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David Ross

Vegas Uncork'd: A Bon Appetit Epicurean Experience

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Certainly a memorable experience, David. Thanks for sharing it You have clearly demonstrated that their is a lot of skill and dedication in the kitchens of Las Vegas and a lot of money to support that skill and dedication. Soul? I'm not sure that it is the same thing or even that it necessarily matters in the end. What is apparent is that you had a grand time with grand people and grand food, of which I am extremely envious!

Question about the crabs - did you catch where they came from or what kind of crabs they were?

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Certainly a memorable experience, David. Thanks for sharing it You have clearly demonstrated that their is a lot of skill and dedication in the kitchens of Las Vegas and a lot of money to support that skill and dedication. Soul? I'm not sure that it is the same thing or even that it necessarily matters in the end. What is apparent is that you had a grand time with grand people and grand food, of which I am extremely envious!

Question about the crabs - did you catch where they came from or what kind of crabs they were?

I forgot to write down where the crabs came from--but I'll ask Chef Paul and get back to you on that one! The seafood Chef displayed that morning had come from Italy

I agree with you about our discussion of soul-a subject that may in the end not even matter-but one that is of great interest to me none the less and something I would like to pursue in another topic. I did have meals in Las Vegas at "Celebrity Chef" outposts and they were average at best-most certainly lacking in soul and personality. But those experiences were so minor they didn't merit being in the company of the restaurants I've reported on here.

Thanks doc. :biggrin:

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Aloha David - what a fabulous report from your first post! And truly I enjoyed your tour of the Wynn, what fortune you had to be selected. I enjoyed reading about Alan Richman as well. I just had lunch with him and Alan Wong last week and as always he's a real delight. I hope you get to do a review with him - you will really enjoy it! Thanks again and take care! a hui hou :biggrin:

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Aloha David - what a fabulous report from your first post! And truly I enjoyed your tour of the Wynn, what fortune you had to be selected. I enjoyed reading about Alan Richman as well. I just had lunch with him and Alan Wong last week and as always he's a real delight. I hope you get to do a review with him - you will really enjoy it! Thanks again and take care! a hui hou  :biggrin:

Thank you very much. I've got one more meal to go-Lunch at Daniel Boulud and then I'll wrap things up with some final thoughts about the trip and dining in Las Vegas.

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Certainly a memorable experience, David. Thanks for sharing it You have clearly demonstrated that their is a lot of skill and dedication in the kitchens of Las Vegas and a lot of money to support that skill and dedication. Soul? I'm not sure that it is the same thing or even that it necessarily matters in the end. What is apparent is that you had a grand time with grand people and grand food, of which I am extremely envious!

Question about the crabs - did you catch where they came from or what kind of crabs they were?

doc-I asked Chef Bartolotta to give us more information about the seafood he served to our group during the tour at Wynn, (thank you again Chef).

The Crabs were harvested from a lagoon outside Venezia. Locally they are called "Moleche."

"Baby Green Crabs"-

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The Langoustines come from an island in the North Atlantic off the Scottish Coast. The more familiar term "Scampi" is often used to describe this beautiful shellfish to customers. There were two other types of shellfish served-Red Shrimp from Morocco known as "Gamberi Rossi Imperiali." And Caramote Prawns, also from Morocco, called "Mazzancolle."

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Aah, moleche. Marvelous. I had them in Venice. They were the single best thing I ate there. I had a suspicion that is what they were, or at least I hoped so. I am happy to see that they weren't small, blue crabs, as crabs of that size from that genus should be left to spawn. I believe the moleche are adult crabs, though I may be mistaken about that.

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Aah, moleche. Marvelous. I had them in  Venice. They were the single best thing I ate there. I had a suspicion that is what they were, or at least I hoped so. I am happy to see that they weren't small, blue crabs, as crabs of that size from that genus should be left to spawn. I believe the moleche are adult crabs, though I may be mistaken about that.

You know what I found so delicous about these crabs were the fatty little bodies. I mentioned to the Chef that I had only had soft-shell crabs from Louisiana-primarily fried and stuffed into a P'Boy sandwich. While those crabs are certainly tasty, the little bodies tend to be a bit flat and lack the substance that these crabs had.

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Saturday, May 10, “Star Chefs Luncheon Series” at Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn-

It’s only fitting that the last set of photos that I am going to present come from the crowning glory of a week’s indulgence in Las Vegas-Lunch with Daniel Boulud. (This is the last set of photos, but I’ll be sharing some parting thoughts later).

When Mr. Wynn designed his hotel, he made a very bold move in terms of the restaurants that would inhabit his luxury Las Vegas property. His penchant for detail was carried into the selection of the Chefs who would run the kitchens of the dining rooms at Wynn.

Steve Wynn specified that all of the executive chefs at his hotel would have to live in Las Vegas and be in the kitchen every night-an undertaking that was unheard of within the Las Vegas restaurant community. Imagine-a stable of award-winning chefs, celebrity chefs one could argue, who would actually be at the stoves every night? No other hotel in the city can make the same claim-another example of how the Wynn doesn’t settle for the status quo when it comes to Las Vegas dining.

Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn-

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The Patio at Boulud Brasserie overlooking the waterfall and green forest gardens of the courtyard-

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Barbara Fairchild, Executive Editor of Bon Appetit, opened the lunch by introducting Chef Boulud and representatives from the Andrew Murray Vineyards of Los Olivos, California, (Santa Ynez Valley), the hosts of the wines that would be served with lunch.

Chef Boulud and Barbara Fairchild-

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One point to consider is that Bon Appetit is more than merely a magazine about home-cooking. As Chef Boulud so duly noted, Bon Appetit is a tireless supporter of Chefs and dining in America-along with encouraging all of us to be better cooks at home.

Chef Daniel spoke to the fact that he is the exception to the rule of being a “chef in residence” at Wynn. Chef Boulud was quick to caution that he absolutely did not want to enter into a venture where he would fall into the normal trap of only visiting the kitchen two or three times a year.

He is a perfectionist, a craftsman who must be involved in the creation of the food. He is not one to stand from afar while others who are employed by a large corporation in Las Vegas put his food on the plates. Chef Boulud said that it was only after careful discussions with Steve Wynn that he was assured that he would have the freedom, creativity and oversight that he required that he then agreed to open at Wynn.

In his own words, Chef Boulud said he “wanted to bring the quality and soul of what I do to Las Vegas, but in a style that was very approachable and accessible. (To the people who visit Las Vegas). So I chose to create a ‘Brasserie.’ In France ‘Brasseries’ are known for being convivial and casual, but they can still be very grand. I think Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn Las Vegas has just the right balance; everything delicious but nothing pretentious.” Well said Chef.

Chef Daniel is every bit the friendly, gregarious soul you see hosting those delicious parties on his new television show-“After Hours with Daniel” on Mojo HDTV. He was a gracious host, and while Chef Boulud’s presence lent an element of “celebrity” to the afternoon, I don’t believe for a moment that he was merely there to pass out a few handshakes and scribble out a couple of autographs. No, Chef Boulud was absolutely one of the most personable and humble Chefs that I’ve ever met-and that’s not always the case when one greets a “celebrity Chef.”

It was obvious that Chef Daniel was excited and proud to share his cuisine and the talents of his Las Vegas staff with our private group. He wasn’t handed a script from a PR Assistant standing to the side-he knew every detail about where the Asparagus and the Morels were grown, the ponds in Louisiana where the Crayfish were netted and the “sous-vide” technique used to cook the Veal Cheek.

Many of the Chefs who work in the Las Vegas restaurant began their careers with Chef Boulud in New York. They looked so young to me that I imagined they all started cooking when they were children! Chef Boulud explained that one of the Chefs in Las Vegas will soon be off to China when He opens his new restaurant in Bejing.

Chef Boulud with his family of Chefs in Las Vegas-

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I find it quite difficult to sift through the fodder of a menu description of a dish that goes on and on and on like “Skillet-Roasted 30 Day Dry Aged Naturally Grass-Fed Angus Strip Loin Basted with Pan Juices and, and, and.” It’s exhausting.

I would much rather have a personal conversation with an informed server as to how the steak was prepared-that’s the type of service and custom I found at Boulud. I love it when a Chef and his assistants are confident enough in their talents that they take the time to converse with their customers and tell us the main elements of each dish.

As you scroll through the photos, I think you’ll find that the theme to the luncheon was “Spring.” Enjoy.

“Quail Ballotine with Apricots and Pistachios”-

“2007 Sanglier Rose”-

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The fun part of dining with Boulud was found in the “surprises” not listed on the menu-the surprises only uncovered after the smiling Chef presented each dish-how the Ballotine was prepared, (the Quail meat was studded with Foie Gras and Morels and wrapped in Puff Pastry) and how the Apricots were cut (in thick strips to intensify the fruit flavor on the palate).

“Crayfish Fricassee with Morel Royale, Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramps”-

“2006 Viognier”-

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Another simple menu description that upon service to the table showed there were more suprises in store. This dish could have been listed as “Spring in America.” The Morels were from forests in Oregon-and they were stuffed with a “Royale” custard of vegetables. The Morel is sitting on a pillow of “Chicken Liver Croustade.” The Fiddleheads and Ramps came from Pennsylvania, the Crayfish from Louisiana. The seafood and vegetables were garnished with a buttery “Sauce Americaine,” made from lobster and crayfish shells.

“Almond-Crusted John Dory with Asparagus Prepared Three Ways”-

“2006 Grenache”-

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I was pleased to find that the “green” asparagus in this dish came from a farm that is a short drive from my home in Eastern Washington-delightful to know that our beautiful produce would be enjoyed by customers in Las Vegas. The asparagus was prepared three ways; deep-fried in a “White Asparagus Beignet,” lightly blanched “Spears,” and a cold asparagus “Salad.” The earthy notes of the asparagus were accented by fresh Fava Beans and Fava Bean Puree.

“Veal Blanquette “Printaniere,” Roasted Loin, Spring Herbs and Radishes”-

“2005 Syrah, ‘Roasted Slope’ Vineyards”-

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The Veal in the meat course came from an organic farm in Pennsylvannia. Chef Boulud did not strictly follow the guidelines for a classic stew of “Veal Blanquette.” (Another surprise not listed on the menu). The “Blanquette” or “stew” element of the dish came in the form of Veal Cheeks slowly cooked “sous-vide” and seasoned with fresh Savory leaves. One gets chills remembering how wonderfully tender and moist it was. The Veal Loin was roasted and served with pan “jus” and fresh Spring Peas. I must apologize to you though-the ingredient I had been craving in Las Vegas, yet hadn’t found, was a “garnish” on the Veal dish-“Crispy Sweetbreads” that had been dusted with flour and sautéed in butter. The “third” treatment of the Veal and the most delicious.

We were served two desserts. The first, (I failed to get a photo), was a dish that Chef Boulud and his Pastry Chef had literally created an hour before lunch began. Chef Boulud was concerned that we needed something light and with a hint of citrus to cut through the rich flavors of the Veal before launching into our Chocolate dessert. I know I would never be capable of preparing “Mango Soup with Pineapple Sorbet and Toasted Coconut” in an hour!

“Chocolate-Cappucino Tart with Caramel-Cardamom Ice Cream”-2005 Late Harvest Riesling”-

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Have you ever caught yourself in the “moment?” You know you are experiencing a meal that is something more, something just a bit better, something memorable. You know you are in the “moment.” The flavors are more intense, more unique-the “Cappucino” in the Chocolate, the spice of the “Cardamom” in the Caramel Ice Cream, the sweet syrup of the floral “Late Harvest Riesling.”

And then you take a moment to reflect about how this little garnish, (“gold”), on top of a round of chocolate cake says “Las Vegas.”

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I’ll end my report about Las Vegas with a few comments on something in demand in the desert-water, and some words about the future of this exciting dining destination.

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Las Vegas goes East to Iron Chef America. I just saw a preview on Food Network for Sunday's "Iron Chef America." I think it's a new episode. It's going to be Batali vs. Paul Bartolotta, (see my report on Chef Bartolotta above), should be a good one. I hope the "secret ingredient" is some sort of seafood.

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“The Great Las Vegas Water Ruse”-

After reading my trip report about Las Vegas and the “Vegas Uncork’d” Events sponsored by Bon Appetit, you may have been lulled into thinking I was writing a softball travel brochure for the State of Nevada-a report sans any manner of credible criticism. But I give credit where credit is due, and for the most part, (the most part), the week was outstanding in just about every aspect-except for the water “Ruse” that is inflicted upon unsuspecting diners in Las Vegas. I have a lot of criticism for the water deception that is practiced at nearly every fine dining restaurant on the Strip.

Don’t get me wrong, I love bottled water-for its convenience in quenching my thirst when a drinking fountain isn’t nearby. And I drink lots of water-usually from a tap. But call me a Traditionalist, (I call myself that very name), but I can’t bring myself to spending good money for bottled water in a restaurant when the public supply is just as good-or better.

On past trips to Las Vegas I’ve dined alone, and that may be a factor as to why I have never become the victim of the “Great Las Vegas Water Ruse.” Maybe the waiters had taken pity on the lone man hovering over his Lobster Bisque and they couldn’t bring themselves to draw me into the Water Ruse. Maybe the Ruse was a trick of the 80’s that had finally been relinquished to the same fate as the old signs that bake under the desert heat in the Neon Graveyard.

But the week I was in Las Vegas, I saw plenty of first-hand evidence to support the argument that the "Great Las Vegas Water Ruse" lives on.

I will qualify my rant by saying that the “Great Las Vegas Water Ruse” was not tolerated at any of the private lunches or dinners I attended in conjunction with “Vegas Uncork’d.” Maybe the water service was already considered into the cost of the ticket. But I did have some meals separate from the formal events where the deception was openly practiced. (Not all of those meals earned the marks of merit to be included in this report).

The “Water Ruse” isn’t something unique to Las Vegas-it is practiced in restaurants across the country-and depending on the region of the country, the State, the county and the local water source-there may be no good reason for you to pay upwards of $15.00 for a bottle of water at dinner.

The Water Ruse in Las Vegas is just very apparent because there are so many fine dining establishments inhabiting a concentrated piece of real estate on the Strip. Some of the bigger resorts are the home to ten or more upscale, high-priced restaurants, all waiting for unsuspecting tourists and their credit cards to pad the bill with charges for “water.”

This is a basic outline of how the “Great Las Vegas Water Ruse” is practiced-

-Buy bottles of water in very large quantities, railroad cars of the stuff. Buy it in bulk so you get a cheap price, say a buck fifty per 10 ounce bottle. Mark-up the stuff, more than you do the wine, and pocket a hefty profit.

-Immediately after being seated, ask the diner whether they prefer “still” or “carbonated” water. Do this before handing out menus or taking cocktail orders-they’re thirsty, it’s Las Vegas, it’s hot, they want water.

-Some pretentious restaurants will present you with a leather-bound “water” menu. My, I wasn’t aware that water was so precious that it deserved being categorized for the “vintage” of the water.

-Bring the beautifully pressed and shaped plastic bottle to the table well-chilled, but not iced, and presented in a faux silver wine caddy. You must impress the diners with your water service.

-Pour the water into fine crystal goblets, but do not dilute the exquisite bouquet of the water by adding cubes of ice.

-Add the appropriate, ridiculously outrageous charge to the final bill. If you can, bury it somewhere between the listings of the entrees and the desserts-they probably won’t even notice.

Now I know there are plenty of people who will disagree with me-“the water must come from pristine glacial streams that have been untouched by the Modern Age.” Settling for anything less, like “tap” water, will poison your palate and you will not be able to taste the subtle flavors in the Chef’s cuisine. If it works for you, I respect your opinion. It just doesn’t work for me.

I just can’t bring myself to pay $15.00 for a bottle of water packaged by a soft-drink maker that comes out of a tap in Atlanta.

The primary source of drinking water provided to the citizens of Las Vegas and greater Clark County comes from Lake Mead. Lake Mead is formed by waters from the Colorado River. I’m not a water biologist, but it sounds clean and tasty to me. And it’s basically “free.”

If you are of the same mind as I am when it comes to the water you drink at dinner, next time you go to Las Vegas try the “counter-move to the Ruse” that I played on the waiter at “L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.”

The waiter brought two bottles of water to my seat, one still, one carbonated. “Which type of water would you prefer this evening Mr. Ross.” “Neither” I said. “I would prefer a glass of “Clark County Ice Water, 2008” please.

My response evoked a wry smile from the server-he knew I was on to the Ruse-but he respected a man who knew that “water for money” doesn’t always mean “better water” in Las Vegas.

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IN NYC, some people ask for the Bloomberg water. It sounded better when one asked for the Giuliani water! :laugh:

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IN NYC, some people ask for the Bloomberg water. It sounded better when one asked for the Giuliani water! :laugh:

I love it! Giuliani Italian "Spring Water" from the pipes of Brooklyn! Wonderful.

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David,

Thanks for all of your posts about your experience at Vegas Uncork'd. It's been a fascinating read. I love Las Vegas. Just really like being out there. It's a fun play land for adults to "cut loose" and have some fun. And really, what keeps me interested in going back over and over these days, is the food scene. What I like about it is how seemingly accessible it all is to a common guy like me. If some of the top places in town were in NYC, getting a table might be difficult. Out there? It's not hard at all. Back in December, I made a reservation for L'Atellier de Joel Rubochon for a Saturday night only a few days before flying out there. Easy. Could I have done the same for the NYC location? I bet not. Also, I think Las Vegas really IS more convenient to jetting off to Paris to dine at a Guy Savoy place. It's a tad over 1000 miles from Dallas. about 2 1/2 hour flight. And again, I bet getting a reso at Guy Savoy is probably not *too* hard to do.. AFIK, it's like they open up the books two months in advance to the day and it all books up within minutes.

Does it have "soul"? If John is talking about soul as being something that would exist on it's own no matter what, then I guess he is right. It doesn't have soul. It's obvious that the only real reason all of this great stuff is there is that these huge casino companies throw vast piles of money around. But it works.

I've had many great dining experiences there. I've always been treated well at these places. I'm going back at the end of June. I can't wait.. I've got a whole list of new places to check out.

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David,

Thanks for all of your posts about your experience at Vegas Uncork'd. It's been a fascinating read.  I love Las Vegas.  Just really like being out there. It's a fun play land for adults to "cut loose" and have some fun.  And really, what keeps me interested in going back over and over these days, is the food scene.  What I like about it is how seemingly accessible it all is to a common guy like me.   If some of the top places in town were in NYC, getting a table might be difficult. Out there? It's not hard at all.  Back in December, I made a reservation for L'Atellier de Joel Rubochon for a Saturday night only a few days before flying out there.  Easy.  Could  I have done the same for the NYC location?  I bet not.   Also, I think Las Vegas really IS more convenient to jetting off to Paris to dine at a Guy Savoy place. It's a tad over 1000 miles from Dallas.  about 2 1/2 hour flight.    And again, I bet getting a reso at Guy Savoy is probably not *too* hard to do..  AFIK, it's like they open up the books two months in advance to the day and it all books up within minutes.

Does it have "soul"?  If John is talking about soul as being something that would exist on it's own no matter what, then I guess he is right. It doesn't have soul.  It's obvious that the only real reason all of this great stuff is there is that these huge casino companies throw vast piles of money around.  But it works.

I've had many great dining experiences there. I've always been treated well at these places.   I'm going back at the end of June.  I can't wait..  I've got a whole list of new places to check out.

Thanks for the kind comments. Let me know which restaurants you're going to try when you go in June-I'm always interested in the choices people make.

I hope that my comparison with Phantom of the Opera gave some readers pause to consider the issue of "soul" as it applies to restaurants in Las Vegas. While nothing will ever compare to the experience I had at the Phantom in London--seeing Phantom in Seattle was a different experience, one with soul, because I was witnessing this very special musical in my "home" if you will. Dining at Guy Savoy in Las Vegas may have a different feel than dining at the Master's "home" in Paris, but does Paris have a better "vibe" than Las Vegas or are the two cities just different? It's something to consider.

And as I mentioned before-is the soul of a restaurant a matter of the "place," or is it the ingredients? Does the produce have to be local and seasonal, and the fish harvested exclusively from local waters? Or--as I am inclined to believe, is the soul of a restaurant found in the hands of the Chef who creates the food?

Now one could discuss this point even further when it comes to Las Vegas. Is the Chef trained to prepare the cuisine of Todd English at Olives simply following through with the training he received in Boston? Does that qualify, (or disqualify), him as having soul? I think we can only answer after having dined at the restaurant. Will our tastes of the dishes give us the answer? Or--are our other senses jaded because we are having lunch overlooking the fountains at Bellagio? Does this ruin our experience and tell us the restaurant lacks soul--or is it just a different expression of soul? The questions are harder to answer when we are speaking about "Celebrity Chef" restaurants. (By the way, I'd love to be sitting on the patio at Olives right now having a delicious slice of wood-fired pizza, sipping a nice Pinot Grigio while I watch the fountains. I have to head outside and do yard work!).

But don't automatically disqualify a restaurant in Las Vegas as lacking soul because it carries the "Celebrity Chef" moniker. If you read my earlier review of my first dinner in Las Vegas-at "Michael Mina" at Bellagio-you'll clearly see that Chef Amoroso is doing two things quite remarkably well. He's carrying out the vision of Michael Mina while at the same time expressing his own soul through his own unique dishes.

And I hope I was successful in pointing out the greatest example of the "truth" and "soul" behind one of the great hotels and restaurants in Las Vegas when I invited everyone on my tour at Wynn. The attention to detail at the hotel and the presentation of Chef Paul Bartolotta are really unmatched--and the Wynn embodies my definition of "truth" and "soul."

Doc has presented incredibly strong arguments as to his side of the debate, and I absolutely respect the man for it. In fact, whenever I see his name next to a post on eGullet I immediately read it-he's tasted and travelled the world in search of the "truth" and "soul" behind some of the world's greatest restaurants-so he knows about what he speaks. (And a man who butchers his own lamb just has to be respected!)

What we agree on is that the dining experiences in Las Vegas can be quite fabulous, the ingredients exquisite and the techniques employed in the kitchens are often flawless. That's pretty much a given. The questions about the deeper truths in Las Vegas will no doubt be a matter of further discussion.


Edited by David Ross (log)

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Random thoughts and conclusions-

“A Tale of Five Chefs Gala, Saturday, May 10, Bellagio”-

I’m sorry to report that the photo album from my trip to Las Vegas closed after lunch with Daniel Boulud. I had hoped to share photos from the Saturday evening “Tale of Five Chefs” Gala with you, but using an old Las Vegas adage-“that wasn’t in the cards” for me on Saturday night.

Earlier on these pages, Chufi asked me how I endured a week of gorging myself in Las Vegas. I responded by saying that I try to follow the practice of not over-imbibing on alcoholic beverages, especially at lunch, and drinking lots of water between meals.

Well, I didn’t heed my own advice on Saturday afternoon at lunch with Boulud. I certainly didn’t need a third glass of wine with each of the five courses served at lunch. I had reached my limit, the breaking point where a week of decadence had caught up with my body. I needed a rest on Saturday night before attending an “after-the-events” dinner with friends on Sunday.

Much to my own dismay, I didn’t make it to the crowning glory of “Vegas Uncork’d,” the “Tale of Five Chefs” Gala at Bellagio, hosted by my good friend John Curtas, the gregarious Father of Las Vegas dining.

Imagine, sleeping through a private dinner of five luscious courses prepared by Todd English, Michael Mina, Julian Serrano, Jean-Phillipe Maury and Jean-Georges Vongerichten!

I suppose there was one saving grace for my wine excess on Saturday afternoon-it allowed me the opportunity to “donate” my $275 ticket to the Gala event to the coffers of Bon Appetit as a gesture of goodwill for staging the events in Las Vegas.

From what I gathered from friends who were there, numerous high-tech devices were employed, (music, video, smoke and fireworks), to introduce each Chef and their creations. The “insider” reports from my sources tell me that the performance of Mr. Curtas as Emcee of “Five Chefs” was given a rating of “five-stars” alongside the “five-star” Chefs who prepared the dinner. Boy did I miss a stunning event.

Wine Service in Las Vegas-

The Marketing Department at the MGM Corporation has created an ad that will no doubt elicit some criticism from New York.

I found this advertisement in the program guide of the events for “Vegas Uncork’d.” A photo of a large wine glass is framed with this proclamation:

“There are 96 Master Sommeliers in the Country-Three are in New York City, an unprecedented four of them are at Bellagio.”

I can’t verify whether or not the numbers for New York are accurate, (but I’m sure someone here at eGullet is qualified to do so). I can tell you that when I was dining at one of the restaurants at Bellagio I was told that they actually have FIVE Master Sommeliers in residence at the hotel.

In addition to the Master Sommeliers of Las Vegas, the larger hotels also employ a Wine Director, an Assistant Wine Director, a Wine Purchasing Department, Assistant Sommeliers and Assistants to the Assistant Wine Sommeliers.

The focus on wine in Las Vegas is quite impressive. There is a growing movement within the fine dining community to put the same amount of attention on the wine list that the Chefs place upon the cuisine.

One of the best examples of this collaboration of food and wine can be found on the numerous “tasting menus” with “wine pairings” found on Las Vegas menus. I encourage you to seek out these pairings because they give you the opportunity to learn and taste how wines can complement and accent the flavors of a particular dish.

Of course, wretched excess is alive in Las Vegas and one can find $15,000 bottles of vintage French Bordeaux-the varieties of wines favored by the big “whales” in town trying to impress their silicone inflated girlfriends. (These are the same guys who don’t know the difference between vintage wines or wine “spritzers”).

The “best” wine service I found in Las Vegas came during dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s “CUT” Steakhouse at the Palazzo on Sunday night-the evening after the “Vegas Uncork’d” events had ended.

What stood out in my mind was the “classic” service presented by the two young ladies who were tasked with serving our wines. The depth of their knowledge of each wine was only revealed after they wheeled a chrome "Gueridon," (trolley), to the table. It was adorned with sparkling crystal decanters and an army of wine glasses appropriate to each variety that would be served. I will tell you that I felt quite special when the other tables of diners looked our way and saw the display of waiting wine goblets.

While the steaks were from good “stock,” (albeit overly salted), the starters outstanding, (especially the “Bone Marrow Flan and Parsley Salad”), and the Strawberry Napolean cut into a portion large enough to serve four, the wine service at Chef Puck’s newest Las Vegas restaurant was a “CUT” above. Wonderful.

And just a few more thoughts to follow.....................


Edited by David Ross (log)

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“What's in the "cards" for dining in Las Vegas”-

In comparison to other large American cities, Las Vegas is still relatively young in terms of age. When you consider Las Vegas in the context of a young, growing city, you realize that the number of outstanding restaurants is just as amazing as the growth in population. And with that exponential growth, Las Vegas is quickly rising up the ladder to the top levels of America’s great dining destinations.

The growth of the restaurant community of Las Vegas is more than a simple matter of National chains coming to town-diners are quickly discovering that the newest restaurants have something unique to offer-and they’re asking for more.

In 2008, the luxurious “Palazzo” resort hotel and casino opened. One of the restaurants in the Palazzo is “Morel’s French Steakhouse, and Bistro.”

The “Bistro” concept isn’t necessarily a new idea in Las Vegas, but in addition to classic Bistro dishes, “Morel’s” has presented something new to Las Vegas diners-a full array of farmhouse cheeses and charcuterie-all handmade, artisanal products. Now ponder this small fact-when Morel’s opened, they offered 35 cheeses. When I visited with a Cheese Monger at Morel’s during my week in Las Vegas in May, she told me that they would be increasing the cheese “menu” to over 65 selections due to customer demand. Would any of us have imagined that hand-crafted cheeses would be so successful with diners in Las Vegas? As restaurants take risks in terms of creativity, they often surprisingly find that their customers are willing to join them in the fun of the adventure.

Later this year, Steve Wynn will open “Encore,” the Sister property to his luxurious, five-diamond Wynn. No doubt Mr. Wynn’s focus on having “Chefs in Residence” at Wynn will be introduced to the restaurants he will debut at “Encore.”

You may have read the posts on eGullet and on John Curtas’s website www.eatinglv.com, about “DJT” restaurant at Mr. Trump’s recently opened property in Las Vegas, the “Trump International Hotel and Tower.”

Mr. Trump would never settle for second best in his restaurant kitchens, so he hired the talented duo of Executive Chef Joe Isidori and Chef de Cuisine, Chef David Varley, (previously employed in the kitchen at Bradley Ogden at Caesar’s), to head up the kitchen in the hotel’s restaurant “DJT." The generous reviews of the creative and surprising cuisine at DJT, have boldly claimed this new restaurant as one of the best in the city.

The largest construction project currently underway in Las Vegas is the massive “MGM City Center” city within a city in the heart of the Strip. Scheduled to open within the next 18 months, “City Center” will be a combination of hotels and condominium towers which have been designed by a team of the world’s leading Architects. No doubt there will be enough fine dining establishments within City Center that you will be able to pleasure your appetite for literally days on end without ever ordering off the same menu.

Who will be the next Michelin-Star French Chef to stake out his “terroir” in one of the new hotels being built in Las Vegas?

Some say that Chef Pierre Gagnaire will join his countrymen Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse in Las Vegas. The thought of dining at four temples of Haute Cuisine-each within a few miles of one another-is almost unimaginable.

When I started this topic, my goal was to find what I called the “truth” behind the kitchens of Las Vegas. The Bon Appétit “Vegas Uncork’d” events gave me the platform for expressing the truths that I uncovered.

The “truth” in a dish is a very personal experience. You may experience that truth when you dine on “Moleche” Baby Green Crabs in Venice-or in Las Vegas. The “truth” may come with that first, memorable taste of a dish you’ve never experienced. For me it was that first bite of the “Lemon Drop” when the shell of crisp meringue broke open, revealing a creamy filling of “Citrus Semifreddo and Pineapple Confit”-a taste sensation I discovered in Las Vegas.

Thank you for obliging me with your time and interest in reading my report. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed sharing my story with you.

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Great job, David! Though we may not fully agree on the soul aspect of Las Vegas, I have very much enjoyed the ride and your insights.

This past weekend I enjoyed this article on Southwest Airline's Spirit magazine on the soft pink underbelly of the Las Vegas restaurant scene.

A secret culinary club lurks in Las Vegas. Every day, competing restaurants on the famous Strip come together for a meal. From Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons to Cravings Buffet at the Mirage, and from Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill at Harrah’s to Michael Mina at Bellagio, dozens participate in this daily breaking of bread.

And boy, what bread. Crusty loaves from MGM Grand could fill a truck, and crab legs dance on their spindly points. The wafting smell of beef curls into a come-hither finger, drawing diners’ noses to the air. There’s an eclectic buffet-style array of mashed potatoes, sushi, and sausage patties, and a fresh spread of fruits and vegetables. Weighing in at thousands of pounds, the feast could feed an army. And it does: about 4,000 watering mouths in all.

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Great job, David! Though we may not fully agree on the soul aspect of Las Vegas, I have very much enjoyed the ride and your insights.

This past weekend I enjoyed this article on Southwest Airline's Spirit magazine on the soft pink underbelly of the Las Vegas restaurant scene.

A secret culinary club lurks in Las Vegas. Every day, competing restaurants on the famous Strip come together for a meal. From Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons to Cravings Buffet at the Mirage, and from Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill at Harrah’s to Michael Mina at Bellagio, dozens participate in this daily breaking of bread.

And boy, what bread. Crusty loaves from MGM Grand could fill a truck, and crab legs dance on their spindly points. The wafting smell of beef curls into a come-hither finger, drawing diners’ noses to the air. There’s an eclectic buffet-style array of mashed potatoes, sushi, and sausage patties, and a fresh spread of fruits and vegetables. Weighing in at thousands of pounds, the feast could feed an army. And it does: about 4,000 watering mouths in all.

Thank you my friend. Your insight and comments have been most welcome, and I have learned a great deal from reading and understanding your perspective. Glad you enjoyed it.

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Vegas Uncork'd 2009 is coming soon!

I've been checking when Bon Appetit will give out some information. Here's the basics for now from their webpage:

May 7-10, 2009

Big Flavours, Bright Lights and the World's Greatest Chefs NB Notice the British spelling, ehh?

Tickets on sale January 10

Check back on December 19 to visit our new website.

That's it for the time being. Start booking, if you're interested.

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We've started a new topic for Vegas Uncorked 2009. You can find it by clicking here.

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