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Monday Mise en Place: Welcome to Tasting Las Vegas

After last week’s semi-blessing from Pope Curtas the ELV along with some restaurants, chefs and food shops posting links to articles we wrote about their wares, we have had the good fortune of a whole bunch of new visitors and I thought this would be a good of time as any to get y’all up to speed on who we are and what we do.  Usually the Monday Mise en Place is reserved for timely news of the week, but since it’s a relatively slow news week (except for Taste of the Nation) I decided to hijack it for this little intro.

Tasting Las Vegas Logo

Tasting Las Vegas Logo

Tasting Las Vegas is mainly comprised of three people.  My name is Mike, and I write most of the posts and I also tweet at @TastingLasVegas.  I also maintain our Facebook page if you’d like to join us there.  My wife, Kerry, affectionately known on TLV as The Wife, will occasionally tweet at @TLV_TheWife and has even wrote a post about a party Chef Rick Moonen of RM Seafood threw a while back for his re-opening of the fine dining restaurant and his debut on Top Chef Masters.  Michael (yes, I’m Mike, he’s Michael) co-founded this pig and also occasionally contributes to the writing when he can figure out how to turn his computer on.  He also sporadically tweets at @TLV_Michael.

At times we call upon the powers of The Official Photographer of Tasting Las Vegas, Kevin Stout, to provide beauteous pics of stories we do.  You can see his great work for TLV in posts we did about Retro Bakery, the kickoff of the 2010 Vegas Uncork’d and a little diddy about the charity, Three Square.  You can also visit http://KevinStoutPhotography.com to see more of his brilliant work.  Most of the time, though, you’ll be stuck with my crappy covert iPhone disasters for the restaurant reviews.

There’s also a whole host of characters you’ll hear about such as The Dave, who recently joined the ranks of homeownership and She Who Must Be Obeyed (a.k.a. – The Mother-in-Law).  None of us are professionals in the kitchen and none of us are trained writers (obviously).  I would rather wipe my ass with AP-Style and I refuse to accept the legitimacy of the word “whom.”   We have never claimed to be pros and find it humorous when “professional” writers or otherwise come on here or comment elsewhere and they think they’ve unearthed some kind of precious gem that we’re a group of opinionated hacks with too much time on our hands.

I take pride in being an opinionated hack with too much time on my hands.  In fact, we have so much time on our hands, look for brand spanking new features to be rolled out in the coming weeks such as the TLV Beer Club, more coverage of other libations and boozing events, and what I’m the most excited about, Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

We enjoy the interaction side of doing this, finding out what you guys think and sharing tips, so certainly don’t be a stranger! Thanks so much for joining us here, on Facebook and on Twitter.  I can only hope that you guys enjoy reading this mess as much as we enjoy writing it!

Welcome to Tasting Las Vegas!

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P.S. – Of course, many thanks to Eating Las Vegas’ John Curtas for the shoutout and his generous support.  We are fans of his work, so please be sure to check out his musings as well at http://eatinglv.com!  You can follow John on Twitter at @EatingLasVegas.

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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.

Vegas Uncork'd 2010 Kicked Off With A Champagne Splash

Vegas Uncork’d. Where do I even begin?  The sad thing is that I can pretty much sum up the entire experience in two words; Holy Shit! Since “Holy Shit!” doesn’t really do much for discerning readers looking for juicy details, I guess I should expand upon that thought and let the gush flow as it may.

Champagne Sabering by Alain Ducasse to Kick Off Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout

Champagne Sabering by Alain Ducasse to Kick Off Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout

What a mindblowing couple of days our little twinkle in the desert had as the greatest culinary talent on Earth flocked to the supreme parade of gluttonous pleasure that is Vegas Uncork’d.  It is a tribute to the unparalleled collection of restaurants we have here in Las Vegas that an event of this magnitude can even come together in the first place.

In case you aren’t familiar with how Vegas Uncork’d is set up, it is a festival of food that spans over four days.  From intimate meals prepared and discussed with world famous chefs, to panel discussions of what is happening in the culinary world, to the culmination of it all as over 70 chefs from 50 restaurants along with over 100 wines and spirits represented in a Grand Tasting; Vegas Uncork’d is the ultimate destination for any fan of food on the planet.

Crowd Gathers at miX in THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Crowd Gathers at miX in THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay (photo by: Kevin Stout)

High atop THE Hotel of the Mandalay Bay resort sits Alain Ducasse’s miX, which was where an official kickoff to Vegas Uncork’d was held, complete with remarks from hizzoner, Mayor Oscar Goodman, and a traditional champagne sabering (sabrage is the fancy term) done by the legendary Alain Ducasse himself.

Kevin photographed Nadia G. of Bitchin' Kitchen and Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's While I was talking with Bradley Ogden. Can you blame him? (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Kevin photographed Nadia G. of Bitchin' Kitchen and Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's while I was talking with Bradley Ogden. Can you blame him? (photo by: Kevin Stout)

While many wearing the Press Badges were acting like it was old hat to hobnob with all of this talent, I was perfectly comfortable gushing like a total fan boy bitch to our city’s finest cooks.  After taking in the magnificent view and a few deep breaths,  I made a beeline to Bradley Ogden to ask him about his hamburger buns.  Yes, my first interaction with the Michelin starred, winner of every award you can think of chef at Caesars Palace was a complete gush over his hamburger buns.  Well…they’re friggin’ amazing!  Anyway, he told me that they are mostly All-Purpose Flour with a little Cake Flour along with yeast, and that the glistening perfectly chewy crust (my description, patent pending) is from the egg wash and steam.  A recipe for this bun is in a soon-to-be-released cookbook he’s coming out with.  This excites me.

Chef Bobby Flay Being interviewed by some hack. (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chef Bobby Flay Being interviewed by some hack. (photo by: Kevin Stout)

With burgers on the brain (as is usually the case), I then berated America’s Sweetheart, Bobby Flay, about when he’s going to bring his Bobby’s Burger Palace out to Las Vegas. Flay said, “I don’t know, but we need one, desperately.”  He then suggested that I start the rally cry, to which this serves as official notice that the rally cry has begun.  Are you hearing this, John Unwin of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas?  The rally cry has begun.  Another interesting point from my conversation with Bobby (we’re on a first name basis) was that he is here in Vegas to check in on his Mesa Grill every 4 to 5 weeks. He said, “This (Mesa Grill) is a very important restaurant to me. Yeah, I love coming to Vegas.”

From L-R: Guy Savoy, Jean Joho, Joël Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire & Alain Ducasse

From L-R: Guy Savoy, Jean Joho, Joël Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire & Alain Ducasse

The enormity of this event really set in as you see Joël Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire and Jean Joho standing in a circle and catching up on old times.  They were of course all speaking in French and being the good American that I am, I only speak English, so I have no idea what the hell they were talking about.  I could only imagine part of the conversation entailed, “Why is this fat man staring at us?” and “Did you see the perfectly engineered breasts on that cocktail waitress?  Good job, Alain.”

From L-R: Jet Tila, Rene Lenger, Masa Ishizawa, David Spero, Carlos Guia & Sam DeMarco

From L-R: Jet Tila, Rene Lenger, Masa Ishizawa, David Spero, Carlos Guia & Sam DeMarco

It wasn’t just Michelin Three Star French Chefs and Food Network stars at this kickoff event.  There were also the slightly lesser known, yet uber-talented resident chefs that serve as the backbone of Las Vegas’ gastronomic scene.  In an admittedly stalkerishly creepy way, it was fun to see the guy who to this day cooked the greatest pork chop I’ve ever eaten in my life, René Lenger of Switch, mingle with the king of my favorite late night gorge spot, Sam DeMarco of First Food and Bar, along with the Pan-Asian with attitude champion, Jet Tila of Wazuzu, and three chefs that are at the top of my to-do list (I mean finally get to eat their food, get your mind out of the gutter); Carlos Guia of the Country Club at Wynn, Masa Ishizawa of Okada and David Spero of Tableau.

Me interviewing James Beard Foundation Award Winner, Chef Claude le Tohic (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Me interviewing James Beard Foundation Award Winner, Chef Claude le Tohic (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Another Las Vegas resident chef that I got to speak with was recent James Beard Foundation Award Winner and Executive Chef of Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand, Claude le Tohic. I asked Chef le Tohic about what it was like the moment he heard his name at the JBF Awards and he said, “Receiving this special distinction from the James Beard means a lot to me. I remember when I won the Meilleur Ouvrier de France which is the highest competition in France. It was similar, very emotional.” For those not familiar with the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, it’s a big effing deal.  Even bigger for the French than a Jerry Lewis meet and greet or when Pepe le Pew finally nails the cat who inadvertently walked under a paintbrush.

Le Tohic has been here in Vegas for five years so I asked him what his thoughts were about how the Las Vegas culinary scene has developed in the short time he has called our fair town home.  Le Tohic noted, “It has become a city not only for the gaming or the shows, but now for the food.  The greatest chefs in the world are now here in Las Vegas.”  I couldn’t agree more.

The Stage is Set to Open Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout)

The Stage is Set to Open Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout)

As the 40 or so chefs at this kickoff event along with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appetit Magazine (sponsor of Vegas Uncork’d), Barbara Fairchild, gathered on a make shift stage, we saw the highly decorated, celebrated and established Alain Ducasse perform a traditional champagne sabering to officially open Vegas Uncork’d.  While Chef Ducasse represents the (dare I say) old distinguished school, a few rows behind him stood the future (fingers crossed that they keep it in Las Vegas) with young gun chefs like Adam Sobel and Gerald Chin of RM Seafood.  Maybe when it comes their time to kickoff such events, they’ll laser the cap off a Rogue Dead Guy Ale…only time will tell.

Here’s video footage of Mayor Goodman’s remarks and the sabrage by Chef Ducasse:

While it must be a thrill for some of the younger chefs (and younger food writers) to meet and mingle with what time and experience deems as the greatest chefs on the planet, it’s also an opportunity for the old dogs to learn some new tricks.  Even if that new trick is just a fist bump.  By the way…after achieving this life’s goal, I will now forever refer to “Chef of the Century” Joël Robuchon as Lord J-Ro.

Lord J-Ro and Me

Lord J-Ro and Me

This event really set the tone for what was to be a truly extraordinary couple of days of gluttonous life.  This is the mere tip of the iceberg in our regaling of the food geek ecstasy that was to ensue.  A special thanks to Official Photographer of Tasting Las Vegas, Kevin Stout, for providing most of the fantastic shots you’ve seen here and will see again in our upcoming post about the chefs helping out and learning about the Three Square Food Bank.  Also special thanks go out to Erika Pope who masterfully coordinated these media events and graciously allowed our Little Shop of Horrors here at TLV to stand along side some of the most respected news and media outfits locally, nationally and abroad.

From L-R: Pierre Gagnaire, Mayor Oscar Goodman, Joël Robuchon, Carla Pellegrino, Alain Ducasse & Guy Savoy

From L-R: Pierre Gagnaire, Mayor Oscar Goodman, Joël Robuchon, Carla Pellegrino, Alain Ducasse & Guy Savoy

There is much more to show and tell! Stay tuned to Tasting Las Vegas all this week (at least) for more sensationalized tales of the greatest culinary event in the known universe, Vegas Uncork’d!

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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.

Tasting Las Vegas Has Got Vegas Uncork’d Cover’d!

The time has arrived where food geeks and gluttons rejoice as Vegas Uncork’d presented by Bon Appétit is here on May 6-9! A series of demonstrations, tastings, lectures and more tastings, Vegas Uncork’d features the top culinary talent found on Earth and celebrates as they do their thing in our little twinkle in the desert.

Chef Francois Payard with Chefs from Caesars Palace

Chef Francois Payard with Chefs from Caesars Palace

Tasting Las Vegas will be all over the major events and will be tweeting up a storm (should the AT&T Gods be kind gods).  Follow me at @TastingLasVegas and The Wife at @TLV_TheWife as we will be providing updates throughout the events, especially the Grand Tasting Gala at Caesars Palace on May 7.

The Grand Tasting Gala, held at the fabulous Garden of the Gods pool area in Caesars Palace will feature 75 chefs from 50 of the top restaurants found in Las Vegas. There is no better place on the planet for a food geek to roam free than this event.  Rub elbows with Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy and Bobby Flay just to name a few.  Tickets are still available, however if you can’t make the event, The Wife and myself will be doing as many Twitter updates as the AT&T Gods allow.  Red carpet event starts at 7pm Vegas time.

We’re going big for Vegas Uncork’d. We’re even getting the Official TLV Photographer, Kevin Stout, out of the mothballs for a charity event a few of the chefs and Bon Appétit top brass are doing with Three Square on Thursday morning, as well as the official kickoff of Vegas Uncork’d at Alain Ducasse’s miX later that day.  I even bought a Sony Cybershot for myself so we can get an upgrade from the miserable iPhone pics when Kevin isn’t available!  This is a first class operation all the way here at Tasting Las Vegas, and we hope that you can join us for all of the gluttonous fun!

To get more information and to buy tickets for Vegas Uncork’d events, visit http://www.VegasUncorked.com.  Also, you can follow Vegas Uncork’d on Twitter at @VegasUncorked.

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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.

Tasting Las Vegas Proudly Adds Photographer Kevin Stout to Our Staff

Tasting Las Vegas is thrilled to announce a brilliant new addition to our staff, photographer Kevin Stout!

Kevin is an accomplished musician and a gifted photographer.  While I know most of you love Tasting Las Vegas’ trademark awful pictures taken with a cell phone, we are excited to now be able to present high-quality photographs of the stories behind the food we love in Las Vegas!

Don’t fret, however, we’ll still give you the bad cell phone pics that make proud chef’s cringe from the disrespect of their hard work in our reviews and dish spotlights.

Check out some of Kevin’s fine work at http://www.KevinStoutPhotography.com!

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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.