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Dish Spotlight: Mediterranean Flatbread from Herbs & Rye

If there were to be a What The Fuck Were They Thinking Hall of Fame (sounds like it belongs in CityCenter), the Mediterranean Flatbread from Herbs & Rye would be served in its cafeteria.  Sometimes bad food slips past a chef on a busy night, sometimes bad food comes down to a matter of personal preference on a little bit of seasoning, but sometimes you just have to throw your hands up in the air and wonder what the hell was the thought process behind such a monstrosity.

A Snapshot of the Heinous from Herbs & Rye

A Snapshot of the Heinous from Herbs & Rye

The blizzard which you see on this poor flatbread is indeed Goat Cheese.  Goat Cheese.  Let me say it one more time….Goat Cheese.

Anyone that has ever tasted Goat Cheese, knows the flavor of Goat Cheese, has experienced the texture of Goat Cheese would know that is WAY too much fucking Goat Cheese.  Combined with whole (thankfully pitted) Kalamata Olives, sliced Artichoke Hearts, barely there Roasted Tomatoes, more cheese and a separated Pesto, any chance what I think could have been a decent flatbread was further squashed with it soaking in the oil that collected at the bottom of the plate.

There was potential for this flatbread to be good.  The crust was actually quite good, it just didn’t stand a chance with the BP-sized oil spill on the bottom.  Use about a 1/4 of the Goat Cheese used, introduce the Pesto in a different part of the cooking process so it doesn’t separate, add more Roasted Tomatoes to even it out and while you’re at it, there’s no shame in cutting the olives in half or even quarters.  Basically if the dish was completely re-worked, it would be good.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

P.S. - The taco trailer in the parking lot of the neighboring Mexican Tire joint is slamming! Cheap as balls and they have Head on the menu.  Some of the best Mexican street food I’ve had in town.  Go forth and give it a shot!

The Good Food is Next Door to Herbs & Rye

The Good Food is Next Door to Herbs & Rye

Some of the Best Mexican Street Food in Vegas is Here. Why not?

Some of the Best Mexican Street Food in Vegas is Here. Why not?

Asada and Spicy Pork Tacos. $1.50 each, can't go wrong!

Asada and Spicy Pork Tacos. $1.50 each, can't go wrong!

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Herbs & Rye
3713 W. Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89102

(702) 982-9036

http://www.herbsandrye.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 Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

A Late Night Quickie At Balboa Pizza Company

After getting out of the bill-payer last night, I raced to Green Valley Ranch to meet up with The Wife and old friend, but newest Tasting Las Vegas character, K-Pattz, to see the latest installment of Edward, Jacob and Bella’s menage, Eclipse.  Yes, I like the Twilight movies (Team Edward, son) and I looked forward to seeing it.  Don’t judge me.  By the way, it was quite good, and even with the painful performance of Dakota Fanning who obviously missed “Cold Bitch” day of acting class, Eclipse was the best movie I’ve seen in 2010 so far.  Yeah yeah yeah…..2010 has sucked for movies thus far.

(photo courtesy: examiner.com)

(photo courtesy: examiner.com)

But, lo, I am not a bullshit film critic, I am a bullshit restaurant critic, so the main purpose of this post is to tell you what happened after, and that was a quick late night snack (we got out of the movie a little after 1am) to Balboa Pizza Company at The District, just across the street from the Green Valley Ranch movie theater.

Seeing Jacob and the Wolf Pack chowing on some chicken in a few scenes got my mojo going for wings, so The Wife and I (K-Pattz went home to get some rest before an early flight out of town) ordered a dozen and some much needed cold beer.  I didn’t want to dick around with sauces, so I ordered them plain.  Sometimes a guy just needs chicken to taste like chicken.

The plain wings, simply garnished with a little spritz of parsley, were surprisingly mind-blowingly fantastic.  They must brine the wings, as there was a salty and sweet flavor that penetrated the meat and made it one of the best pieces of chicken I’ve had in a while.  I had no intention on reviewing anything, so sadly I didn’t take a shitty iPhone pic for you to point and laugh at.

Three Cheese Pizza from Balboa Pizza Company

Three Cheese Pizza from Balboa Pizza Company

With my appetite piqued from the lip-smacking wings, I got their standard Three Cheese Pizza ($11.45) and it was quite good. Cheeses that complimented each other well for the greater good, a tomato sauce that tasted like tomatoes and a thin and chewy crust, it did the job.

However, I wouldn’t be writing any of this if it wasn’t for the main reason that I want to, and that is to give a major shout out to Scott, the bartender / server of the evening.  Scott was the only person working front of house last night.  He had a contingent  of about 8 at the bar plus 4 tables with a total of about 15 covers seated, and he kicked ass and took names.  We would see the food hit the pass, it barely stayed there as he seemed to appear out of nowhere to bring it to the table.  The beer came abundantly, he somehow managed to check on us several times and everyone looked happy.  He was on his own at about 2am and he did a better job than many places with full teams on duty.

For a second, I almost thought Scott could have been part of the Cullen clan.  They all have their special powers, you know.  Edward can read minds, Alice can see the future….and Scott the late-night bartender / server at Balboa Pizza Company kicks ass.

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Balboa Pizza Company

The District at Green Valley Ranch
2265 Village Walk Drive
Henderson, NV 89052

(702) 407-5273

http://www.balboapizza.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 Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Naked City Pizza Shop To Bring The Best of Buffalo To Las Vegas

Cold, uninviting, economically decimated by shuttered factories way before it was the hip thing to do, Buffalo, as a city, is an acquired taste.  However, as a food town, Buffalo has bestowed upon us one of the most treasured tastes in culinary history; The Buffalo Chicken Wing.   For this solitary contribution for the good of the world, we are forever grateful to this buckle of the Northeast’s Rust Belt and look upon the Anchor Bar as a devout Muslim looks at the Ka’aba.

Chris Palmeri and P.J. Schaeffer of The Naked City Pizza Shop (photo courtesy: NCPS)

Chris Palmeri and P.J. Schaeffer of The Naked City Pizza Shop (photo courtesy: NCPS)

Born and raised in this city of mammoth snow drifts and impeccable bar foods known as Buffalo, NY is Chris Palmeri, co-owner of the Naked City Sandwich Shop and soon-to-open Naked City Pizza Shop.  A self-taught chef who worked his way up the ladder in Buffalo’s steakhouses, pizza parlors and eventually the Brierwood Country Club just a few miles south of Buffalo, Palmeri was the Executive Chef at Diego at the MGM Grand before taking a few years off from being behind the flames, working in the gourmet food purveyor business.

It was during his stint as sous chef and eventual executive chef of the Brierwood Country Club where he met his Naked City Shops partner-in-crime, P.J. Schaeffer, who was more concentrated in the banquet side of the country club.  Wanting to experience some new things in a new place, Palmeri was picked up by the MGM Grand and Schaeffer was soon to follow suit.  Friendship turned to business relationship as they decided to open a Hot Dog Cart in the parking lot of frequent hang space and premier local’s dive bar, Dino’s Lounge, a little more than 5 years after both moving to Vegas.

Yes, this is an actual PARKING space for Dino's Lounge!

Yes, this is an actual PARKING space for Dino's Lounge!

From the Hot Dog Cart came the opportunity to take over a floundering smoothie shop attached to Dino’s, and the Naked City Sandwich Shop was born.  First opening its doors this past December, the Naked City Sandwich Shop has instantly become the best sandwich joint in town.  Using fresh ingredients, making everything they can from scratch and à la minute (fancy Frenchy way of saying prepared-upon-ordering), the Naked City Sandwich Shop has greatly raised the bar in a city full of corporatized, uninspired blah-wiches and half-assed side items.

Moon Doggie's Bar

Moon Doggie's Bar

Opportunity came knocking again, and Palmeri and Schaeffer opened the door.  This time it came from a friend who worked at another local’s dive bar (I sense a pattern) called Moon Doggie’s on the corner of Desert Inn and Arville.  Wanting to get their kitchen up and running again, Moon Doggie’s courted Palmeri and Schaeffer and the two decided on a pizza shop concept.  The kitchen at Moon Doggie’s already had the requisite gear in place, so all it needed were some good ingredients and a skilled crew putting them together, a no-brainer for Palmeri and Schaeffer.  With a desire to bring the flavors from home to the desert, the Naked City Pizza Shop will feature a Buffalo-style pizza and authentic Buffalo-style chicken wings along with subs, pastas and appetizer items.

What’s a Buffalo-style Pizza, you ask?  Well, it’s more along the lines of a Sicilian-style pizza with a thicker crust and made square in a sheet pan.  They’ll have an array of sizes ranging from the “Wee” to the “Frickin Huge” featuring a standard cheese and sauce variety, a myriad of authentically-sourced toppings and a number of Specialty Pies.  Some of the Specialty Pies include a Steak and Three Cheese, a Stuffed Pepper (hot and sweet peppers stuffed with vegetables and cheese) and a crossover from the Sandwich Shop, the Royal (capicola, sausage, ricotta, mozzarella and red sauce).

While pizza gets the headlining status, what I’m most looking forward to are the wings.  Wings in Las Vegas are fucking terrible.  My heart aches every time I hear the words, “Hey, let’s go to Buffalo Wild Wings!” pass someone’s lips.  The fine work of art that is the Buffalo Chicken Wing has been so bastardized in its journey across this great nation of ours that few offerings are in the ballpark of the true original.  Crispy chicken wings tossed with Frank’s Red Hot (the greatest condiment on Earth) and butter; it’s not rocket science.  Unfortunately, restaurants and big box outfits, like the Buffalo Wild Wings chain of shitholes, feel the need to put their own spin on the classic.  Altering the Anchor Bar’s classic recipe is like re-scoring Beethoven’s 5th Symphony for a Saxophone Choir.   Shit like that should be illegal and punishable by death, if not at least a good flogging.

When I sat down with Chris Palmeri to talk about the upcoming pizza joint, the whole writing of this post hinged on his answer to this one crucial question; “Are you going to use Frank’s?”

Imagine combining the facial expressions of joy, pride and reverence of something sacred and this is the look that came across Palmeri’s face as he replied, “Absolutely! There is no other hot sauce.”

Palmeri’s dedication to an authentic product only begins with Frank’s Red Hot.  While chefs over the years have staked their careers on making the pilgrimage to France to learn from Joël Robuchon or sacrifice everything to learn just one precious gem from Spain’s Ferran Adrià, Palmeri recently traveled to the northern Buffalo burb of Tonawanda to learn from the best of the best, Tom Toy Jr. of La Hacienda on Brighton Road.

La Hacienda Brighton is no joke.  They recently won Best Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza at the 2010 Buffalo Pizza Fest, the Bocuse d’Or of Western New York pizza.  Learning everything from making the dough to sourcing authentic ingredients, Palmeri studied every aspect of the business, supplementing his already masterful knowledge of the culinary arts to make sure he gets it just right.

Learning from experiences of opening the Naked City Sandwich Shop, Palmeri will be starting with a smaller crew in the kitchen and build it as the business grows.  Palmeri said the one major thing he learned from opening the Sandwich Shop was that he didn’t have MGM’s back-of-house set up where you truly have the equipment, space and monetary backing to support a full-blown brigade.  Unique to the Pizza Shop, the most difficult thing (other than dealing with the county’s red tape) is to find a pizza box supplier.  With this being an authentic Buffalo-style sheet pizza (rectangle, not circle), most of the sheet pizza boxes are back east, making the cost of shipping the big, bulky throwaway items unreasonable.

Inside of Moon Doggie's, Home of the Naked City Pizza Shop

Inside of Moon Doggie's, Home of the Naked City Pizza Shop

The Naked City Pizza Shop will be an all take out business.  With smoking regulations and the Pizza Shop being located inside Moon Doggie’s Bar, nothing will be served on plates, just in take out containers.  If you happen to take your food out to the bar and sit down as you watch a game and a drink a cold one, then that is solely up to you (wink wink, nudge nudge).  Without affiliation to a sports team so far at Moon Doggie’s, Palmeri is looking forward to the Buffalo Bills games being played every Sunday with the efforts of giving local Bills fans a safe place where they can come out of their almost always disappointing closet.  Many lucky residents will even be able to get the flavors of Buffalo at home as the Naked City Pizza Shop will have a delivery service available to the surrounding community.

Chris Palmeri Showing Off Some Pepperoni in the Naked City Pizza Shop Kitchen

Chris Palmeri Showing Off Some Pepperoni in the Naked City Pizza Shop Kitchen

If the Naked City Pizza Shop at all resembles the quality of their Sandwich Shop, this place will be a surefire home run when it comes to the food.  Las Vegas has been in need of a place like this for a long time, and I’m glad that someone as dedicated and talented as Chris Palmeri is behind the flames doing it.  Finally clearing the last county fire inspection hurdle, the Naked City Pizza Shop will be open for business this coming weekend (hoping for Saturday, June 26th, definitely by Sunday the 27th).  I’m looking forward to Buffalo’s finest to finally have a proper home in Las Vegas.  Buona fortuna to Chris Palmeri, P.J. Schaeffer and the Naked City Pizza Shop!

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Naked City Pizza Shop

Inside Moon Doggie’s Bar
3240 S. Arville Rd. #E
Las Vegas, NV 89102

(702) 243-NCPS (6377)

http://NakedCityLV.com

Follow the Naked City Pizza (and Sandwich) Shops on Twitter at @NakedCityLV

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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
Naked City Pizza Shop on Urbanspoon

Brasserie PUCK Reborn as Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina

Boo hiss to this piss poor economy making street food the cuisine of choice when times are tough.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a burger, pizza and taco as much as the next guy, but Las Vegas has taken a sharp turn towards the beer budget crowd and has had some significant casualties along the way.

R.I.P. Brasserie PUCK

R.I.P. Brasserie PUCK

The latest casualty is Wolfgang Puck’s first French-ish type joint in decades (and my 2nd favorite Puck place next to CUT)Brasserie PUCK at the Crystals mall in CityCenter.  By default, it wasn’t even too fancy schmancy with it being a “brasserie” and all, but a menu of Braised Veal Cheeks and Bone Marrow proved to be too highbrow for people that think they can’t afford anything more than a slice of pepperoni. With that said, Brasserie PUCK is now Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina.

However, the joke may be on all of us clinching our wallets as this won’t be the garbage the good Puck name slings at the airport.  In the press release put out moments ago, these pizzas will feature premium ingredients and have other menu items (albeit more “safe”) that shouldn’t disappoint such as, Ricotta Gnocchi, Ribeye and Salmon.  It’s all about the packaging in this economy as $25 spent at a pizzeria sounds much more affordable than $25 spent at a brasserie.

Thankfully it sounds like the magnificent bar that was at Brasserie PUCK will be a holdover for this new Pizzeria and Cucina.  Sadly, however, gone with the Brasserie is also the lunch service.  The doors open up at 5pm each day.  Boo, I say to you economy. Boo.

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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 Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food: Pizza with Meatballs from Dal' Italia

It took us over five years to find pizza that didn’t suck in Las Vegas, but a chance happen-upon by The Wife discovered the beautiful hole-in-the-wall we have yearned for since we unloaded our Ryder truck in the scorching sun on August 1, 2004.  To commemorate this magnificent find, we took this shitty picture with the iPhone, because that is what we do. Behold the Pizza with Meatballs from Dal’ Italia as this week’s Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food.

Pizza with Meatballs from Dal' Italia

Pizza with Meatballs from Dal' Italia

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Dal’ Italia

4722 E. Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89121

(702) 434-2300

* – Important note: Dal’ Italia is CASH ONLY!

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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.