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Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 11 - 5 Las Vegas Restaurants Dan Pattee Thinks Can't Be Missed

This week on the Restaurant News and Reviews Show, The Wife and I have a very special guest, Dan Pattee! You’ll get to find out a little bit on who exactly Dan Pattee is and we’ll also talk about some Recent Eats and 5 Las Vegas Restaurants Dan Pattee Thinks Can’t Be Missed.  Then we’ll have a special edition of The News With The Wife where we have a little preview of the restaurants opening with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, we’ll reveal the TLV Cheap Eats Of The Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 11

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast on the iTunes!

Dan Pattee (Guinness), Mike (Fat Tire) and The Wife (Newcastle) At Sierra Gold

Dan Pattee (Guinness), Mike (Fat Tire) and The Wife (Newcastle) At Sierra Gold

Please support our fabulous sponsor Vegas Mate!

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Joints That We Talked About:

  • Salt Lake City
  • Sambalatte
  • Wazuzu
  • La Cave
  • Hofbrauhaus
  • Burger Bar
  • Bachi Burger
  • Weiss Deli
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Sierra Gold
  • Fukuburger
  • The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
  • China Poblano
  • Comme Ca
  • D.O.C.G
  • Estiatorio Milos
  • Holsteins
  • Jaleo
  • Scarpetta
  • STK
  • The Henry
  • Va Bene Caffe
  • Wicked Spoon Buffet
  • AGO

Tha’ Links:

Check out Crossings by Nathan Tanouye and the Las Vegas Jazz Connection on CDBaby.com

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Join us on the Facebook at http://facebook.com/TastingLasVegas

Follow Dan Pattee on Twitter at @DanPattee

Follow Chef Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

Follow Fukuburger on Twitter at @fukuburger

My first thoughts on The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is here

My updated thoughts on The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is here

Follow The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Twitter at @Cosmopolitan_LV

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Monday Mise en Place: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Set To Open, Eaters Of Food Rejoice

Wraparound Suite To Sleep Off Your Food Coma Coming On Wednesday (photo: cosmopolitanlasvegas.com)

Wraparound Suite To Sleep Off Your Food Coma Coming On Wednesday (photo: cosmopolitanlasvegas.com)

Finally the resort us fans of food have been waiting for, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, will be open to the public on Wednesday, December 15th at 8pm.   If I had to pick the three or four restaurants I’m most looking forward to, I’d have to tip my hat to both of José Andrés’ places with Jaleo and especially China Poblano, David Myers’ Comme Ca (pronounced ‘come saw’ for We-The-Frenchy-Deficient) and Block 16 Hospitality’s (folks that brought us LBS Burger) Holsteins.

Jaleo is Chef José Andrés’ Spanish tapas emporium, so obviously the tapas slut in me is excited about that.  For me, the most exciting restaurant in the building is Andrés’ China Poblano, and original concept of his that will be a Mexican / Chinese fusion.  Sounds good to me…and oddly logical considering I don’t know of that combo being done anywhere else.  While Comme Ca is an import from Los Angeles, it will be nice to have an accessible, centrally located French Brasserie in town to go to.   Last, but not least, Holsteins will be the requisite burger joint, but feature natural and organic ingredients and house-made sausage. I like house-made sausage.  Best wishes to everyone at the Cosmo.  I look forward to eating you out.  Wait…that didn’t come out right…

AGO Logo

AGO Logo

A restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel has once again made my jaw drop with a food deal.  Hot off the heels of Rare 120′s Half Off Food on Mondays thing comes AGO’s Old World Classic Prix Fixe Menu.  Available everyday AGO is open (Thursday-Monday from 5pm-10:30pm), the prix fixe includes a glass of wine, bread basket, soup or house salad, and choice of pasta entrée.  Pasta entrée selections include Spaghetti with Meatballs or Sausage, Lasagna, Fettuccini Alfredo, Capellini Pomodoro, and Cheese Ravioli.  Are you ready for the price?  $12.99.  Holy shit. Cheap.

An Official Tasting Las Vegas Event!

An Official Tasting Las Vegas Event!

What will quite possibly be the Greatest Culinary Event since the first caveman took the belly of a pig, cured it and sliced it thin strips, is set to happen on Sunday, December 19th at 5pmThe Face Of Las Vegas Dining, Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu, will be throwing down some Asian Street Food on the Fukuburger truck!  As you all have heard as an exclusive sneak peek on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, one of the items offered will be the Thai Mi Up, a twist on a Vietnamese Banh-Mi with Thai Issan Sausage in it.  That sounds mighty fine.  The truck will be at Herbs & Rye on 3713 W. Sahara.  Good times guaranteed for this Official Tasting Las Vegas Event!

Talking about Las Vegas Restaurants, one dick joke at a time.

Talking about Las Vegas Restaurants, one dick joke at a time.


Speaking of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, we will be up and running with The Restaurant News and Reviews Show on Tuesday, December 14th.  This will be a very special edition as The Wife and I will be joined in the Tasting Las Vegas studios with the one, the only Dan Pattee!  Who is Dan Pattee, you ask?  Well you’ll have to tune in to find out!  Dan will bestow upon us the 5 Las Vegas Restaurants Dan Pattee Says Can’t Be Missed.  Then on Thursday for the Interview Show, I’m going to reissue the very first interview I did for the podcast with Jet Tila.  I figure a whole bunch of people probably never got past the audio problems of the first segment, so up it will go on its own.  It was Tasting Las Vegas history, and it was a good time, so tell you friends!

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 08 - 5 Restaurants In Las Vegas We Think Are Essential But Others Don't

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, I’m joined once again with The Wife where debut a new format to the show, talk about some drama that happened last week as well as reveal the much anticipated Next Phase of Tasting Las Vegas.  Then we discuss some Recent Eats and dish on 5 Restaurants In Las Vegas That We Think Are Essential But Others Don’t.  We also have The News With The Wife, the TLV Cheap Eats Of The Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 08

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast On The iTunes!

Andre Rochat - An Essential Chef In Las Vegas

Andre Rochat - An Essential Chef In Las Vegas

Please support our fabulous sponsor VegasMate!

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Joints That We Talked About:

  • Royal Persis
  • Jai-Ho
  • Komol
  • Sunset and Vines
  • Babycakes Cafe
  • Andre’s
  • First Food and Bar
  • Firefly
  • Origin India
  • Peppermill
  • Rao’s
  • Seablue
  • STK Steakhouse
  • The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • RM Seafood
  • Botero
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Retro Bakery
  • Tommy Bahama’s
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Fukuburger
  • Wazuzu
  • Social House
  • Trattoria del Lupo

Tha’ Links:

Check out Crossings by Nathan Tanouye and the Las Vegas Jazz Connection on CDBaby.com

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

My post about the Scumbucket incident is found here

My post about Royal Persis’ Ghormeh Sabzi is found here

A shitty picture of the delicious Saag Paneer of Jai-Ho is found here

My First Impression of Babycakes Cafe is found here

My post about Carla Pellegrino leaving Rao’s is found here

My post about Anthony Fusco signing up at RM Seafood is found here

The Las Vegas Restaurants Serving Bluefin Tuna List of Shame is found here

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Monday Mise en Place: Chef Adam Sobel Leaves RM Seafood

Chef Adam Sobel Taking A Snapshot of the RM Upstairs Kitchen

Chef Adam Sobel Taking A Snapshot of the RM Upstairs Kitchen

Hot off the heels of Gerald Chin hightailing it down the street to become Chef de Cuisine of the Cosmopolitan hotel comes the shocking news of Adam Sobel also saying goodbye to RM Seafood.  No word as to what Adam will be doing, although Rick Moonen himself alluded to Sobel getting his own joint when he said the following on his Facebook page:

“After two strong years working with Adam Sobel it is time for him to get a restaurant of his own and spread his culinary wings. With 100% of my support and appreciation I wish him all the best in the world and his legacy at RM Seafood will always be remembered!”

Best wishes to both Adam and Rick on this new era for both of them.  It appears RM Seafood has already hired another young gun that will help keep the restaurant moving onward and upward.  It’s an interesting choice to say the least. I’ll reveal the name of RM’s latest addition shortly.  Best wishes to him too.  Oops…I’ve already said too much!

Learn How To Make Tasty Things From Sara Steele

Learn How To Make Tasty Things From Sara Steele

On Tuesday, November 30th, the lovely Pastry Chef of Botero at the Encore Resort, Sara Steele, will be doing a Holiday Desserts Cooking Class at the Whole Foods Ft. Apache location from 6pm – 8pm.  Sara will be covering Gingerbread Cookies, Egg Nog Creme Brulee and Holiday Fudge.  In case you can’t make this one, Sara will be holding the class on December 7th at the Town Square Whole Foods and then at the Tenaya location on December 14th.

Decent Food Served Here. Trattoria del Lupo by Wolfgang Puck at Mandalay Bay

Decent Food Served Here. Trattoria del Lupo by Wolfgang Puck at Mandalay Bay

One of the more underrated Italian joints in town, Trattoria del Lupo by Wolfgang Puck at the Mandalay Bay resort is offering a limited time 5-course tasting menu starting Thursday, December 2nd and going through December 16th.  The tasting menu will include items such as  Sautéed Calamari, Jerusalem Artichoke Agnolotti, Portobello Mushroom Crusted Grouper and Duck Breast and Confit Leg with Golden Lentil Ragout with Pomegranate and natural jus.  The 5-course menu is $55, and Las Vegas locals get 20% off food bringing the pre-tax, pre-tip price to $44!  Thems sound like some good eats!

Shorts and Sandwiches At Town Square (photo: twitter.com/tommy_bahama_lv)

Shorts and Sandwiches At Town Square (photo: twitter.com/tommy_bahama_lv)

Tommy Bahama’s in Town Square is now boasting the largest Rum Bar in Vegas, and certainly the largest Rum Bar found in any other clothing store / restaurant.  With over 150 rums to choose from, how do they even have room for the underwear section?  It’s an international assortment of rums with representatives from everywhere from the Brazil to Thailand and Jamaica to Nicaragua.  They also have a number of exclusive signature cocktails which all pair nicely with flowery printed shirts.

Foul Mouthed Fun For Everyone!

Foul Mouthed Fun For Everyone!

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast is BACK this week with all sorts of news!  First of which is that there will be a new format to the show, which I think most people should dig the changes.  Also, one of the most highly anticipated events of the season, The Next Phase of Tasting Las Vegas, will finally be revealed.  I’m incredibly excited about The Next Phase.  We’ve come a long way and had a good time in this first year. This new addition to TLV will give us many more good times to come. I promise.  Be the first to hear all the latest developments when the next episode of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast is uploaded to the internets on Wednesday, December 1st!

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

THIS JUST IN: Chef Carla Pellegrino Leaves Rao's at Caesars Palace

A little bit of a shocker in our local culinary scene happened this morning when Chef Carla Pellegrino announced her departure from Rao’s at Caesars Palace.  Chef Carla cited “personal family matters and career growth” as the reason.  We won’t get into the personal details here, because that’s none of anybody’s business.  But, what I will get into is what’s up next for Chef Carla, and that’s something we don’t know and looks like we’re not going to know for another week or two.  Here’s to hoping that whatever is next for Chef Carla is right here in Las Vegas.  She’s good.  And by the way, I interviewed Carla a few weeks ago on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast. In case you missed it, here’s a link to the podcast with Chef Carla Pellegrino (interview starts at about 42:15 in). You can follow Carla on Twitter at @ChefCarlaPelleg and her new website is found at http://ChefCarlaPellegrino.com.

Buon fortuna to Chef Carla Pellegrino and fingers crossed that her next exciting venture is here in Las Vegas!

Chef Carla Pellegrino of...we'll find out soon!

Chef Carla Pellegrino of...we'll find out soon!

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 07 - Chef Sam DeMarco of First Food and Bar

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, I’m joined with the love of my life and yours, The Wife, where we discuss some good and some not so good Recent Eats as well as reveal 5 Places With Pasta In Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  Then I sit down with the one, the only, Chef Sam DeMarco of First Food and Bar at the Palazzo resort where I basically just pressed record and watched him take off.  Then The Wife makes her triumphant return for The News With The Wife, The TLV Cheap Eats of the Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 07

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast On The iTunes!

Chef Sam DeMarco of First Food and Bar at the Palazzo

Chef Sam DeMarco of First Food and Bar at the Palazzo

Please support our fabulous sponsor VegasMate!

Get more information about the best app for Las Vegas at http://VegasMate.com

Follow Vegas Mate on Twitter at @VegasMate

Joints That We Talked About:

  • First Food and Bar
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Otto Enoteca and Pizzeria
  • Firefly
  • CUT by Wolfgang Puck
  • The Pasta Shop
  • Rao’s
  • Casa Di Amore
  • RM Seafood
  • Sirio Ristorante
  • The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • STK Steakhouse
  • i (heart) burgers
  • Wolfgang Puck Cucina & Pizzeria

Tha’ Links:

Check out Crossings by Nathan Tanouye and the Las Vegas Jazz Connectionon CDBaby.com

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

See the Las Vegas Jazz Connection Live on Sunday, November 21 at 2:00pm! Tickets and Info Found Here

Follow First Food and Bar on Twitter at @FirstFoodandBar

Follow the Naked City Pizza Shop on Twitter at @NakedCityLV

Follow Tequila Ambhar on Twitter at @TequilaAmbharNV

My Post on Carnevino: The Place I Really Want To Like But Just Can’t

More about i (heart) burgers employment opportunities is found here

My Post on Clark County School District Lunches Get A Tweak From Wolfgang Puck’s Crew

Please Support Three Square at http://ThreeSquare.org

Follow Three Square on Twitter at @ThreeSquareLV

My visit to Three Square during Vegas Uncork’d

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 06 - John Simmons, Chef / Owner of Firefly

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, The Wife goes into ballbreaking overdrive as we talk about, and play, a portion of our recent chat with Chef Fabio Viviani of Top Chef fame at a Food & Wine All-Star Weekend event.  We also dish about our Recent Eats and reveal Five Appetizers In Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  I then sit down with Chef John Simmons, Chef / Owner of Firefly as he talks about the culture of tapas and some of the dark days of Firefly’s struggling beginnings.  Then The Wife makes her return for The News With The Wife, The TLV Cheap Eats of the Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 06!

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast On The iTunes!

Chef / Owner of Firefly, John Simmons

Chef / Owner of Firefly, John Simmons

Please check out our sponsor because they are made of awesome!

Check out the wonders of Vegas Mate at http://VegasMate.com

Follow Vegas Mate on Twitter at @vegasmate

Joints We Talked About:

  • Firefly
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Jasmine
  • Tender
  • Nora’s Italian Cuisine
  • First Food and Bar
  • The Pasta Shop
  • Sage
  • Wazuzu
  • Table 34
  • Caribbean Cooker / Ernie’s
  • Ethel M. Chocolates
  • Wolfgang Puck’s CUT

Tha’ Links:

Check out Crossings by Nathan Tanouye and the Las Vegas Jazz Connection on CDBaby.com

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

See the Las Vegas Jazz Connection Live on Sunday, November 21 at 2:00pm! Tickets and Info Found Here

More information about the Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup at Naked City Pizza Shop on November 15

Please RSVP to the Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup on Facebook or on the Twtvite

Follow Conan O’Brien on Twitter at @ConanOBrien

Follow Chef Fabio Viviani on Twitter at @fabioviviani

Chef Fabio Viviani’s Firenze Osteria in Moorpark, CA

Follow the Firefly on Twitter at @FireflyLV

The Firefly’s website is at http://FireflyLV.com

Find out when Chef Jet Tila’s Drunken Noodles play the small screen again here

My take on Jet Tila’s Drunken Noodles is here

Follow Chef Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

Follow Ethel M. Chocolates on Twitter at @EthelMChocolates

Check out the Award Winning, Award Nominated Average Betty at http://averagebetty.com

Follow Average Betty on Twitter at @averagebetty

Sara’s awesome interview and cooking demo with Chef Paul Bartolotta is here

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 05 - Chef Roy Ellamar of Sensi

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, The Wife returns as we talk about some fabulous Recent Eats, we talk about the upcoming Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup at the Naked City Pizza Shop on November 15th and we reveal our 5 Overrated Restaurants in Las Vegas That Can Be Missed.  Then I’m joined with Chef de Cuisine of Sensi at the Bellagio, Roy Ellamar, where we talk about cooking for the President and First Lady, the importance of buying organic and sustainable foods and much more.  Then The Wife makes her triumphant return for The News With The Wife, the TLV Cheap Eats Of The Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 05

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast On The iTunes!

Chef Roy Ellamar of Sensi at the Bellagio

Chef Roy Ellamar of Sensi at the Bellagio

Joints That We Talked About:

  • Sensi
  • Silk Road
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • First Food and Bar
  • RM Seafood
  • Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen
  • Earl of Sandwich
  • Carnevino
  • Lotus of Siam
  • Settebello
  • Match Restaurant
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Molto Vegas Farmers Market
  • Nove Italiano
  • Fleur by Hubert Keller
  • Bradley Ogden
  • P.J. Clarke’s
  • Nobhill Tavern

Tha’ Links:

Check out Crossings by Nathan Tanouye and the Las Vegas Jazz Connection on CDBaby.com

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Follow The Official Twitter Page of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast at @TLV_ThePodcast

See the Las Vegas Jazz Connection Live on Sunday, November 21 at 2:00pm! Tickets and Info Found Here

More information about the Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup at Naked City Pizza Shop on November 15

Please RSVP to the Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup on Facebook or on the Twtvite

More information about Ghost Adventures is on their website

The Las Vegas Restaurants Serving Bluefin Tuna List Of Shame

Follow Chef Roy Ellamar on Twitter at @unkoroy

More information about Sensi is here

Check out The Dave Scott Show on LVRocks.com, I’ll be the guest on November 19th!

Follow First Food and Bar on Twitter at @FirstFoodandBar

Follow Chef Rick Moonen on Twitter at @RickMoonen

My article a while back about the Molto Vegas Farmers Market is here

Find out more about Project Dinner Table here

The number for Nove Italiano to find out more about Saturday’s Cooking Class is (702) 942-6856

Follow Nobhill Tavern on Twitter at @NobhillTavernLV

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

The Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food: Affettati Misti from Rao's

Ask any successful person what the secret of their success is, and 9 times out of 10 they will answer, “focus.” Having focus is imperative to achieve any kind of greatness.  However, focus is often times a fleeting commodity.  Look at Tiger Woods.  When he was focused on golf holes, he was on top of the world.  When his focus shifted to blondes’ holes, well….he started to suck at golf…but life really couldn’t have been all that bad!  Those that can maintain a steely stare with unwavering concentration will not only reach, but will surpass their goal.  If the iPhone’s goal was to take a decent picture of an entire plate of food, it just got caught catching a glance at the sweet, perky titty known as delicious Parma Prosciutto.  Unfortunately, the Soppressata, Provolone, Cornichons and Olives were officially Nordegrened, thus making the Affettati Misti of Rao’s at Caesars Palace this week’s Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food.

Affettati Misti from Rao's

Affettati Misti from Rao's

—–

Rao’s

Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(877) 346-4642

http://www.caesarspalace.com/casinos/caesars-palace/restaurants-dining/raos-detail.html

Follow Chef Carla Pellegrino on Twitter at @ChefCarlaPelleg

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Clark County School District Lunches Get A Tweak From Wolfgang Puck's Crew

Since 2007, Wolfgang Puck and his merry group of restaurants have worked with the Clark County School District (The Official School District of Las Vegas) to help educate the student population about healthy and nutritious foods and to help out the CCSD Food Services serve better lunches.  On Tuesday, October 19th, about 20 5th graders from Howard E. Hollingsworth and David M. Cox elementary schools were invited to the Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina in the Crystals Mall at CityCenter as Executive Chef, Dustin Lewandowski, and crew served up some tasty food and talked with them a little bit about what they were eating.

Clark County School District Students At Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina

Clark County School District Students At Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina

The way this tasting was set up is that each of the kids had a sheet to fill out.  There were five different dishes with two versions of each.  One was a recipe already used by the CCSD, the other was a tweaked version by the kitchen of the Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina.  Some of the recipes already used by the CCSD were already ones developed by the Puck people, but it was time for an update.  A great example of this was the first course; Chicken Noodle Soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup "A"

Chicken Noodle Soup "A"

Right off the bat I could see the kitchen was using Whole Grain Pasta with the brownish color.  Example “A” was a Chicken and Noodle Soup that featured peas and carrots as the main vegetables.  It was good.  I was actually surprised to find out the peas and carrots were frozen because they tasted pretty fresh to me.  Chef Lewandowski later explained to me that it’s all about how you bring the veg back up to temperature, and that the technology of freezing vegetables is getting better.  I was a wee bit embarrassed that I thought they were fresh, but hey…it happens.

Chicken Noodle Soup "B"

Chicken Noodle Soup "B"

Example “B,” however, was light years ahead of its predecessor.  To the stock, a little bit of parmesan was added for a little bit of extra depth.  Plus the vegetables of “A” were switched out for zucchini, squash and broccoli.  The extra layers of flavor made it one of the best Chicken Noodle Soups I’ve had in a long while.  While the table of parents was unanimously on my side with love going to “B,” the kiddies were mixed on their view.  Let’s meet the kiddies…

The kiddies enjoying some good grub!

The kiddies enjoying some good grub!

As I said before, there were about 20 or so 5th graders from two different elementary schools.  I, more or less, stayed at one end of the table and created a little focus group of my own within the focus group.  Before anything was served, I asked a few of them what their favorite lunches were.  I was a little surprised by the answers I got…

The Final Word In Food: Haley, Emily and Courtney

The Final Word In Food: Haley, Emily and Courtney

The one I could relate to the most was Courtney who said Ham, Cheese and Lettuce Sandwiches was her favorite lunch.  When I was her age, if it involved some kind of hot dog, pizza or hamburger, I was good to go.  Yeah yeah yeah….so maybe not much has changed for me in the last 20 years.  A little more outside the box was Haley who said that Caesar Salad was her favorite lunch.  I don’t think I even knew what a Caesar Salad was until my 20′s!  However, the one that really knocked me on my tuches was Emily when she said Sushi.  Sushi?!? Sushi! A 10-year old white girl just said sushi was her favorite lunch!  And to think I thought Chicken of the Sea was exotic!  A different era, I suppose.  I can only hope that someday if The Wife and I should ever procreate that our seed will say Saag Paneer and Lamb Rogan Josh.

The review among the table of youths was mixed between the two Chicken Noodle Soups, and it really seemed to come down how much they liked the strength of the taste of peas.  The peas used in the first soup had a strong, earthy flavor (part of why I thought they were fresh) and I think the kids equated the flavor of the overall product with the strength of the flavor of the peas.  The kids called it “seasonings” and such, but the only stronger flavor in the first one was the peas, as the tweaked edition was the one loaded with the layers.

A slamming Penne Bolognese at Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina

A slamming Penne Bolognese at Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina

Another surprise for me was the pasta course, of which the kitchen whipped up two versions of a Bolognese.  The “A” example of this one used Whole Wheat Penne once again.  In the bolognese was the requisite meat, but also a brunoise (Frenchy term for itsy-bitsy dice) of carrot, zucchini, squash and fresh herbs.  It was mighty tasty.  The second version of the bolognese was a non-whole grain Farfalle.  It was pretty boring in flavor.  It kind of tasted like something you’d get for a school lunch.  But, I thought the wild card was the use of the fun bowtie farfalle pasta.  I figured the kids wouldn’t care about the flavor and go for the more fun noodle.  Oh, how wrong I was!  The kids almost unanimously pined over the much more sophisticated version of the dish, with only one hold out saying that she though both versions sucked.   It was good to see flavor take a win.  The parents were also almost all in favor of version “A,” except one dad that thought the more basic version reminded him of his youth.

A Boring Farfalle Bolognese.

A Boring Farfalle Bolognese.

The food was all good.  Really good.  If I knew a school had someone like Chef Dustin Lewandowski cooking in the kitchen, I’d sign up all over again!  But is this really what a typical lunch tastes like in a typical Clark County School District school?  I asked the kiddies that question and it was a very unanimous, very thunderous “NO!”

CCSD Director of Food Services, Charles Anderson

CCSD Director of Food Services, Charles Anderson

Also present at the lunch were a group of CCSD dignitaries, one of which being the Director of Food Services, Charles Anderson.  I spoke with Charles for a bit about the differences between the kitchen cooking for twenty versus school cafeterias serving about 175,000 of the 300,000 kids that make up the CCSD’s student population.  The CCSD employs a central kitchen in which the meals are prepared, portioned and frozen.  Then they are delivered to each of the school cafeterias where they are reheated in convection ovens.  Much of the food is almost famously terrible, although not really for the ingredients used, but more for the big factory cooking processes that are employed due to the large student body.

The sad truth is that the CCSD Food Services is a business.  The CCSD Food Services uses no money from the school district’s General Fund as it is almost all privately funded through whatever the consumers (in this case, the kids) pay for their food.  The only money that comes from government sources is the Federally reimbursed dollars for Free and Reduced Lunch and there is also a relatively small matching grant provided by the State of Nevada.  Anderson didn’t know the exact figure of the matching grant off the top of his head, but it is less than $1 million.

I appreciated Anderson’s very candid, non-sugar-coated remarks as we chatted for a few minutes as the kids chowed down on their 10-course meal.  Once again I was proved wrong as I figured I was just going to get some romanticized B.S. sound bitey type answers.  Up front, Anderson said that he considers himself the “CEO of the Clark County School District Restaurant Group with 328 franchisees out there.”  Budgetary constraints are always an issue, and as a business, Anderson said that his “number one goal is to maintain solvency.”  He aims to do that by his department’s goals which are, “Stabilize Staffing, Upgrade Equipment and Streamline Operations.”

No, it wasn’t use organic foods and eliminate high fructose corn syrup and trans fats to appease the food blogger.  It was all business.  Scary and honest business.  The kind of business that makes you want to scream at how bass ackwards Government Funding priorities are in the United States.  Why can’t there be subsidies to provide a trained staff to cook a fresh meal at each school?  Why can’t there be subsidies so that schools can purchase fresh, wholesome ingredients?  Why can’t there be subsides so all children can be educated to know the difference between whole foods and processed foods?  Oh yeah, because we blow all of our money on this and that.

Maker of Good Food: Chef Dustin Lewandowski of Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina

Maker of Good Food: Chef Dustin Lewandowski of Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina

People do what they can with what they got.  Chef Lewandowski let me in on a few little secrets that are employed with the big industrial kitchens such as the CCSD Central Kitchen versus the luxuriously more intimate space he has in the Crystals Mall at CityCenter.  One of which is where he has the time and the space to reduce stocks and sauces down for hours, industrial kitchens don’t have such luxuries so they will use Modified Food Starches as thickening agents. Which tree does Modified Food Starch hang from?  Actually, a popular MFS is “modified” from potatoes.  Anywho, even smaller kitchens are using them these days with the Methods Formerly Known As Molecular Gastronomy.

Another big difference is where smaller kitchens would use stocks, industrial kitchens use bases.  Similar to bouillon cubes, chicken and beef bases are used as flavor enhancers.  Unfortunately, animal parts and vegetables are only part of the equation of what makes a base.  Also in there is also a whole ton of  salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, dextrose, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate just to name a few extra ingredients I’ve found in Chicken and Beef Bases.  Mmm…natural. In fact, we have a Disodium Guanylate bush growing in the backyard!  It’s right next to the Monosodium Glutamate Tree!  Oy….the things we put in our bodies…

The TLV Army of The Future!

The TLV Army of The Future!

At the end of the event I asked the kids if they had a good time to which there was a resounding “YES!!!” As a restaurant blogger, I can’t even tell you how hilarious it was to hear one student mull over the appropriate use of cilantro in one of the dishes and another remark how the pasta was a bit too al dente.  The future of the TLV Army was before me!

The 'Rents

The 'Rents

I want to thank the parents that were there for letting me pester their kids, the students for openly speaking their mind and the fine folks with the Wolfgang Puck Restaurant Group and specifically the Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina for inviting me along.  I also want to congratulate Chef Dustin Lewandowski and crew on a job well done and of course thank Charles Anderson with the CCSD for his time and his candor.  It’s easy for us to point the finger at the school district for less than stellar meals, but like I said before, they’re working with what they got.  They test each meal on kids at the school before adding it to the menu and if an item doesn’t get at least an 80% approval rating, it doesn’t get on the list.

It’s up to us as either concerned parents or concerned citizens to make some noise so maybe instead of cash being spent on a bomb to blow up some unsuspecting Arab family’s house, we spend it on some fresh green beans for our kids.  One bomb buys a whole bunch of green beans.  Just sayin’.

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Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina

Crystals at CityCenter
3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S. #240
Las Vegas, NV 89158

(702) 238-1000

http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/53877

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas