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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

Monday Mise en Place: Las Vegas Greek Food Festival Begins This Week

Las Vegas Greek Food Festival at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church

Las Vegas Greek Food Festival at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church

Well, I’m sort of sad that allergy-driven stabbing pains in my head forced me to withdraw from dealing with the crowds at San Gennaro this time around, but come hell or high water The Wife and I will be going to the Las Vegas Greek Food Festival!  My favorite of the ethnic food festivals I’ve been to, the Greek Food Festival, held on the grounds of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church runs like a machine, has a decent amount of open space and features some kick ass Greek food! The festival runs Friday, September 24 through Sunday, September 26. For more information visit http://www.lasvegasgreekfestival.com.  If you haven’t been to this one yet, bring cash and an empty stomach!

Chef Jet Tila: Loosen Up, He Packs A Big Roll!

Chef Jet Tila: Loosen Up, He Packs A Big Roll!

With the flurry of events last week, I am remiss that I forgot to give a shout out to Executive Chef of Wazuzu at the Encore resort, Jet Tila, for doing something no other Asian man has done; get in the Guinness Book of World Records for something regarding length! I’m talking about Chef Jet’s successful attempt to break the record for the World’s Largest California Roll at UMass Amherst!  Check out this video to see the monster (and the record breaking roll):

I think the roll was originally planned to be 400 ft., but it squeezed out an extra 22 ft. once it saw the cans on that sorority girl at 1:42 in the clip!  Congratulations, Jet!  Maybe next up is a Spicy Tuna Roll with the most girth?  Ladies like girth…or so I’ve been told.

Diane Greene of Herbs by Diane

Diane Greene of Herbs by Diane

Chef Ryan Taliaferro, formerly of the Ritz-Carlton of Lake Las Vegas and Diane Greene of Herbs by Diane in Boulder City are teaming up to do Basil Day at the UNCE Orchard in North Las Vegas on Saturday, September 25 from 9am – noon.  At this event, you’ll learn how to grow basil, how to prepare basil, and how to evaluate 17 different varieties of basil that grow in Las Vegas!  A $5 donation will be asked at the door to cover cost of prepared food. All RSVP’s for the event are asked to be made by Thursday by calling the Master Gardner helpline at 702-257-5555.

Dos Caminos at the Palazzo: Good Mexican Food Made Here

Dos Caminos at the Palazzo: Good Mexican Food Made Here

I think Mexicans roll with some of the best breakfast food on the planet, so I’m happy to hear the news of  Dos Caminos at the Palazzo resort now offering a Mexican Breakfast Buffet seven days a week from 7am to 10:30am.  On the buffet will be items like Pan Torrejas, Huevos con Chorizo and Chilaquiles.  The buffet itself is $19.95 and then drinks can be ordered from the bar at additional cost.

Hash House A Go Go Logo

Hash House A Go Go Logo

Congratulations to Hash House A Go Go which will be celebrating its 5th Anniversary of it’s location on Sahara Ave. on Thursday, September 23rd!  Some specials they’re offering on their special day include getting their famous Snickers flapjack for $5, any of their one-pound stuffed cheeseburgers for $5 and a happy hour that runs from 5pm-6pm that will have nickel draft beers and complimentary appetizers. Now that’s a party!

Time is running out! Please vote for me once each day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Time is running out! Please vote for me once each day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

As of the writing of this post, there are only 10 days left to get my entry for Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw Challenge into the Top 50! From there it is on to the publishers to pick me as one of the best 10 entries and then Tony Bourdain himself to pick the winner.  I want to thank each and everyone of you that have taken the time to vote each day and to put up links encouraging your friends to do the same.  It really means a lot to me.  I don’t get a dime for this pig yet, so your support is what I run on.  Soon enough I won’t be begging for your votes anymore….but I’ll just be begging for something else!  But for now…..vote!

A direct link to read and vote for my essay, ‘Cooking Well is First’ is here – http://bourdainmediumraw.com/essays/view/1409

—–
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

Whole Foods Market Adds Sustainable Seafood Rating System With Monterey Bay Aquarium

As you all well know, Tasting Las Vegas is usually not in the business of regurgitating press releases, but when one comes to my inbox that tickles my fancy and is of great importance, I’ll certainly shoot it right out to you.  This is great news that Whole Foods Market (The Official Grocery Store and hopefully-someday-sponsor of Tasting Las Vegas *cough cough*) has joined forces with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute to not only empower their customers with knowledge of our environment, but also commit to eliminating the sale of endangered species in its entirety by Earth Day of 2013. And while Whole Foods is providing a great service, of course the best way is to empower yourself while you are at the grocery store or fish market of your choice.  You can download and print the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide based off what part of the U.S. you’ll be eating in, or if you’re headed to RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay anytime soon, they have a stack of the Seafood Watch cards near the downstairs hostess stand.

You can follow Whole Foods (national) on Twitter at @WholeFoods
You can follow
Whole Foods (Las Vegas) on Twitter at @WFMLasVegas
You can follow
Whole Foods (Town Square) on Twitter at @WFMLVB
You can follow
Whole Foods (The District at GVR) on Twitter at @WFMHenderson
You can follow
Monterey Bay Aquarium on Twitter at @MontereyAq
You can follow
MBA’s Seafood Watch on Twitter at @SeafoodWatch

Good Groceries Sold Here (photo: twitter.com/wfmhenderson)

Good Groceries Sold Here (photo: twitter.com/wfmhenderson)

————————————————————————————

Without further adieu, here is the full press release from Whole Foods Market:

AUSTIN, Texas (Sept. 13, 2010) – Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI) today launches the first in-store color-coded sustainability rating program for wild-caught seafood and commits to phasing out all red-rated species by Earth Day 2013.

Partnering with Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, Whole Foods Market is the first national grocer to provide a comprehensive, science-based sustainability rating system for wild-caught seafood. The system’s green, yellow and red ratings make it easy for shoppers to make informed choices at the seafood case.  Green or “best choice” ratings indicate a species is relatively abundant and is caught in environmentally-friendly ways; yellow or “good alternative” ratings mean some concerns exist with the species’ status or catch methods; and red or “avoid” ratings mean that for now the species is suffering from overfishing, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats. The new initiative expands upon the sustainable seafood program that Whole Foods Market has had with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) since 1999, and the new ratings apply only to non-MSC-certified fish.

“At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. Our customers, buyers, fishermen and fishery managers can all make smart decisions that move us in the direction of greater seafood sustainability,” said Carrie Brownstein, Whole Foods Market seafood quality standards coordinator. “The new color-coded rating system is a transparent way to provide sustainability status information. This new program, along with our promise to phase out red-rated species, deepens our commitment to having fully sustainable seafood departments.”

With the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reporting that 80 percent of fisheries are fully exploited, overfished, or depleted, Whole Foods Market’s is combining the passion of its customers, the commitment of its skilled seafood buyers, and the dedication of its many seafood suppliers to help reverse this trend.

“We’re delighted to help Whole Foods Market expand its commitment to offering seafood from sustainable sources,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who oversees its Seafood Watch program,montereybayaquarium.org. “Whole Foods Market is a leader in the field, and its decision will have a real impact on seafood suppliers and other retailers. Its in-store education and commitment to phase out red-rated seafood will help raise awareness and improve fishing practices around the world.”

“Blue Ocean Institute applauds Whole Foods Market’s continued commitment to consumer education. Our rankings represent authoritative science that examines the key factors affecting the health of ocean populations,” said Dr. Carl Safina, MacArthur Fellow and founder of Blue Ocean Institute. “The rankings on the Whole Foods Market signs reflect the efforts of seafood science experts. Each also represents information consumers can understand and trust. This partnership will give seafood lovers the tools they need, where they need them—at the seafood counter—to make informed choices on behalf of ocean-friendly seafood.”

Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium are both highly respected for the strength of their science-based seafood programs, which evaluate species and fisheries on life history, abundance, habitat impacts, management practices and bycatch. Both organizations provide customers with information on the sustainability status of fisheries that are not certified by the MSC. Whole Foods Market continues its ongoing partnership with the MSC, the world’s leading certification body for sustainable wild-caught seafood. It uses a multi-stakeholder, international market-based approach to provide incentives for fisheries to address key issues such as overfishing and bycatch. The blue MSC ecolabel identifies wild-caught seafood products that are MSC-certified.

Whole Foods Market previously stopped selling especially vulnerable red-rated species such as non-MSC-certified Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, bluefin tuna, sharks, and marlins (with the exception of Hawaii-caught blue marlin, sold only in Hawaii stores). All swordfish and tuna from red-rated fisheries will be eliminated from seafood counters by Earth Day 2011. By Earth Day 2012, all other seafood from red-rated fisheries will be discontinued with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole, which will be sold through Earth Day 2013.

The company’s new wild-caught seafood rating program and partnerships will complement its existing farmed seafood standards, which remain the highest in the industry. Whole Foods Market requires third-party audits and traceability from hatchery to market, and they prohibit use of antibiotics, added growth hormones, added preservatives like sulfites and phosphates, genetically-modified seafood and land animal by-products in feed. Farmed seafood at Whole Foods Market carries the “Responsibly Farmed” logo to indicate that it meets these high standards.

—–
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

Vote! Not just for me, but for the health of our oceans!  You can vote once everyday from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Vote! Not just for me, but for the health of our oceans! You can vote once everyday from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2010 Roundup: The Good, The Bad, The Half Naked

The 2010 edition of Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week has come and gone and what a week it was!  I love Restaurant Week. I love it very much.  After a week of eating some delicious food, my wallet got a hell of a lot lighter and just when I thought it wasn’t possible, somehow I got fatter, but it was for a great cause; my insatiable gluttony…oh…umm…I mean…charity. Yeah, charity.

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle this post. Should I give everyone a free pass because it all benefits the amazing cause that is Three Square, or do I let everybody have it with my typical vicious hyperbole?  I’ve chosen the option that no one is safe, because while Three Square does benefit quite a bit, the restaurants obviously use Restaurant Week as a big promotional period encouraging people to test their wares.

The Wife and I’s Restaurant Week started off with an invitation to the ‘Wet Your Appetite’ event at the MGM Grand’s Wet Republic.  In case you missed it, I already wrote about that here, so I won’t bore with a second telling.  Tuesday was jam packed with events with the Shuck N’ Swallow competition at First Food and Bar, The Wife and I gave Dos Caminos’ RW menu a shot and then I was invited to the Tease In The Kitchen event at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon by the fine folks at MGM that night.

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

I don’t know if the Shuck N’ Swallow competition was officially part of Restaurant Week, but they talked about it quite a bit there so I’ll talk about it here.  I know I’m biased to the crew at First Food and Bar, but I don’t think there is any joint in town that knows how to throw a party like the First crew.  To say the Shuck N’ Swallow was a spectacle is an understatement.  Teams from B & B Ristorante, Carnevino, Mastro’s Ocean Club, Mon Ami Gabi, Tenaya Creek Brewing Company, Wynn Country Club, Gallagher’s and House of Blues were on hand with one shucker and one swallower of oysters provided by Santa Monica Seafood.

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Swallows.

Rob Swallows.

The defending champions of last year’s event Chef Jake Mual (shucker) and Chef Rob Ryan (swallower) from the home turf First Food and Bar were focused and ready to rumble.  Rob had his iPod earbuds in, listening to whatever music gets a guy pumped up to swallow and Jake was prepared with two blades to make the oysters open up like a drunk prom date.  However, a repeat was spoiled by newcomers on the scene, Justin and Lalo from Mastro’s Ocean Club at the Crystals with 117 oysters shucked and swallowed in (I think) 10 minutes.  The home team of Jake and Rob came in 2nd with a respectable 90.

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

With the smell of the sea and stomach fluids filling the air from the fiery competition, The Wife and I decided to head downstairs to Dos Caminos to check out their Restaurant Week menu.  I’ve gone on record to say that Dos Caminos is the most underrated Mexican restaurant in town, and I will continue to do so.  It gets little to no respect, a real shame because they make mostly good food there.

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

I started off with the Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab.  The flavor was spot on and the texture as thick and silky as a chowder gets.  The only drawback was a bit of the crab’s cartilage snuck in the lump in the center of the bowl.  The truffled huitlacoche (corn fungus) puree ring provided an extra dimension in the flavor that made me lick the bottom of the bowl.

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

The Wife started off with the Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread, which was light and gave the essence of a healthy bite.  Clayuda (also spelled Tlayuda) is a Oaxacan large tortilla that’s partially fried for crispiness.  I don’t understand the pronunciations or the spellings…I just eat the food.  It was good.

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

For entrees I went with the Niman Ranch (psst…it’s spelled Niman, not Nyman, Dos Caminos) Pork Shank and The Wife rolled with a Lobster Chile Relleno.  The Pork Shank was hit and miss, with much of it inedible due to an impossible-to-chew outer bark from the roasting.  I almost thought that there was a little overcooked chicharrones business going on, but I’m not sure.  However, I can’t bitch too much as there was plenty of tasty edible meat on the plate that made me plenty stuffed.  Was the hard skin / bark not meant to be eaten? I don’t know.

The Wife’s Chile Relleno was a home run. The Poblano pepper was masterfully roasted to the point where it sweetened up just right to compliment the lobster / corn / cheese / rice and other goodness mixture.  I wish I ordered what she got, as is usually the case.

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Later that night it was time for hot chicks to shake their goods and disrobe before my eyes as I got to drink a non-stop pour of bubbles and eat Joël Robuchon quality food at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand.  Did you get all that? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…but starting this blog is the second best fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life.  (First of course was marrying The Wife. Duh.) When I was invited to this one, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  Upon arrival there was a live burlesque-style band greeting us along with waitrons holding trays of adult grape juice.  I met up with fellow local restaurant writers Al Mancini and Jim Begley (you can follow Jim on Twitter at @splurgemonkey and Al still needs a little convincing to play with us on Twitter) and we parked at a spot at the bar where a flurry of small plates were passed and the bubbles continually flowed like cocaine out of Paris Hilton’s purse.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s Sommelier, Harley Carbery, was on hand pouring J-Ro’s hand-picked house champagne, Bruno Paillard, and life was good. Very good.  As many of you know, I am famously wine stupid and of course this stupidity pours over to champagne.  It kicked Korbel’s ass, and that’s about all I know.  I need Harley to help me out and beat some wine ignorance out of me.

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

The food that was passed around was nothing short of extraordinary.  Simple food with such sophistication and technical perfection, it was a true food lover’s wet dream. First was a simple bruschetta with (I think) jamón ibérico.  I don’t know if it was the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, often regarded as the greatest ham on Earth where the pigs are free range, feasting on acorns on the forest floor making them extra tasty. It was some of the best ham I’ve ever put in my mouth. The leg was visible in the kitchen area, but I was too busy looking at the other legs on display in the room to see the signature black hoof of the “pata negra.”

Very Athletic.

Very Athletic.

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Another revelation on how perfect execution elevates premium ingredients to another plane of existence was the Langoustines wrapped in (I think) a rice wrapper.  A solitary basil leaf laid across the langoustine provided the perfect amount of herb flavor for which basil is known.  It was extraordinary.  So simple, yet so profound.  In case you haven’t noticed from my ramblings over these last 9 months, execution more than anything else is the thing that gets me off and this langoustine dish put on a clinic.  Pass the tissues.

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Just when I didn’t think life could get better, it did, and placed before me was the best slider I’ve ever eaten in my life.  A perfect bun, a perfect medium rare of a perfectly seasoned beef patty with a nugget of foie gras on top to finish you off.  I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the word, but this made me see Jesus, Mary AND Joseph!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

The moment I was anticipating the most of this event came with the next round, and that was some braised meat that I didn’t really give a shit about (was it Beef Short rib? I can’t even remember) but it was the pommes purée.  Of all the shit J-Ro has accomplished in his life, what he is probably most famous for is his mashed potatoes. No shit.  Unfortunately, these mashed potatoes were mixed with some cracked peppercorns that totally wrecked them for me.  At least I think they were cracked peppercorns…they didn’t knock me out with flavor, it was a texture thing.  It was like gravel in silk.  Oh well, by that time I was flying high from the bubbles and the rapidly shaken ass right in front of me (no not Jim, I’m talking about the stripper).

(TLV UPDATE: I was told on good authority that those were not flavorless peppercorns in the pommes purée, but flavorless, dried out, shitty black truffles that provided the gravel-y texture. Either way, it was a bad move.)

For Charity.

For Charity.

I had to take the next day off.  The first two days of Restaurant Week wore me out.

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The next Restaurant Week related thing I did was the now famous-around-the-world-lunch I had at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris hotel.  While I’ve already spoken about ‘The Bottled Iced Tea Incident,’ I haven’t talked much about the food, which wasn’t much to talk about.  First course was a cold crab salad that was woefully one-note flavorally for a restaurant that claims to be at the caliber the Eiffel Tower claims that it’s at.  Maybe L’Atelier was the worst place I could have gone before the Eiffel Tower…I don’t know..but I wasn’t impressed.  The gougères (Frenchy Cheesy Buns) that were brought to the table were poorly baked being dried out in the outer perimeter and with minimal gooey inside.

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The main course was marred with gritty mushrooms.  The veal medallion cut in half horizontally wasn’t much to talk about.  It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great, it just was.  The saving dish of the whole $30.10 three course meal was the finishing Creme Brulee.  It was fabulous. Strong vanilla flavor and a lovely silky texture.  This was my first time at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant.  I’m not going to say that it will be my last, but I’m certainly not in a big rush to go back.

Next on my Restaurant Week extravaganza was dinner at Sensi at the Bellagio.  What a pimp I was, I got to dine with both The Wife and Julia of VegasChatter.com fame!  However, the biggest pimp in the room was the lobster in the tank ravaging another lobster out in the open for all to see.  Behold…

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Fornicating lobsters aside, the food was fabulous as expected. I started off my $50.10 three course with the Thai Coconut Soup.  Served in a coconut bowl, the soup was expertly layered with so many flavors that every spoonful made me notice something new in the complex love. Coconut milk, lemongrass, Kaffir Lime and a whole host of spices that is boss man Chef Martin Heierling’s signature, this soup was damn good.  A few shrimp, some mushroom and some boba (tapioca pearls) were also there for some flavor and texture.  Take away the boba, which is a textural nightmare for me, and this was a perfect bowl of soup.

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Next course at Sensi I threw down with the Tandoori Butter Chicken.  Apparently there was a fire sale on coconut bowls as this was the second presentation of a dish in a coconut bowl of the night. It was cute the first time and I thought cheesy the second pass.  However, I quickly no longer gave a shit about what it came in after I tasted it.  Chicken that tasted like chicken and in a curry so deep, yet refined that it made me cry out love for all the people of India.  I’m still thinking about this dish.  I’m haunted by one of the flavors layered in there, I think it was either fennel or fennel pollen…but whatever it was made this version of a Northern Indian Greatest Hit truly stand out among the crowd.

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Dessert for me was what they call Chocolate Temptation.  It was a very light chocolate cookie (think fancy Oreo kind of crust) with I think some kind of chocolate mousse and dipped in milk chocolate like a candy bar.  I don’t really remember a whole bunch about it because I think I blacked out as I scarfed it down.  One thing I remember however is that the Salted Caramel Ice Cream that came with it was just one pinch of salt too much from being one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. The Wife ordered the Tapioca Pudding for her dessert course.  I usually run away from tapioca pudding, but The Wife insisted I taste it and I’m glad I did.  Blissfully packed with good vanilla, this was the only tapioca pudding I’ve eaten in my life that I liked.  I guess they weren’t joking when they bill it on the menu as “The Greatest”

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

The next day I found myself at Fleur de Lys, a week before its closes (it closes on September 11) and transitions into the fine dining / tapas hybrid that’s scheduled to open on December 16th.  They had a very attractive looking $30.10 menu so I opted for that.  One of the few things that bugs me about Fleur de Lys is that just about every time I’ve had a salad there, it has always been too salty, and this was no exception.  It was a mix of organic greens with a very light vinaigrette.  The best part of the salad were the Polenta Croutons (they were underneath the greens).  I noticed that the crouton with the greens balanced the salt nicely.  If that was the intention then there needed to be more croutons.

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

The main course was the best dish I’ve ever had at Fleur de Lys and I’ve had many great dishes there; a Guinness braised Short Rib.  It was excellent with the richness of the braising liquid and fatty beef being perfectly balanced by a thin layer of whole grain mustard smeared across the top of the meat.  This dish really knocked it out of the park for me, and that is something because I usually don’t like short ribs.

On Sunday, Restaurant Week drew to a close and my final meal was at Aureole, another place with an attractive $30.10 menu.   I said this already on Twitter and Facebook, but eating at Aureole for me is like golfing; much of it is miserable, but you keep coming back for that one solid hit.  Now mind you I am in a very small minority when I say I don’t care for Aureole (the restaurant, I still love titties) very much.  They have interesting food, but in the few times I’ve been there I’ve always found something on the plate that was poorly done and something on the plate that was out of this world.  It’s too hit or miss for me for the money.  But that’s just me.

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

The $30.10 Restaurant Week Menu at Aureole was much of the same.  It started off with a Chilled Melon Soup and a midget’s take on a croque-monsieur.  The Chilled Melon Soup was refreshing, but disappointingly one-note…ok…technically two-note with it just tasting of good cantaloupe and some kind of booze.  If the chilled soup was in a champagne flute I would have proclaimed genius, but presented as a soup…it just wasn’t a “soup.”  The accompanying croque-monsieur (Frenchy Hot Ham & Cheese) was quite good.  I wish they flip flopped the portion size of the components of the dish, more sandwich, less melon booze soup.

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

Next was a Rainbow Trout Grenobloise, which means a gay fish that is lightly dusted in flour, pan fried in butter and served with capers, lemon and croutons crumbled on top.  Of course I’m kidding about the sexual orientation of the Rainbow Trout (I didn’t talk with it before it died), but it did look fabulous…that’s all I’m saying.  Unfortunately looks were deceiving to a certain degree, with about a 1/3 of the filet having some major fish funk to it.  I don’t know if some dark meat (is there dark meat in Rainbow Trout?) slipped in there or if there is something off kilter with the storage process after butchering, but about a 1/3 of it was funky.  The rest of it was splendid and fresh, and one bite with a stray tomato was eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-my-head good.  However, another knock on the dish was the accompanying radicchio that was impervious to all cutlery provided.  How could so much brilliance and so much awful be on the same plate?  I don’t get it.

The three course $30.10 meal at Aureole was finished off with a bombe of Hazelnut inside, chocolate outside and it was tasty. The picture of the bombe was even worse than the trout (if you could imagine), so I won’t even bother to put it up.  I was glad to see a good end to a meal with mood swings further apart than a bi-polar Italian chick on the rag.  And thus, with this meal coming to a close, my 2010 Restaurant Week has also come to a close.  By my rough count, our meals this week gave Three Square $36, which means 108 meals to people in need.  That makes me feel special.

It also puts things in perspective.  Here I am bitching about two presentations using coconut bowl in the same meal, bread that was a bit dry and cabbage that was tough to cut. Meanwhile, there are thousands of people in Southern Nevada alone that will go to sleep hungry tonight because they haven’t eaten in a few days.  I don’t think they would bitch about not enough croutons to balance out a salad.  I, for one, have come away from this week much more thankful.   Of course I’m still going to publicly bitch about relatively trivial things, but I’ll certainly be much more thankful that I have the opportunity to do so.  Good times were had during Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week 2010…I’m already looking forward to 2011!

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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

The crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10!  Thanks!

The crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Monday Mise en Place: Match Restaurant Set to Open on March 20

Match Restaurant Logo

Match Restaurant Logo

Brought to you by the fine folks at Ta Ta Asian Bistro, Match Restaurant is set to open on March 20.  Match is being billed as an “East meets West Excursion” offering everything from Tapas and Paella to Korean BBQ.  Match is located in the Silverardo Ranch area of town at 1263 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd. Suite #106, Las Vegas, NV 89123 (near corner of Silverado Ranch & Maryland Pkwy).  They are holding some late night hours (Mon.-Sat. 5pm-2am, Sun 5pm-12am according to their Facebook site) which works splendidly with our penchant of the late night gorge.  Best wishes to Match!

Springs Preserve Logo

Springs Preserve Logo

I’m loving these classes being offered by restaurants and various other industry people in town.  The Wife and I had such an enjoyable time at the one put on at Dos Caminos this past Saturday (full report later this week).  This week, on Wednesday, March 17, Chef Peter Sherlock will be hosting a class entitled, Sustainable Pantry: Perfect Spring Produce, at his Springs Cafe by Wolfgang Puck (yeah, he’s up there too) in the Springs Preserve.  The class is said to “highlight seasonal specialties and create delicious meals for good health and smart living.”  The cost is $50 for members and $75 for non-members.  Call (702) 822-7786 or click here for more information.

Tasting Las Vegas Logo

Tasting Las Vegas Logo

Another milestone has been reached with Tasting Las Vegas; our Twitter page has crossed the 500 follower mark!  Just to think that Tasting Las Vegas was a mere twinkle (that’s twinkle, not Twinkie!) in our eye less than three months ago, we now have 500 friends on Twitter and TastingLasVegas.com has been viewed by hungry people in 41 of the 50 U.S. states and 6 of the 7 continents! (Come on, Antarctica!) Many thanks to our fans, friends and supporters for making this adventure even more excellent than Bill and Ted’s!

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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 him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Molto Vegas Farmer's Market Offers Pride, Variety and Quality

“I’m not gonna put horseshit on my product and then sell it to you to eat.”

That brilliant statement by Jim King, owner of King Ranch in White Hills, AZ pretty much sums up why I have quickly come to love the Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market so dearly.

While Jim was speaking in a more literal tone, as he was referring to his policy to not use animal manure as fertilizer on his ranch, his statement can certainly be used in the figurative sense to get at the heart of what makes the Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market and other Farmer’s Markets like it so important: you will get food the way food was meant to be; without chemical treatments, genetic modifications and hormonal enhancements.

Small but strong, the Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market is tucked away in what appears to be an industrial storage facility for Mario Batali’s restaurant’s knick knacks.  Odd for this boy born and raised in the Northeast to see a Farmer’s Market indoors, it makes perfect sense as the blistering, herb-wilting Vegas heat is just around the corner.

Keeping in mind this is the end of January, what fresh produce there actually is at this time of year was indeed fresh and bountiful.  From the largest display in the market by Kerry Clasby and California Family Farms of Westlake Village, CA to the more intimate selection of the handful of items by Kerr Farms in Sandy Valley, NV, there was an extraordinary variety of products and personalities at this Farmer’s Market.

The most local of the local growers of the Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market (near the corner of Warm Springs and Dean Martin) location was Gilcrease Orchards.  Located in the far northern end of the Las Vegas Valley, the 68-acre local orchard brought some of their delicious Apple Cider and Pecans, as obviously we’re still a few months away from the bulk of their fresh fruit offerings.

Boulder City, NV was well represented with Herbs by Diane and Colorado River Coffee RoastersDiane Greene has been growing herbs and practicing organic growing methods for the last 30 years. Diane introduced me to something I haven’t had before, Sunflower Sprouts, and I can tell you, they make quite a flavorful, nutritious addition to any salad.

Colorado River Coffee Roasters know their beans. Whether the beans are from Sumatra, Ethiopia or Guatemala, Colorado River Coffee Roasters micro-roast the beans to the point of “caramelization and not carbonization” so the discerning taster can truly experience the subtle difference between each region. He is a true master at the art of all that is coffee and is a wealth of information eager to share with inquisitive listeners.

Coming from what the pictures he showed me was one of the more beautiful places on Earth, was Brian Brown with China Ranch Date Farm in Tecopa, CA.  For a guy who thought dates came off the tree wrapped in bacon and stuffed with almonds, I was amazed at the variety of dates presented with origins from Iraq to Algeria, but now grow abundantly on the grounds of the magnificent China Ranch.

It’s all about the Pistachios at O.U. Nuts in Pahrump, NV.  Winner of the most adorable person at the market, Meili Ou proudly presented her pistachios with partner (not quite as adorable, but just as proud) Ron Thaxton.  Showing the shakers that harvest the tasty nuts, Meili used just about every English word she knows to talk about her family farm and the quality of the product that comes out of it.

The reason why I can’t wait to eventually add a podcast to our little Tasting Las Vegas venture is the chance to interview people like Jim King of King Ranch in White Hills, AZ.  Hilarious, direct and full of pride, Jim loves what he does and he certainly isn’t quiet about it.  I’d be hard-pressed to find another person who would as emphatically boast about his radishes as he does, but with the care, time and dedication he puts forth, he more than deserves it.

While the market was diverse in what it offered, both in produce and personality, many recurring themes were present.  One of which is the concerning cost and red tape a farm has to go through to become U.S.D.A. Certified Organic.  I asked many of the vendors that claimed “organically grown” if they were actually certified, and universally their look of pride turned into a look of frustration and disgust.

Across the board, the sentiments of attaining the U.S.D.A. Certification was labeled as a massive pain in the ass that isn’t worth it.  Where some of the bigger outfits have the people and resources to jump through the government’s hoops, the smaller guys get buried in paperwork and costs. I was encouraged by everyone, however, (just as you would be, too) to visit their farms and ranches to witness the “organic” process which they believe in and adhere to.  I’m certainly going to take each and every one of these fine people up on their offer, as it is important to myself and the Las Vegas community to do whatever I can to present the great things these people are doing to our growing Tasting Las Vegas audience.

Fortunately, getting the fancy Organic Stamp from Uncle Sam is no big deal to them, because the chefs they sell their products wholesale to know better. One of the primary purposes of the Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market is for Las Vegas’ top culinary industry professionals to meet what Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich already know as world-class quality producers of produce.  Shawn McClain of his new Sage restaurant at the Aria resort was reportedly there scoping the scene out before I arrived.  The fact is, these pros know better.  They don’t need a government stamp to see the remarkable quality these dedicated farmers and foragers have to offer.

This leads me to another point about the Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market.  It gives us kitchen hacks at least a snowball’s chance to be on par with the masters.  We might not be able to cut the food like they do, or pan-sear the food like they do, but this Farmer’s Market allows us to buy the radishes, mushrooms, pomegranates, garlic and chervil they do.  Even Truffle Dealer to the Stars, Mikuni Wild Harvest had a table at this Farmer’s Market!  Sure, we might scorch our risotto unlike a Batali, but we can still put a couple hundred dollars worth of the same White Truffle on top just like Mario can!

The most important common thread in this market is a word that has already come up several times in this post; pride.  I can only dream to have as much pride and love for my job like these people do.  Whether it is Mark from Gilcrease Orchards or Diane from Herbs by Diane talking about the compost they use, or whether it is Brian from China Ranch telling you about the subtleties between Halaway and Khadrawy Dates, or Jim from King Ranch telling you about hoeing the weeds rather than using chemical poisons, there is an unmatched pride in what each of these champions of quality health share with us.

I can not stress enough the importance of supporting this market and the people who are a part of it.  Enough is enough with big corporate food factories (yeah, I’m talking to you Monsanto and ConAgra) stuffing genetically modified, chemically packed food mutations down our gullets.  Supporting our local, sustainable and organic farmers will make us as a community grow stronger and healthier.  From a town of strippers, gamblers, Elvis impersonators and other social misfits (musicians), we can and will come together as a community bound by cultural awareness.  Supporting our local talent is just the first step.

A big round of applause to Chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich for using the pedestal of their celebrity to shine a light on the hard-working little guys out there that not only make them look good, but promote a healthier, higher-quality way of living. Bravo! Now if we could only do something about those Orange Crocs….

The Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market is open every Thursday from 10:00am-  11:00am for an Industry Preview (although I was told everyone is let in, shh!) and then for the Public from 11:00am – 1:00pm.  Address is 7485 Dean Martin Dr. Suite #106, Las Vegas, NV  89139.

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Websites of Participating Vendors (January 28, 2010)

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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 him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

Book Review: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan

Hot off the heels of his two groundbreaking, some might say Earth-shattering books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto comes Michael Pollan’s newest guide to good eating, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.

In Food Rules, Pollan continues his quest to educate Americans about the dangerous pitfalls of a Western diet, full of highly processed, chemically and hormonally enhanced “edible foodlike substances.”  Through 64 short, yet profound “rules,” Pollan navigates us around these pitfalls and leads us to a land of eating healthier, tastier whole foods.

To gather these 64 rules, Pollan drew upon his years of dedicated research and interviews with renowned doctors, scientists and nutritionists.  He also took the advice of grandmothers from around the globe, which is quite often much more reliable than the admittedly young and growing field of Nutritional Science.

Broken up into three sections; What should I eat? (Eat food.), What kind of food should I eat? (Mostly plants.) and How should I eat? (Not too much.), Food Rules offers a fairly comprehensive guide to how we should approach what we put in our mouths. Here’s a few examples of Pollan’s pithy wisdom:

  • #2 – Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  • #13 – Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
  • #19 – If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
  • #57 – Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  • #60 – Treat treats as treats.

This book is an important read for those of us here in Las Vegas; the land of over-indulgence.  I personally have struggled a great deal from a lifetime of eating exactly how this book tells you not to eat.  As I make this transition in my own life, this blog will highlight the triumphs and the fails of the process to a better, healthier life.  Not only eating healthier, but eating more ethically responsible.  Even though Las Vegas is inherently one of the most unsustainable places in the world, the locally grown, organic, sustainable food movement is alive and well here from both Las Vegas Strip celebrity chef’s such as Mario Batali or Rick Moonen as well as Off The Strip gems like Chef Rex George’s Chef’s Palate or Chef Jean-David Groff-Daudet’s Garfield’s Restaurant.  It is my own, as well as Tasting Las Vegas’ pledge to bring this world of better eating to you.

Getting back to the subject at hand, Food Rules comes in at a lean 140 pages, although it really isn’t even that, and I really can’t imagine a better way to spend $11 than to buy this book.  It’s a quick read that can literally change your life, all for the better.  If you have ever said something like; “I don’t remember, is water good for you or bad for you anymore?”, then Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual is the book for you.

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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 him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.