dressed in a hot pink suit and knee length hot pink leather boots didn't look like a serious cook to me.

When I was on MasterChef I was simply competing with myself to present the judges the best food I could prepare.  I was not competing against anyone other than myself, and that's how I survived.

The 'candidates' seem more intent on creating drama and conflict among themselves than keeping focused on why they should be there-the food and the cooking.  I'm not doubting their abilities as chefs nor their knowledge of food, but they don't get it.  They don't realize that food comes first-not the personality or the 'shtick' entertainment value.  From what I saw on two shows I didn't see any of them being able to do a 30 minute show on Food Network.  Yes, there is way too much 'shtick' on "Emeril Live," but what keeps Emeril going is that he is at the heart of the matter a good cook and he knows food.  Doc and the Band aside.

Of course, Food Network encourages the feeding frenzy.  The formula of the reality shows is to focus on the arguing among the candidates so that we'll identify with 'good guy vs. bad guy' from the start.  Remember how Marcel was set up to be the villain from the start on last year's "Top Chef."  Right, you kept tuning in to see who would blow up at Marcel next.  You loved it when Cliff hog-tied Marcel and got kicked off the show. And you loved it on the last episode when Sam slammed Marcel's leadership in the kitchen in front of the judges.  That's right, Sam had to bring up the fact that Marcel left some of the ingredients in the walk-in cooler.  Then in a moment of "you can't write that,"  Marcel took credit away from Sam that the dish with the missing ingredients was changed at the last minute-and the judges actually loved it.  Sam was pissed he didn't get the credit for the dish because he was the one back in the kitchen who told Marcel what to do to make up for the missing ingredients. 

So that's just one little example of how they edit these shows, along with snippets of candidate interviews, a few clips of raised eyebrows, under the breath comments caught on mike, that sort of thing.  It raises the excitement quotient, but lessens the respect for the food and the cooking. 

Hey folks, did you learn to make a wedding cake on that episode today?  I didn't think so.

Now, just to add one more critical comment to my rant, (I've gotten stirred up now), let's talk about that wedding cake competition.  Some of those people didn't even know what fondant is.  They didn't know the cakes at their work stations already had a 'crumb coat' on them to make the final icing coat go on smoothly.  They didn't know because they had no idea what a 'crumb coat' is. 

I'm not saying that you have to know the definition of a crumb coat to be the good host of a television show about cooking.  What I am saying is that if you don't possess a basic knowledge of food and pastry and you are so naive that you don't know what fondant or crumb coat means, you are in trouble.  You won't last on a Food Network show or anything other cooking show for that matter.  Maybe they'll end up being famous for being famous and not for cooking.  I think some some of these people wouldn't know a Sea Bass from a Snapper-and most of them are professionals in the food business. 

Oh well, I supposed between clicks with the clicker I'll tune in again just to see whose survived the latest 'challenge.'  They've got me roped in, a little, even though I hate them for it.

While I am writing the blog today I am watching Food Network. I'm watching Food Network because the cooking shows on my local PBS station are done for the day and "Simply Magic-Cooking with Heart and Soul" with Kylie Kwong won't be on Discovery Home for three more hours.

I wrote the above comments a couple of weeks ago in the 'Next Food Network Star' forum.

I wanted to tell you a little about what I think of the state of cooking on television today.

My list for the best in food and cooking on televison today is:

-Most shows on PBS with the exception of 'Simply Ming' with Ming Tsai. If Ming says "guys" to the viewers less than 30 times a show that would be a record. I like Ming and I like his recipes. I like the guests he has on the show and I like it when he ventures into a kitchen in Hong Kong to wok-fry crabs. I don't like Ming when he refers to viewers, including women, as "guys you need to clean the cutting board after you cut-up a chicken." We are not "guys" so don't call us something that sounds unprofessional and childish.

-Kylie Kwong "Simply Magic-Cooking with Heat and Soul" on Discovery Home. Ms. Kwong is stylish, sexy and knows her ingredients and how to cook them. She does get at the 'Heart and Soul' of Asian cooking through her tours of dark little alleys in Shanghai where peasant women are steaming dumplings. Her seductive, at least for me, Australian accent adds to the allure of the presentation. And while there is plenty of mood-inducing music and an 'aromatherapy' feel to the graphics and tone of the show, it works.

-Most (see Gordon Ramsay below) cooking shows on BBC America that is devoted to food and cooking. I find it sexy and intriguing to hear a Brit call sugar 'Caster Sugar' and a zucchinni a 'Courgette.' Of course, there are multiple pronunciations for all manner of foodstuffs, but a British accent just sounds cool and old-fashioned at the same time.

My list for the worst in food and cooking on television today is:

-See "The Next Food Network Star" and "Top Chef" above. I watched the latest episode of "The Next Food Network Star" today. If I can't congratulate the contestants in any way, I do give some kudos to the panel of judges. Not for producing this show, but for the honesty in their comments. I don't know the names of any of the contestants nor do I care to learn them. One lady who was let go last week-the one who walked into the set on day one in leather, hot pink go-go pants and thigh-high pink leather boots-was booted off. The head judge, I think he's in Marketing or Production or something, said "Our viewers can spot someone who is fake 500 miles away." Right on dude! Like most 'reality' shows on television, some of the contestants on "The Next Food Network Star" don't realize it isn't about being catty or bitchy to the other contestants. It isn't about scripting your own sense of drama. It should be, but isn't, about the food and cooking. Sure, the viewer has to like you and you have to have the type of personality that connects you to people. But you also have to know about food and cooking and be able to do it under the pressures of television. The 'entertainment' shtick value of this show gets in the way of the food.

-"Hell's Kitchen" on Fox with Gordon Ramsay. I haven't visited the "Hell's Kitchen" forum yet, but I'll start my rant here. This show is even worse than "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" and "Gordon Ramsay's 'F' Word' on BBC America. No, the 'F' doesn't stand for that. It apparently means 'Food.'

At least Gordon makes attempts at focusing on food in the 'F Word.' He raised two 'organic' pigs in his backyard on the 'F Word.' He was trying his animal husbandry at raising 'heirloom pigs' to see if they tasted better than factory pigs. After the rendering service came to his home and slaughtered and gutted the poor beasts, Gordon cooked them. He said it tasted better than store-bought pig.

Gordon has made a living out of telling people to (bleep) off. He is incredibly rude and unprofessional. It may make for good tv, but isn't that the Fox way? I have met many fine chefs and I doubt that they became successful for shouting profanities at strangers. It really is a disgrace. This year, there is a man on "Hell's Kitchen" that has a kidney disorder which has stunted his growth. Fox certainly didn't position this poor guy from the standpoint that they were trying to 'help' show that someone who is disabled can have a career in the kitchen. Well they can. Anyone, should be given the opportunity to have a career in cooking regardless of the obstacles. They may not make it, but they should be given the chance. I was really disgusted that Fox played this up, knowing that there were would be a 'Jerry Springer' factor to showcasing this type of contestant. I hope this guy wins it all and opens the best new restaurant in LA in 2008!

I'll have to go on another computer and give you some links to stories I wrote about my own experiences with cooking on a 'reality' show on television-'MasterChef USA' on PBS about six years ago. I'll post the links tommorrow.

I will also give you a link to a story on Julia Child, still my favorite cook on television.

I've got to get into the kitchen now and start dinner.

Fig and Anise bread with Melted Bleu Cheese, Candied Hazelnuts and Mixed Greens.

Lots of Washington white wine.

Duck Confit with Rhubarb Chutney, Peas-Pea Shoots-Carrots, 'Pommes de Terre Macaire.' Lots of Washington red wine.

Bing Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate-Almond Tuiles.


Yesterday I ranted about the current state of 'reality' shows about cooking.

About six years ago I was fortunate enough to be on what was really the first reality show on US television dedicated to food and cooking-'MasterChef USA' on PBS.

I was just a guy from Spokane who liked to cook. I never had even considered cooking or food writing as anything more than a hobby, and I certainly had never thought of entering a cooking competition, let alone a competition on PBS.

I am not at all a competitive person by nature. In fact, I am anything but competitive. I couldn't stomach how the people who were on the first 'Survivor' treated each other with such disrespect. At the time, people in my office were talking about how they would have 'plotted' to survive the challenges. How horrible I thought to myself to purposely set people up so they would fail and to think that would be your key to winning.

About two weeks before the deadline to enter MasterChef USA I took the plunge and submitted an entry. Then I got chosen! The next step was to go to Seattle for the first 'cook-off' for the Northwest Region.

You can read about my MasterChef experience by going to these links.





I've talked a lot this week on the blog about 'stories' I wrote and I've provided some links to those stories throughout the week. I'm not a self-promoter trying to get you to go to another website to read my stories. Besides, that site is kaput!

I personally think eGullet is the best food and cooking website today. From the professional to the serious home cook to someone who wants a recipe for chicken soup, eGullet offers a wide variety of topics and opinions to sate anyone's appetite for knowledge about food.

But I do want everyone to gain a greater insight into my food world by reading some of my original writing work, and at the very least, I hope the stories will connect you to my world of all things food.

Shortly after MasterChef, a woman who was hired by the production company to do some PR work approached me and asked me if I would like to do some food writing for her new website.

Being the naive rookie that I was at the time, I accepted her offer. I was so enthusiastic after the MasterChef experience that I really felt that this was going to be an opportunity for me to get some writing experience and have my work read by lots of people.

It was a great opportunity to start writing about food and experience buy it sadly ended two years ago when the lady who started the site vanished into the Hollywood Hills.

But I am grateful for having had the opportunity to write 70 stories and 250 recipes about my life in food and cooking. I'm still hacking away and trying to hone my writing skills with the hope of someday retiring from the airline business and making a 'career' out of this food thing. Maybe. We'll see. I write restaurant reviews for fun and practice. I write stories about food and I create recipes for fun and practice. I'm re-writing all of the original pieces I did for that old site with the hopes that someday, maybe like you, it will be published. We all dream don't we?

So I hope you enjoy reading through the travails of my turn on MasterChef USA on PBS and how I swooned over meeting 'Abby' of Knots Landing fame, (aka Donna Mills).

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Food looks great!

What is that upright brass cylindrical thing I keep seeing in your photos? (forgive me if I missed the answer) I'll guess a pepper mill or a heavy pounder. Or possibly an artillery shell.

Peter thank you! I was hoping someone would notice that beast this week!

Yes, it is used as a peppermill but it is actually 'Turkish Coffee Grinder.' I bought it at Sur La Table in Seattle many years ago. And yes, it does look like a mini version of the World War I artillery shell casing that I got from my Grandfather!

It works 'ok' as a pepper mill. The pepper shards tend to stick to the metal innards of the mill and that plugs it up so the ground pepper doesn't come out cleanly. I have to take it apart and rinse it out about every two months. I think it is on its last legs.

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Now are you ready to take a trip? Yeah, let's all go to Las Vegas! And don't ever use the slang pronunciation to tell your friends you are going to 'Vegas.'

If you want to be cool and hip in the old-fashioned style of Sammy, Frank and Dean you call the city "Las Vegas."

I go to Las Vegas at least twice a year and if the budget allows.

Las Vegas is what I call the 'Disneyland for adults.' And if you are seriously into food, it is called the 'Disneyland for Foodies.' Las Vegas is literally an amusement park of hundreds of choices for anyone who wants to eat well.

There are some wonderful reviews about dining in Las Vegas and reviews of specific restaurants in the Restaurants, Cuisine and Travel section of eGullet in the Southwest & Western states forum.

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Don't worry about going to Las Vegas if you don't gamble and aren't into the 'club scene.' There are plenty of good eats to keep you busy.

I tell friends that I go to Las Vegas for the food, not the shows, not the gambling or the partying, the food.

My last trip to Las Vegas was in May to celebrate the Bon Apetit Magazine 2007 Food and Wine focus.

This trip I stayed at the Venetian. I like the Venetian because of its location in the heart of the action on the strip. It's across from Caesar's and the Forum Shops and withing walking distance of Paris, Bellagio, Wynn, Treasure Island, the Mirage and Fashion Show Mall. The rooms at the Venetian are all 'suites' and the room I was in was as big as my home-950 square feet.

Lots of people will tell you to stay at a cheaper hotel where the rooms aren't as deluxe as the rooms at The Venetian. That just doesn't fit my profile. Part of the reason I go to Las Vegas is to escape the stress of working in airline management everyday. I'm treating myself to some wonderful meals and the experience of staying at a luxury hotel, so the big suites at The Venetian are worth it to me.

I was in Las Vegas from Wednesday, May 16, thru Sunday, May 20. The weather was incredibly hot for that early in May-most days were in the mid 90's with one day topping 100 degrees. A tip for those of you considering a trip to Las Vegas-it is REALLY HOT in July and August. If you are doing down there during July or August STAY INSIDE! You'll see the normal convoy of people traipsing up and down the strip when it's 114 degrees. I've been there, done that, and it wasn't fun nor was it good for my health. If you have to walk far take a cab.

Another question I get from people planning a Las Vegas trip is when to go. They'll ask me "what's the slow month" in Las Vegas when it is less crowded. My answer? There isn't a slow month in Las Vegas any more. It doesn't seem to matter if it's 3am on Christmas morning or 6pm on Super Bowl Sunday-there is always a crowd of people in Las Vegas in every nook and cranny of the strip regardless of the month, day of the week or time of day. If Las Vegas isn't packed with sports fan watching the Final Four it is packed with shoe salesmen and women who are in town for the world's largest shoe convention.

The May trip turned out to be the best trip I have ever taken to Las Vegas. Each day was filled with making new friends who share my passion for food and cooking, along with some memorable dining experiences and an opportunity to sit in on a seminar hosted by some food writer's whose names I think you'll know.

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I arrived at The Venetian on Wednesday, May 16 at 1pm. Here's another tip, dont' wait in line at the arrivals area at Las Vegas International Airport for one of those 'strip busses' to take you to your hotel.

My flight landed at 1115am and I did stood in line in the sweltering heat outside the airport for an hour and a half wating to board the bus.

There are a number of bus companies that will take you from the airport to your hotel. The ride is about $9 bucks eacy way. That's the attraction. The downside is the wait and the fact that your hotel may not be first on the list of stops. The Venetian is at what I call the "North" end of the strip and that means The Venetian is one of the last stops a shuttle bus will make. Most of the busses leave the airport and the first "drop-off" is at the MGM. The bus then weaves its way up the strip and through hotel back alleys stopping at The Monte Carlo, Planet Hollywood, Paris, Bally's, and on and on until it gets to the North end hotels.

You don't wait nearly as long for a cab at the airport and the ride doesn't cost much more. I would have gladly paid $15 for a cab ride, plus tip, than that awfully long, hot wait for the shuttle bus.

When I checked in at The Venetian the room wasn't ready so I stowed my bags with the Bellman and went off to 'Noodle Asia' for lunch.

Most of the big resort hotels in Las Vegas have an Asian style restaurant, and many of the bigger hotels have both a casual Asian cafe and a more upscale fine-dining Asian restaurant.

I love most of the Asian restaurants in Las Vegas. One of the biggest groups of tourists to Las Vegas fly over from Asia. The Asian demographic is a HUGE source of gambling revenue for the casinos and it is imperative that the hotels food and beverage department recognize that fact. As such, most of the better Asian restaurants offer many authentic dishes to cater to the tastes of their guests from the East.

I am sorry to admit to everyone that I lost my notes from lunch at 'Noodle Asia.' I always travel with a diary to record my travel experiences and what I eat. Somehow the notes for that particular Wednesday are missing. But not to worry, I remember exactly what I had for lunch.

I started with a 'Jellyfish Salad.' The portion was far too big for one person, and I didn't want to take cold jellyfish back to my room to save for a late-night snack. Another tip, few of the rooms at the hotels in Las Vegas have a mini-fridge. No, unlike your local Hampton Inn that has coffee makers and refrigerators in 'every room,' the hotels in Las Vegas don't outfit their rooms with those conveniences. They want you in the casino or at the shops spending money-not eating fold Jellyfish Salad at 3am. I didn't think Jellyfish Salad would be too appetizing if I left if unrefrigerated by the bedside table so I ate what I could at lunch.

The Jellyfish Salad was dressed with a simple dressing of soy, vinegar, sugar and salt. There were a few shreds of carrot and sweet red pepper garnishing the salad. But for the most part, it was a mound of shredded jellyfish. The texture of the Jellyfish is slippery and a bit rubbery with a mild, fishy flavor. The salad was ok but not outstanding.

I ordered the 'Mixed Fried Rice with Barbecued Meats.' Noodle Asia is famous for its roasted and barbecued Chinese style meats like roast duck, chicken and pork.

I was expecting to be served a bowl of typical fried rice studded with egg, peas, green onion and little chunks of roasted pork and duck. Nope, what was served was a plate brimming with a huge mound of plain white rice. On top of the rice were some sliced, barbecued pork and some sliced, barbecued duck with some braised baby bok choy around the edges of the rice.

The pork and duck were deliciously smoky and sweet like good Chinese barbecue. The skin on the duck was paper thin and very crispy.

The Jellyfish Salad and the Mixed Fried rice were o.k., but I should have ordered some of the daily Dim Sum selections. The Dim Sum that was served to a family of four sitting next to me looked very tasty in comparison to my simple lunch.

Since the events I would be attending din't start until Thursday, I went to the 'Buffet at Bellagio' for dinner on Wednesday night. It was a dissapointment.

O.K., o.k., before you start laughing at my expense because I like a good Las Vegas buffet-ask some of your fellow eGulleteers what they like about a buffet in Las Vegas. That's right, lots of us like going to a buffet because many of the buffets cater to the tastes of Foodies.

I like a buffet because I'm a single diner and the atmosphere of the buffet lets me melt into the background while I'm sitting at the table. The people eating in the buffet are serious about gorging themselves rather than wondering about why the guy at the next table is in town.

I have been going to the buffet at Bellagio for breakfast and dinner ever since it opened. It was the first of the upscale 'gourmet' buffets that broke with buffet tradition and instead of serving thinly sliced, well-done Prime Rib like the old-style buffets, Bellagio would offer a 'Tenderloin of Elk with Elderberry Sauce.'

Since it opened, the buffet at Bellagio has lost its luster to the upscale Buffet at Wynn.

On a Wednesday night I waited an hour and 15 minutes in line for the buffet at Bellagio. That's a bit unusual for a Wednesday night but not unheard of, so if you go, plan to wait to get seated.

My dissapointment in the buffet at Bellagio was not in the huge selection, but in the poor service by the chefs at the salad station and the wilted looking pizza at the 'Italian' station. The creativity of the dishes was still there-like a salad of fresh white anchovies with sweet yellow and red pepper-but the food tasted old and tired.

To make up for the poor experience at the buffet, I walked over to 'Jean-Phillipe Patisserie' at Bellagio. This is one mean French pastry shop. Mean as in good. The shop is home to the world's tallest chocolate fountain. At least that's what the Bellagio says.

The service is poor at best. The young ladies behind the counters are always overwhlemed by the hordes of tourists taking photos of the chocolate fountain and they have no idea what you are saying when you ask for "one of the pistachio madelines please." It's best to point and show 'how many' with your fingers.

So that's a bit of a recap of day one's meals and some travel tips for the traveller planning on visiting Las Vegas.

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Here is a photo of the chocolate fountain at Jean-Phillipe Patisserie at the Bellagio. Rivers of white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, flows from about 20 feet high down through big glass bowls. They wouldn't let me shower inside the glass case!


These are photos of wedding cakes that were made by the pastry chefs at Jean-Phillipe. I didn't ask how much a beauty like this would cost buy I imagine it would run into the thousands.


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I usually go to a buffet for breakfast when I am in Las Vegas because it is quick and convenient. I usually start the breakfast buffet with salmon lox and a bagel. I don't indulge myself that type of breakfast when I am at home.

I should have stuck with my normal breakfast buffet routine on Thursday morning. Instead I went down to the 24 hour restaurant at The Venetian, The Grand Luxe Cafe. The Grand Luxe Cafe is an upscale version of the Cheesecake Factory.

I should have told the hostess I wanted to sit in the main dining room and order off the menu. Unfortunately I was led to a table in a small room to the left of the main dining room. I should have realized this wasn't going to be a good breakfast when I saw all the people around me had convention badges around their necks.

The Venetian owns the old Sands Convention Center. It is one of the largest convention venues in Las Vegas. The Venetian has a steady stream of conventioneers staying in their suites, gambling in the casino and eating in their restaurants. I'm not knocking people who attend conventions. I attend conventions. But in the morning most convention attendees want breakfast quick so they can head out for the day's business.

The waitress recommended I try the Express Buffet. It was awful. A limited choice of bacon, eggs, a few pastries and cereals.

I'd make up for the poor breakfast with dinner on Thursday night.

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Thank you so much for killing my Saturday afternoon plans with 5 pages of great reading! :laugh: I do hope that your story of another guy from PNW is about James Beard; he's one of my culinary heros, even though he and I disagree about pineapple in cole slaw. :rolleyes: Great blog, thank you!

My Mother, who is now 83, would be someone who would have put canned, diced pineapple in coleslaw. I don't know if she got the inspiration (if that is what you would call it), from Beard.

I love pineapple in cole slaw; for me good cole slaw is creamy and a little sweet; dear Mr. Beard considered adding pinapple to be "an abomination". And, by me, NO onions in it either! :angry:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Thank you so much for killing my Saturday afternoon plans with 5 pages of great reading! :laugh: I do hope that your story of another guy from PNW is about James Beard; he's one of my culinary heros, even though he and I disagree about pineapple in cole slaw. :rolleyes: Great blog, thank you!

My Mother, who is now 83, would be someone who would have put canned, diced pineapple in coleslaw. I don't know if she got the inspiration (if that is what you would call it), from Beard.

I love pineapple in cole slaw; for me good cole slaw is creamy and a little sweet; dear Mr. Beard considered adding pinapple to be "an abomination". And, by me, NO onions in it either! :angry:

I'm not sure I'll try pineapple in coleslaw, but I sure would never call it an "abomination." Some of Mr. Beard's musings on food were pretty opinonated, and funny.

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[...]The Jellyfish Salad was dressed with a simple dressing of soy, vinegar, sugar and salt.  There were a few shreds of carrot and sweet red pepper garnishing the salad.[...]

The cold jellyfish dishes I get also have another crucially important ingredient: sesame oil. Did this one lack the sesame oil?

Michael aka "Pan"


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On Thursday night in Las Vegas I had a reservation for an event I had been waiting for since February-a private dinner at Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesar's Palace.

While I had high expectations of the meal, I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined how memorable the dinner would turn out to be.

I haven't worn a suit and a tie to work in over 10 years. The suits I have hanging in my closet haven't fit me for 10 years. So with the encouragement from my co-workers, I bought a dark blue suit, blue shirt and tie especially for this event. I worried I would be overdressed, but it turned out that the gentlemen who didn't wear a tie were underdressed.

God, I was actually nervous walking up the staircase to Guy Savoy!

To get to the restaurant you walk to the left of the main lobby at Caesar's and enter down a hall to one of the new hotel towers. There are few signs that you are heading toward one of the top French restaurants in the world.

I walked up this huge winding staircase to the second floor. To the right are the Caesar's wedding chapels and to the left. To the right you see a pair of gigantic, dark wood doors.

As I was sitting for the staff to open the restaurant to our private event, Alan Richman walked out of the doors. Now I haven't weighed in on the Alan Richman thread at eGullet and the criticisms of the piece he did on the San Franciso Ferry Building. But in that short moment I found Mr. Richman to be very friendly. He walked up and introduced himself and shook my hand. He said that "Guy Savoy is really one of the best French restaurants in America." Coming from a guy who I knew to be at the top of the food writing world I took that as a great compliment that I had chosen this private event. Alan was off to host another private dinner sponsored by Bon Apetit at 'Rao's' in Caesar's Palace.

At 6pm, we walked through the church doors into a temple of fine French dining. We were greeted by Frank Savoy, Guy Savoy's son and the Manager and host of the Las vegas restaurant. Frank is a very young man of no more than 35 and he has the style and grace that I remember from Maitre d's from fine 'continental' dining rooms in the 60's.

Just past Frank, standing in waiting to greet the guests, was the master himself. I actually had goose bumps. Chef Savoy warmly offered his hand. (He reminded me of Chef Andre Soltner. Both are very friendly, warm and totally unpretentious.)


I counted no more than 40 people total that would enjoy dinner. The event was hosted by Barbara Fairchild, Executive Editor of Bon Apetit. Chef Savoy had ordered a staff of nearly 30 into the kitchen that night-almost one cook per customer.

I learned later that we happened to be dining on the one-year anniversary of the opening of the restaurant that welcomed Guy Savoy to Las Vegas. The President of Caesar's was there to congratulate Chef Savoy and his crew.

You can't go to Las Vegas without seeing a 'celebrity' and I met one. The minute I heard his voice I knew it was 'Robin Leach' of "Caviar Dreams and Champagne Wishes." Yes, the man who shot to fame on 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.'

The dining rooms is very small. Not a lot of lavish decoration. The focus is on the food, not the decor. There were no more than 20 tables. There is a small semi-private dining room on one end of the room.

We were served Rose'Champagne out on the small patio that overlooks the front of Caesar's Palace. They served us two little bites during the champagne reception. One was a tiny little burger of Kobe beef and foie gras served on silver spikes. The second little snack were small squares of buttered brioche with foie gras. I've heard that Guy Savoy only buys his truffles and foie gras from a vendor in France. I believe it.

Now you will get a laugh at my expense for what I did as I was sitting down at my table. I spilled my champagne! That's right, the guy from Spokane who was at the dining event of his life knocked a crystal flute of champagne all over the table at one of the top French restaurants today!

The staff couldn't have been more gracious. You know what they did? They didn't just pull off the service and replace the table cloth. They literally picked up the entire soiled table and took it away. Then they brought a freshly set table out from the back! My God that is service!

I was seated at a table of four. And while we began as strangers, we quicly bonded through our mutual love of food. One man was from Chicago and was a serious home cook with an interest in fine restaurants. Another man was a Las Vegas resident who owned a company that sets up AV equipment at trade shows. His wife wasn't able to come to dinner because she was "at her belly dancing lesson." Our fourth guest was a lady who is the Director of Food and Beverage at the MGM. She was at Guy Savoy partly for personal pleasure but also professionally so she could check out the competition. This is a lady who counts Joel Robuchon and L'Atelier at the MGM as part of her stable of restaurants.




The 'Amuse Bouche' was a sampling of three tiny bites served on a tiny, Asian style spoon set on a glass plate. This is a 'Tuna Tartare.'


Mind you, I was new to the digital camera world, I had plenty of champagne, and I was still nervous that I was dining at such a prestigious event. I had gotten over soiling the table, but I still didn't get good, clear photos. Hey the photos weren't as important as enjoying the event. A second champagne was served with this course. Sorry, didn't get the name or vintage. This is a crispy little escargot.


My favorite of the three was this tiny little 'Lobster Roll' with a spoonful of lobster foam on top.


This is "Colors of Caviar" served with "Moet, Millesime Blanc, Champagne, 1999." Our third different champagne by the way! The green layer was a puree of green beans. You don't really notice the layer of Iranian Sevruga Caviar under the top cream layer. Delicious.


"Peas All Around and Poached Egg" served with "Lucien Albrecht, Cuvee Romanus, Pinot Gris, 2005." You have never tasted such intense, Spring pea flavor. The clear pea essence in the bottom of the bowl was a 'pea jelly.'


This was my favorite dish, "Crispy Sea Bass with Delicate Spice" served with "Joseph Drouhin, Meursault, 2004." I asked the wine steward if he was familiar with the Joseph Drouhin winery in Oregon and he said that "Yes, Mr. Ross, it is the same family but this is one of their wines from France." The little rows of spices on the edge of the plate were intended for dipping with the fish. There were a few tiny fresh shitakes and the white vegetable you see are braised stalks of chard.


This doesn't look as good as it tasted. It is "Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup, Toasted Mushroom Brioche and Black Truffle Butter." Dear God! Kill me with more brioche, butter and truffles! The slices of truffle in the soup were huge. They poured a "Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Monthelie Les Duresses 2002." And we aren't even at the 'main' entree yet!


Before they carved the main entree, the waiters paraded through the dining room with huge wooden cutting boards. Each board held a Rack of roasted Veal. There were a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary adorning the veal. The waiter came to our table and bent down so we could view the veal. Imagine that. They wanted to have our approval of the rack of veal before they carved it. The veal was served with Spring vegetables and Black Truffle Mashed Potato Puree. Shoot me now. I have probably eaten $500 dollars worth of French black truffles already. Two waiters came to the table a few moments after the entrees were served. One waiter held a small copper stockpot of the potato puree. "Would you like more potatoes Mr. Ross?" The other waiter offered me "more sliced veal and veal jus for you Mr. Ross?"

"Roasted Veal Chop, Black Truffle Potato Puree, Young Vegetables," served with "Jean-Luc Colombo, Cornas, Les Mejean, 2001."


Throughout dinner, a waiter strolled through the dining room offering the guests selections from 'The bread cart.' Yes, Guy Savoy has a bread cart. There were too many choices to try them all, but the most unusual bread was made with fresh seaweed. It was quite good with the Sea Bass course.

We didn't have the pleasure of enjoying the Savoy cheese cart, but we did have three dessert courses. Two were listed on the menu. The third dessert was very special and wasn't on the menu.

The first dessert was "Chocolate" served with "M. Chapoutier, Banyuls, 20003." There were three different variations of chocolate on the plate but I honestly can't remember what they were. I will mention that throughout dinner the waiters were more than generous with the wine pourings.

When you order the wines that accompany a tasting menu you often find the waiter limits each wine to about three fingers in the bottom of the glass. Not Savoy-they graciously refilled your wine glass when it was empty and we are talking about very expensive wines.

The second dessert was "Raspberries and Litchi Like a Vacherin." Ahh, a chef who knows the fragrance of a fresh Litchi. The dessert was served with "Domaine de Coyeus Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, 2003."


This was a dinner to remember for a lifetime.

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[...]The Jellyfish Salad was dressed with a simple dressing of soy, vinegar, sugar and salt.  There were a few shreds of carrot and sweet red pepper garnishing the salad.[...]

The cold jellyfish dishes I get also have another crucially important ingredient: sesame oil. Did this one lack the sesame oil?

You know that is a very good point. Come to think of it now, I don't think there was even a drop of sesame oil. I think it would have certainly given the salad more flavor.

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Now the crowning end of the meal at Guy Savoy was the "Dessert Cart."

Our table was the last to leave, and the last to get the Dessert Cart. We were really, really enjoying the evening, and the wine, and we kept seeing this dessert cart being wheeled by our table. When we asked the waiter he said the cart was on the way and we would be the last party of the evening to enjoy the plethora of sweets.

The card held forth blackberry marshmallows, strawberry lollipops, lavendar ice cream, chocolate ice cream, vanilla ice cream, cotton candy, mint madelines and pistachio madelines. And that only describes a third of what was offered.

The waiter served everyone individually from our personal selection of treats.

Being the last table at the private party to still be eating, we just had to finish off the last bottle of Banyuls. Then we staggered out of Savoy knowing we had just experienced something that few people will ever have the chance to enjoy.

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On Friday morning I went to breakfast at "Bouchon" at The Venetian.

I try to go to Bouchon for breakfast every time I am in Las Vegas.

There is a wonderful thread on Bouchon, Las Vegas in the dining forum.

Unfortunately I think that the cooking and service at Bouchon has slipped in the past year. Maybe Chef Keller needs to come to Las Vegas more often to insure that his standards are being met.

I choose Bouchon when I am in town, because it is one of the few fine dining restaurants in Las Vegas that serves breakfast and I like the cool, quiet setting outdoor on the patio.

I ordered the "Ouefs au Gratin" or baked eggs au gratin.

The eggs were served in a small cast iron skillet and were garnished with a topping of cheese and panko bread crumbs. The bread crumbs were the best part-crisp to a golden-brown color. The eggs weren't done. The whites were undercooked and the yolks were raw. I like my eggs 'Sunnyside' up but these eggs were basically cracked into the dish and sort of heated in the oven.

My other gripe with breakfast at Bouchon was the cold butter. I hate cold, ice cold, butter served at restaurants. It ripped the crap out of my dainty slices of toast.

The setting was good. The food so-so.

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On Friday afternoon I had reserved a seminar on the food writing scene in Las Vegas. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about food writing and I love Las Vegas so I figured this was the best seminar for me to attend.

The seminar was held in a private dining room at 'Sensi' in the Bellagio.

Sensi is a very good restaurant but it doesn't get the notice of some of the other fine dining restaurants in Bellagio like 'Picasso' or 'Le Cirque.'

Sensi is casual in terms of the atmosphere and dress. The basic concept is that you can order from four different kitchens and craft your own meal. Like live seafood from the seafood kitchen or grilled meats from the grill kitchen.

A word of caution about restaurant prices in Las Vegas while I am thinking about it. Please take some time to visit the forums in eGullet and to check out the restaurant website while you are planning a trip to Las Vegas. If you don't do your research you may be shocked at the sticker prices on the posted menus when you get to town.

The high-end places like Guy Savoy or Robuchon run upwards of $300 per person for a tasting menu. If you go to Emeril's New Orleans Fish House at the MGM you can expect to pay around $100 bucks per person for three courses and a few glasses of wine.

The hosts of the talk about the restaurant scene in Las Vegas and the art of food writing were Barbara Fairchild, Editor of Bon Apetit, Alan Richman who writes for lots of national publications like GQ, Max Jacobsen who writes for Las Vegas life magazine, and my friend John Curtas.

I'd like to personally recognize John. John is a fellow eGullet man. He is an attorney in Las Vegas by trade, but he has written about food and restaurants in Las Vegas for over 25 years. John is the host of "Food for Thought" on the local NPR radio station in Las Vegas. Check out his podcasts on the KNPR website.

I first met John via email after I had read some of his posts on eGullet. Since we met in Las Vegas, John has graciously given me free critiques of my writing. Thank you John and we will definately do the 'after party' next year!

I wanted to mention today some thoughts I have on the topic of 'bloggers' that was raised by the panel at the seminar.

Barbara seemed to accept the fact that bloggers are a part of today's food world.

Alan Richman was the most apprehensive to accept food bloggers.

We no longer live in a culture where people read restaurants once a week in the Friday, entertainment section of their newspaper. We love to get our montly food magazines, but that has also become somewhat a relic of the past. Today I think people have a craving for information about restaurants and food and cooking and they want the information now. It's hard for the food journalists who grew up in the past to accept the bloggers of today. Max and John agreed to Alan's point, just not as harshly.

I respect Alan's work and experience. I am actually trying to go to one of his writing classes in New York. By his own admission Alan agreed that a blogger who has a knowledge of food, wine and cooking is a good thing. I agree. I also agreed with Alan when he said that a blogger without experience in a chosen field can damage all food writers and restaurant critics. As I mentioned before, I found Alan to be a likeable man and he has a counter full of Beard Awards for food writing to prove his talent. I am sure Alan would encourage you to disagree with his opinions but have a respect for the fact they are his opinions.

One other point that Max and John made at the seminar was that they don't include anything about service when they do a restaurant review. Alan sort of agreed. Barbara totally disagreed with the point.

I side with Barbara. Max feels that service isn't important to his readers. I disagree. If I read a review on eGullet that says the service at Prime steakhouse at Bellagio has terrible service, I probably won't go there. The steaks may be prime but if the service isn't, I don't want to waste my time.

Friday night I had dinner at Wing Lei at Wynn.

Thank you doc and moltoe for the recommendation. It was outstanding.

Here is the post on eGullet that I did after dinner at Wing Lei.

Jun 8 2007, 06:07 PM

Post #11

I would like to thank my fellow e-gullet writers who encouraged me to dine at Wing Lei. I had dinner at Wing Lei, table for one, on Friday, May 19.

This is an excerpt of a review I wrote about my experience. I write restaurant reviews just for fun and for practice to work on my writing skills, so this is part of a larger review. Enjoy.

I have to apologize for not getting any photos of the dining room or the dishes that were served.

I had pre-reserved the Seasonal Tasting Menu for one. It is normally only served to a minium of two people but they had no problem accomodating my request.

Course #1-"Grilled Beef Salad with Rice Noodles."

This was a simple description to describe a simple dish. It was simple merely because there were only a few ingredients-but the flavors were anything but simple. The salad was a light and refreshing introduction to the heavier flavored dishes to come. The beef tenderloin had been lightly grilled to medium-rare. The rice noodles were flat and thick like pappardelle pasta. The salad was dressed lightly with soy sauce and rice vinegar and garnished with shredded green onions and sweet red pepper.

Course #2-"Chicken Soup."

The description of the dish on the menu was almost too humble. Then again, maybe the chefs were trying to fool me? List a dish simply as "Chicken Soup" and you probably are thinking it isn’t fancy enough for a restaurant like Wing Lei. ‘Shouldn’t they be serving me Bird’s Nest Soup with Gull’s Eggs?”

The waiter brought a covered porcelain bowl to the table. He placed a wide gold spoon next to the bowl of soup. He removed the cover from the bowl, releasing a fragrant cloud of chicken steam. Soft little dumplings that enclosed a center of chicken mousse floated in the 'essence' of chicken broth. A few strips of julienne carrot and zucchini squash were the only garnishes.

Course #3-"Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns."

The waiter told me that the next dish was Spot Prawns that had been brought over from Santa Barbara that morning. "I like these prawns better than lobster” he said. “They have a sweet yet delicate flavor. And Mr. Ross, you know they were swimming in the live tank in the kitchen just a few moments ago."

Two large prawns were served on a small, rectangular plate. The prawns had been taken live from the tank directly into a pot of simmering liquid and then gently braised for a few moments to keep them moist.

They were served with the head on and the ruby red roe running down the tail. There was a tiny, whole mustard green served on the side. The mustard green was steamed and garnished with a little fried garlic. The idea was for the bitter mustard green to counter the flavor of the sweet prawns.

Course #4-“Miso Glazed Salmon, White Bamboo Mushroom Fungus and Pi Leaf Greens.”

Miso is salty and can overpower the delicate flavor of salmon if too much is slathered on fish.

In this case, the Miso added just a hint of salty taste and the characteristic scent of miso and soy to the tender, medium-rare, salmon. Not too much, not too little.

There are hundreds of different types of greens used in Chinese cuisine, but tonight the chef had chosen the leaves from the tender ‘Pi Leaf’ green. The steamed Pi Leaves served as a bed for the salmon.

Another foundation for the salmon were shoots of Bamboo Fungus.

The waiter told me that “Bamboo Fungus is usually stuffed with dried shrimp or mined pork,” but tonight the chef had only braised the tender, white cylinders. The fungus had a delicate, yet crisp texture and a hint of bamboo flavor.

A sauce made from reduced soy sauce and miso was drizzled around the plate.

Course #5-“Jasmine Tea-Smoked Chicken, Soy Reduction, Shanghai-Style Pan-Fried Noodles.”

A baby chicken had been smoked with the tropical flower scent of Jasmine tea.

The chicken was then braised in a sauce based with soy.

There must have been a final cooking stage in a hot oven to crisp-up the golden brown, shiny skin of the chicken.

Shanghai-Style noodles are thin egg noodles that are the size and texture of angel hair pasta. The noodles were stir-fried with sliced, fresh shitake mushrooms and a mixture of other vegetables.

There was a ribbon of reduced soy sauce around the chicken. The sauce was thick, gooey and sweet. It was so delicious I thought I would name it ‘Chinese Molasses’ and bottle it.

Course #6-“Dessert Trio.”

At one base of the trio was a finger of creamy chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell and served with milk chocolate sauce.

Next to the chocolate mousse was fresh strawberry sorbet served with poached fresh Lychee fruit.

Lychee fruit are juicy little white orbs that taste like a cross between apple, pear and pineapple. The exotic scent of the Lychee smells of roses and tropical orchids.

The third side of the trio was a tapioca based dessert.

A small glass held tiny pearls of tapioca suspended in mango mousse with a base layer of coconut. The mango mousse was topped with a little scoop of icy mango sorbet.

The trio of desserts was just the right balance of sweet, refreshing and refined flavors and light textures.

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The only event I had planned on Saturday was a private winemaker's lunch at 'Alex' at the Wynn.

Chef Alex Stratta was hired by Steve Wynn as the head chef at 'Renoir' restaurant when it opened at The Mirage. When Mr. Wynn opened his new resort he supposedly paid dearly to sign Chef Stratta to join him.

I didn't get any photos of the lunch at Alex. I will tell you that the room, the service, the wine pairings and the food were divine.

When there a restaurant in Las Vegas is reserved for a private party, they put a sign out front that says, "reserved for private function."

The decor of Alex is totally opposite of Guy Savoy. Savoy is small and stark with an intense focus on food and service. It was fun for me to walk past the gawking tourists who were standing out front of Alex wondering what 'debutante' was going to walk by. No debutante, just a guy from Spokane who was hungry for lunch.

The decor at Alex is just what you would imagine from the reviews you might have read. There is a huge staircase right out of "Hello Dolly" that carries you down into the dining room. The walls are dark wood that with lots of moulding. The windows are draped in silk and damask.

Chef Stratta was at the base of the stairs to greet us with flutes of champagne as we stepped into the dining room.

This is the menu and wines that were served. Sorry, I didn't do as thorough review of Alex like I wrote for Wing Lei or Guy Savoy. I was on day four of a five day tour of gluttony and on this day I just wanted to enjoy the experience.

Reception-Wattle Creek, Methode Champenoise, Yorkville Highlands, NV

'Spring Vegetable Crudites' with Black Truffle Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Gratin' served with 'Wattle Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, 2006.'

'Roasted Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Sweet Corn Custard, Fava Beans and Tomato Confit.' The wine served was 'Wattle Creek, Viognier, Alexander Valley, 2005.'

'Roasted Quail with Pancetta, Porcini Mushrooms and Asparagus Gratin' served with 'Heitz Vineyards, 'Martha's' Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2001.'

'Hazelnut, Chocolate and Caramel Crunch, Praline Ice Cream' with 'Heitz Grignolino Port, Napa Valley, 2003.'

And the last touch were 'Petits Fours' and 'Warm Madelines.'

The final day of my trip to Las Vegas was Sunday, May 20. I went to Wynn for the Sunday brunch at the 'Buffet.'

The Buffet at Wynn is much smaller in terms of size and selection than the buffet at Bellagio, but I think the quality of the food and cooking is better.

The buffet isn't cheap, with tax and tip I think it was about $35 for brunch.

I didn't have the apetite to try one of the cupcakes with pink frosting and sprinkles, but I'll try that on my next trip to Las Vegas.

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Yesterday was frantic. I had to deal with some computer problems that slowed me down, but I wanted to make sure I delivered on my promise to you to talk about the state of cooking on television. Oh, and the trip to the farmer's market and dinner.

I make duck confit about 4 times a year. I can eat duck confit anytime of year. While we normally think of confit as a cold-weather dish, it is too tempting to resist a dish of duck confit, fresh morel mushrooms and papperdelle pasta in the Spring.

I but duck leg quarters at the local Asian market. I can't get them at any other market in Spokane. When you ask the meat guy at Safeway for frozen duck quarters he looks at you like you are crazy-"who eats duck legs." I do.

Asian markets are great for hard to find cuts of meat like duck leg quarters or pork belly. Other stores don't sell the stuff and the prices are so low at Asian markets you think they aren't charging you enough.

I usually pay no more than $1.99 a pound for duck leg quarters. I think that is pretty cheap.

I usually marinate the duck pieces for three days with a mixture of sea salt, black peppercorns, crushed juniper berries, sliced garlic and sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary.

Then I rinse off the marinade and put the duck into melted lard.

The traditional recipe calls for duck fat, but it's expensive and I don't like to have to order it online so I use lard. Lard works just fine.

I melt the lard in a Le Cresuet deep stockpot and put in the duck pieces.


I cover the pot and put it in a 200 degree oven for six hours. I made this batch about three weeks ago.

After the pot is taken out of the oven I let it cool and then I put the pot in the fridge. I let the duck sit and 'confit' in the lard until it is ready to use.

To serve the confit I put the stockpot into a 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the lard melts and I can easily take the duck pieces out of the fat.

Then I put the duck on a cookie rack over a sheet pan and into a hot, 450 degree oven. This helps to heat the duck. I always put some water in the bottom of the sheet pan so that the dripping duck fat doesn't catch fire.

After about 20 minutes I turn the oven to 'broil' and give the duck a blast of heat from above to crisp the skin.

I served the duck with some 'Pommes de Terre Macaire,' which is a recipe from Jacques Pepin. You bake a russet potato and then let it cool in the fridge overnight.

The next day you scoop out the potato flesh and saute it in a skillet with butter and olive oil. It is kind of the French version of hash browns. Delicious.

I served the duck with fresh peas, carrots and pea shoots. My rhubarb relish wasn't ready to serve so I drizzled some Marionberry around the duck.


I started dinner last night with a slice of the fig bread I bought at the Farmer's market yesterday. I put some crumbled bleu cheese on a thick slice of the bread, then broiled it in a hot oven to melt the cheese. After the cheese was melted and the bread was toasted, I added some of the candied hazelnuts I made a few days ago. I served the bread with a salad of greens with olive oil and lemon juice.


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OMG I am sated just reading your adventures in Las Vegas.

Thank you so much. Las Vegas really has more good restaurants in a short amount of land than any other city in the country. The top restaurants are concentrated in just a few miles up and down the strip. You never tire of the choices because there are so many to choose from.

You might find this story about dining in Las Vegas kind of fun. It's dated now from when I wrote it for fun about 5 years ago. The restaurant scene in Las Vegas changes every month so what was written last year is old news by now.


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I love to make ice cream. It is very easy but it takes a couple of days and you need the right equipment.

I start by making a custard of egg yolks, sugar, milk, cream and vanilla bean.

I heat the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a saucepan. In a bowl I stir the egg yolks with the sugar. You add some of the warm milk to the eggs and stir quickly to temper the eggs, then pour the egg mixture back into the warm milk in the saucepan. You cook the custard for about 15 minutes or until it thickens.

I strain the custard into a container and let it cool, covered, overnight in the fridge.

This is my cuisinart ice cream maker. It is heavy and load and cost a few hundred bucks, but it is really quick, only 20 minutes or so to cool the custard to ice cream. You don't have to freeze the bowl ahead of time because the unit has a built-in freezer. You just pour the custard in the bowl sitting in the unit and let it go. After the ice cream is thick, I added some Bing cherries that I macerated in Cherry Liquer. It's important at this stage to spoon the ice cream into a container and cover it and put it in the freezer for about an hour to set up.


These are the ingredients I put in the rhubarb chutney I made last night. I wanted to serve it with the duck confit yesterday, but it was too hot. The chutney needed to sit in the fridge overnight so it could thicken. (Instead of using apple cider vinegar I used 'Verjus' from a winery in Central Washington).


This is a copy of my recipe for the rhubarb chutney. I know, I'm obsessed! I copy any recipe I write and put it in a 3-ring binder. The plastic sleeves protect the pages from getting dirty in the kitchen. It's a great way to record your favorite recipes and have them at the ready.


This is the rhubarb chutney just starting to stew. I cook the chutney over medium heat for about an hour. The rhubarb will break down and the chutney will be the consistency of very thick jam.


These baked potatoes are the ingredient in the 'Pommes de Terre Macaire' that I had with the duck confit last night. You bake a potato and then let it cool overnight in the fridge. The cooling process helps the starch and sugars to relax.


I then scoop out the flesh of the potato with a spoon.


Here you see the scooped out potato flesh. I freeze the potato skins and used them as shells for stuffed baked potatoes.



So dessert is going to be Cherry Ice Cream. Dinner is Rack of Lamb, Rhubarb Chutney, Fried Potatoes and some mixed salad greens.

I buy Rack of Lamb at Costco. They always have fresh Rack of Lamb at my Costco and it is cheap, $9.99 a pound today. It usually runs $11.99 a pound. We rarely see rack of lamb in our big groceries stores in Spokane. If we do see rack of lamb in the meat case, it's probably the Holidays and the price is around $15 a pound. The lamb at Costco is from either Australia or New Zealand.

Spokane is only about two hours drive East from Ellensburg, Washington. Ellensburg is home to a big lamb production facility. I haven't really found out why we can't get Ellensburg lamb in the big markets in Spokane. We can get local lamb, but you pretty much have to search the classified ads in the paper for a local farmer who will sell it to you. I guess they ship our Washington lamb to other parts of the country.

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enjoying your blog very much. I do a similiar thing with a 3 ring binder, but I usually cut and paste, since I find recipes in magazines, that are a column, and then have it sectioned off by type of food. It used to be one big drawer, with random scraps of paper stuffed in there, until I got semi-organzied one rainy day, and made up the binder.

Blog on.

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enjoying your blog very much.  I do a similiar thing with a 3 ring binder, but I usually cut and paste, since I find recipes in magazines, that are a column, and then have it sectioned off by type of food.  It used to be one big drawer, with random scraps of paper stuffed in there, until I got semi-organzied one rainy day, and made up the binder.

Blog on.

I'm starting that tommorrow-putting clipped recipes in my binder. I've got this ragged old manilla folder on the kitchen counter with awful looking pieces of recipes I've clipped in recent years. I am glad you have enjoyed the blog. I started to worry that I was jumping too far out there by talking about cooking on television and the Las Vegas dining scene. It's been a busy week with the blog and work but it's been really rewarding to get so many kind comments. Thank you.

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