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Monday Mise en Place: Wolfgang Puck Restaurants Partner With Clark County School District To Make Healthier Lunches

Wolfgang Puck Working With a Yout. (photo: wolfgangpuck.com)

Wolfgang Puck Working With a Yout. (photo: wolfgangpuck.com)

Since 2007, Wolfgang Puck restaurants have partnered with the Clark County School District to both educate kids on making healthier decisions and to provide kid tested, mother approved recipes to the school district so the students can eat a little better.  Tomorrow, October 19, this tradition continues as students from Hollingsworth and Cox Elementary Schools will be on hand at the Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina at the Crystals Mall to learn about and taste new healthy items created by the Puck team.  A second event will be held for 6th graders from Fremont and Miller Middle Schools on November 17th.  Tasting Las Vegas (that’s me) will be on hand tomorrow to report on what goes down.

Taking the phrase "Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen" to a whole new level

Taking the phrase "Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen" to a whole new level

Chefs Rick Moonen and Adam Sobel Making Sure There's No Suckage at the Jean-Louis Palladin Dinner

Chefs Rick Moonen and Adam Sobel Making Sure There's No Suckage at the Jean-Louis Palladin Dinner

Servers Lined Up And Awaiting Takeoff At Jean-Louis Palladin Benefit

Servers Lined Up And Awaiting Takeoff At Jean-Louis Palladin Benefit

Who Other than Chef André Rochat Should Be Overseeing One of the Foie Gras Courses?

Who Other than Chef André Rochat Should Be Overseeing One of the Foie Gras Courses?

The Eyes of Jean-Louis Palladin Overlooking the Makeshift Sauciers Station

The Eyes of Jean-Louis Palladin Overlooking the Makeshift Sauciers Station

Yesterday, October 17th the Jean-Louis Palladin dinner benefiting the James Beard Foundation happened at RM Seafood.  Twenty of the finest chefs in the city were on hand creating an extraordinary meal from recipes all taken from the Late Chef Palladin’s “Cooking With The Seasons.” The Omnipresent Robin Leach was on hand as he donated his time to serve as MC and auctioneer of the event.  By the way, he also paid for both his $295 tickets and donated an additional $2,000 to the Jean-Louis Palladin Fund which provides scholarships for up and coming chefs to go to culinary school.  I’m broke, so I just hung out in the kitchen after eating my $12 Catfish Sloppy Joe downstairs.  The Catfish Sloppy Joe was tasty.  The event was almost incomprehensibly amazing.  I’m sure Sir Robin will be writing up a full post about the event, and I’ll certainly put out the link on Facebook and Twitter when he does.

Custom Made Ice Creams Made Here

Custom Made Ice Creams Made Here

Atomic #7 has created a fall menu of autumn inspired ice creams, lattes and hot puddings.  The hot puddings will come in array of falltastic (did I really just type that?) flavors that include; cinnamon, chai, chocolate, vanilla, cardamom and rum raisin.  Yes, please!  Atomic #7 is located near the Galleria Mall in The Hendo, next to Panera Bread.  They’re open 7 days a week from noon to 10:30pm.

Mix 94.1 Bite of Las Vegas (image: Mix 94.1)

Mix 94.1 Bite of Las Vegas (image: Mix 94.1)

The Hash House A Go Go Sahara location will be hosting the kickoff party for Mix 94.1′s Bite of Las Vegas event on Wednesday, October 20, from 6pm-8pm.  There will be tents set up in the Hash House parking lot where you’ll be able to partake in $1 Draft Beers, $5 Mashed Potato and Bacon Stuffed Burgers, $3 Snickers Chocolate Bread Pudding and more.  Mix 94.1′s JC Fernandez will be on hand and there will be all sorts of giveaways such as the first 50 people that show up will get tickets to see George Wallace at the Flamingo!  If nothing else, that makes the trip worth it…George Wallace is HILARIOUS!  I don’t know shit about the actual Bite of Las Vegas event, but I’m sure you can find out all sorts of information about it as you gorge on cheap mashed potato stuffed burgers at Hash House Sahara on Wednesday!

The Wife and I With Chef Julian Serrano

The Wife and I With Chef Julian Serrano

How exciting that John Mariani of Esquire magazine named Julian Serrano at Aria as one of the Best New Restaurants of 2010! This makes me kind of proud, as in the beginning, the other boys in town were on their knees for Sage and going gaga over Gagniare at Twist…but all along I’ve said the best restaurant at CityCenter was Julian Serrano.  Now it’s getting some much deserved national attention by one of their own, and not just as best at CityCenter, but one of the best in the nation.  Congrats to Chefs Julian Serrano, Jose Picazo and the entire crew at Julian Serrano!  In all fairness, Sage was also mentioned in Mariani’s article as one of the “Another Eleven Restaurants Not To Miss,” so the other boys were close, but no cigar!

How the hell this is the only close-up picture I got of Babette of the entire 3 days I spent with her, I have no idea.

How the hell this is the only close-up picture I got of Babette of the entire 3 days I spent with her, I have no idea.

I’m going to do my best to write a full post about all of the happenings at this past weekend’s Blogworld and New Media Expo, but I want to give a major shoutout to one of the most amazing human beings I have ever met, Babette Pepaj of Bakespace.com fame, for putting on one hell of a show with the TECHmunch track at this year’s conference.  I really don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone with their shit more together than Babette.  Like if that wasn’t enough, she’s a total sweetheart, too!  The series of panel discussions and cooking demos she put together was a smash hit at the conference.  I can’t thank her enough for including this little bubble gum and duct tape operation to sit along side some of the most amazing and successful people in food blogging today.  Words can’t express how truly thankful I am and what a spectacular show she put on.  If you like to cook anything in your kitchen, Bakespace.com is a must for you to visit.  Babette has built an online community of home cooks and bakers like none other.  She’s good.

Nadia G. of Bitchin Kitchen on the left talking with Chef Carla Pellegrino on the right (photo: Kevin Stout)

Nadia G. of Bitchin Kitchen on the left talking with Chef Carla Pellegrino on the right (photo: Kevin Stout)

I’ll certainly talk a whole bunch about the Blogworld and New Media Expo along with the plethora of tastings we did on this week’s Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast.  Also on this week’s Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will be my interview with the beautiful, talented and did I say beautiful Executive Chef of Rao’s at Caesars Palace, Carla Pellegrino!  You can listen to how deep of a hole I dig for myself with The Wife as well as hear Chef Carla talk about what it’s like being a woman in a man’s world.  Carla also describes some Italian food porn so fantastic that you may need to keep tissues at the ready!  Her love for food and cooking is inspiring and you can hear it this Wednesday, only on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

By the way….in my HOLY SHIT moment of the day, I just saw that Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast has only been rolling for less than two weeks, but it has already been heard by people in 56 different countries! Wow!  Much appreciation to you all, thanks for tuning in!

—–
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 - Episode 02, Chef Lorin Watada of Bachi Burger

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, I’m joined with The Wife and she does a fine job of breaking my balls right from the get go!  We talk about some good and not so good eats we’ve had recently, talk about a recent exchange between me and Haute Living’s Susan Stapleton and reveal our 5 Late Night Chow Spots That Can’t Be Missed.  Also, I chat with Chef and Co-Owner of Bachi Burger, Lorin Watada, where we talk in depth about his beginnings in the industry, moving from corporate life to owning his own private place, as well as the birth of Bachi Burger. We also talk about the value of restaurant critics and discuss the now infamous review of Bachi Burger by John Curtas.  Then The Wife makes her triumphant return for The News With The Wife, we share the TLV Cheap Eats of the Week and so much more!

Click This To Listen to Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 02!

Check out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast on iTunes!

Chef Lorin Watada of Bachi Burger

Chef Lorin Watada of Bachi Burger

Joints We Talk About:

  • Bachi Burger
  • Pasta Shop Ristorante
  • Firefly
  • Garfield’s Restaurant
  • Lebanese American Festival
  • Total Wine
  • Von’s
  • Fukuburger
  • Ichiza
  • Soyo Korean Barstaurant
  • Peppermill
  • Caesars Palace
  • Nu Sanctuary
  • Wazuzu
  • Seablue
  • Sporting House Bar & Grill
  • Shakespeare’s Grille and Pub
  • Paymon’s Hookah Lounge
  • Golden Nugget
  • Rare 120° Steakhouse

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

The 2010 Tasting Las Vegas 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks for Blogworld.com

Susan Stapleton’s Top 5 Late Night Eats article on Haute Living

Follow Susan Stapleton on Twitter at @SusanMStapleton

The Behind The Scenes Look at the 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks

Follow First Food and Bar on Twitter at @FirstFoodandBar

Follow Fukuburger on Twitter at @fukuburger

A little post I wrote about Ichiza’s Butter Corn a while back

My take on Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Follow Firefly on Twitter at @FireflyLV

My take on Bachi Burger

John Curtas‘ take on Bachi Burger

Bachi Burger’s website 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

Monday Mise en Place: Franck Savoy Named Food and Beverage Director of Caesars Palace

Good Restaurants About To Turn Better Found Here (photo: Caesars Palace Facebook page)

Good Restaurants About To Turn Better Found Here (photo: Caesars Palace Facebook page)

Big changes are abound in the Food and Beverage department at Caesars Palace.  I saw it first reported by Pope Curtas the ELV on Twitter and I’ve since had his report confirmed that General Manager of Restaurant Guy Savoy, Franck Savoy, will be taking over as Food and Beverage Director at the resort.  Taking his place as GM at Guy Savoy will be Alain Alpe.  Franck, son of Guy, will still be very actively involved with Restaurant Guy Savoy.  This comes along with the news of Chef Todd Williams of Bradley Ogden getting a bump to Assistant Executive Chef of Caesars Palace, which was reported here last week.  Obviously it’s too early to tell, but I think this is all a pretty significant step in the right direction for the resort.

The Place With The Big Fake Tree Loses Their Chef

The Place With The Big Fake Tree Loses Their Chef

Looks like changes are also abound at Nu Sanctuary in Town Square.  Chef Brian Howard will be working his last day there behind the flames on Saturday, October 16th.  No word as to who Howard’s replacement will be and if Nu Sanctuary will be making a significant change in direction.  Chef Howard is going to be preparing a special “Last Supper” on Saturday that will be available on that day from 5pm-10pm.  The dinner as described on Chef Howard’s blog is billed as; “a spectacular five course tasting of contempoary global cuisine. this menu will be magical and take you on a journey through my mind as i  use seasonal global  ingredients to arouse your senses, play with your mind and tease your palette.” On Twitter, Howard told me that he’s got some things in the works, but he can’t disclose what those things are at this time.  Best wishes to Brian on his new adventure!

Chef Stephen Hopcraft Wants YOU!

Chef Stephen Hopcraft Wants YOU!

The power of social media was in full force over the weekend as two chefs in town posted gigs for sous chefs in their respective kitchens on Facebook.  Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu at the Encore resort is looking as is Chef Stephen Hopcraft of Seablue in the MGM Grand.  I’ve had the good fortune of being able to interview both these guys and I could only imagine they’d both be great dudes to work for. Check out my post on Stephen Hopcraft here and listen to Jet Tila on the very first Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

The Sporting House Logo (picture: twitter.com/SportingHouseLV)

The Sporting House Logo (picture: twitter.com/SportingHouseLV)

For all the people out there that haven’t been able to sleep since the ESPN Zone closed at the New York, New York casino, there is good news.  The Sporting House Bar & Grill has taken over the space and has opened a restaurant downstairs and an interactive sports-themed arcade upstairs.  Sound familiar?

MOzen Bistro - Good Food, Empty Spaces

MOzen Bistro - Good Food, Empty Spaces

MOzen Bistro at the Mandarin Oriental has changed up their lunch prix fixe for the fall.  Available until October 29th, the three course $38 lunch now has such items as a Combination of Asian Starters or Roasted Garlic Soup with Carmelized Onion for the first course, Lasagna al Forno or Indian Chicken Curry for the main course and a Chocolate Delice with Passion Fruit Cremeux for dessert. Don’t forget, Las Vegas locals still get 20% off their entire bill, so by my math that brings the three course lunch to $30.40.

To Be, Or Not To Be...on Coronado Center Drive. That is the Question.

To Be, Or Not To Be...on Coronado Center Drive. That is the Question.

There’s a new British pub in town and it is located on the corner of Eastern and Coronado Center in The Hendo.  Shakespeare’s Grille and Pub is now open for business and has most of your British pub food favorites including Fish n’ Chips, Bangers & Mash and Shepherd’s Pie. You can follow Shakespeare’s on Twitter at @ShakespearesGP.

Because There's No Steak That Tastes Better Than When It's Half Off

Because There's No Steak That Tastes Better Than When It's Half Off

In one of those “Holy Shit” deals, Rare 120° Steakhouse at the Hard Rock Hotel may have topped them all.  Starting today, October 11th, Rare 120° will be rolling with Half Off Mondays where the entire food menu is priced at half off every Monday!  Not since the great days of the 2-for-1 entrees for locals at Nobhill Tavern have we seen such a deal. And from the looks of things, this deal is open for everyone, not just Vegas locals.  Rare 120° is open from 6pm-11pm on Mondays.  Call ahead at (702) 693-5000 to make sure it’s still happening.

You can now listen to Michael Jackson, Journey and that Bieber thing along with TLV!

You can now listen to Michael Jackson, Journey and that Bieber thing along with TLV!

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to that big mess of a first Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast last week!  I’ve been officially accepted and approved on iTunes, so you can check out the podcast there at http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/tasting-las-vegas-the-podcast/id396995656. On this week’s show, I’ll be joined by The Wife for the whole show where I’ll name 5 Late Night Eats in Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed and I sit down with Chef Lorin Watada of Bachi Burger for an in-depth look on moving from corporate chef life to opening your own biz, as well as his view on living with restaurant critics.  Also, there will be The News With The Wife, the TLV Cheap Eats of the Week and so much more!  I’ll try my best to get this one a little tighter. (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!)

—–
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 - Episode 01, Chef Jet Tila Speaks!

Holy shit!  We did it!  The very first Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast episode is UP!  Many thanks to Michael Manley, The Wife and Executive Chef of Wazuzu at the Encore resort, Jet Tila for joining me on this maiden voyage.

Three Disclosures:

  1. The first segment with Michael Manley was riddled with audio problems, so please forgive the shitty audio and heinous editing. It gets better. I swear.
  2. This pig is long, coming in at an hour and fifty minutes.  Anybody who listens to the whole thing will win a prize.  Ok…you won’t really win a prize…but thanks for listening!
  3. There’s some potty language. Surprise, surprise!

Without further adieu, click the link below to listen to Episode 01 of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

Listen to Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 01

Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu and Your Home's Freezer!

Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu and Your Home's Freezer!

Tha’ Links:

Check out Crossings by The Las Vegas Jazz Connection on CDBaby

Follow Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast at @TLV_ThePodcast

Follow Michael Manley on Twitter at @AgeOfManley

Michael’s new blog is AgeOfManley.wordpress.com

Follow Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

Chef Jet’s website is ChefJet.com

Jet’s very own Schwan’s page is here.

More about the RAVE diet at RAVEdiet.com

My props to Wazuzu’s Drunken Noodles is here.

2010 Tasting Las Vegas 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks for Blogworld is here

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

My Original Assessment of Republic Kitchen and Bar 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

Monday Mise en Place: Hash House A Go Go To Open At The M Resort

Hash House A Go Go: Home To Big Ass Pancakes (photo: HHAGG Facebook Page)

Hash House A Go Go: Home To Big Ass Pancakes (photo: HHAGG Facebook Page)

Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No…it’s a pancake the size of Mars! And yes, you will be able to get that planetary-sized pancake at the M Resort as of October 7th when Hash House A Go Go officially opens its third Las Vegas location.  Sunday – Thursday the Hash House M Resort location will be open from 7am-11pm, and on Friday and Saturday they will sport some late night hours and be open from 7am-2am.  With the M’s 32 Bar packed with all sorts of beer on tap, this will prove to be a very fun, possibly dangerous combination.  Oh, and speaking of big ass pancakes, The M Resort location will have a special M&M Pancake just for it.  M&M Pancake at the M.  Get it?

31 Years of Cuteness! Happy Birthday to The Wife!

31 Years of Cuteness! Happy Birthday to The Wife!

31 years ago today, October 4th, a very important moment in world history happened; The Wife was born!  Please join me in wishing The Wife (sometimes also known as Kerry) a very Happy Birthday! Also, please send presents as I forgot to buy her anything.  Don’t feel bad for her…she’s used to it.

Good Times Guaranteed At the Naked City Pizza Shop!

Good Times Guaranteed At the Naked City Pizza Shop!

Starting this Tuesday, October 5th, there will be a weekly hang geared towards Las Vegas’ restaurant industry folks at the Naked City Pizza Shop!  There will be food, drink and shot specials.  The hang starts at midnight and the kitchen will stay open until at least 3am!  A hang that starts at midnight on a Tuesday (technically Wednesday…let’s say the hang starts at 11:59pm on Tuesday so there’s no confusion)….I love Las Vegas.  And I love the Naked City Pizza Shop.  Remember, the NCPS is located inside Moon Doggies Bar on the corner of Desert Inn and Arville.

I love Beiruts too! (photo: habeeb.com)

I love Beiruts too! (photo: habeeb.com)

Tis the season for ethnic festivals and now the Lebanese are having their turn with The 3rd Annual Lebanese American Festival hosted by the St. Sharbel Maronite Catholic Mission from Friday, October 8th - Sunday, October 10th.  All of the food is made from scratch by real live Lebanese people.  Apparently one family is making 1,500 kibbe balls.  That’s a lot of balls.  The St. Sharbel Mission is located at 10325 Rancho Destino Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89183. For more information you can call (702) 616-6902 or visit www.lebaneseamericanfestivallasvegas.org.

Jean-Louis Palladin (photo: grapeseedoil.com)

Jean-Louis Palladin (photo: grapeseedoil.com)

It’s not this week, but just a heads up, on October 17th, RM Seafood is hosting one hell of a sick dinner to benefit the Jean-Louis Palladin Fund for the James Beard Foundation.  The whole menu will be cooked from Palladin’s book, “Cooking With The Seasons.” Here’s who’s cooking the food:  Rick Moonen, Adam Sobel and Gerald Chin (Rick Moonen’s rm seafood), André Rochat and Gary LaMorte (André’s and Alizé), Mark Hopper (Bouchon), Luciano Pellegrino (Valentino), Vincent Pouessel (Aureole), Barry Dakake and Geno Bernardo (N9NE/Nove), David Werly (Le Cirque), Martin Heierling (Sensi/Silk Road), Hugo Coudurier (Restaurant Guy Savoy), Jean Joho and Joung Sohn (Eiffel Tower Restaurant), Michael and Wendy Jordan (Rosemary’s) with desserts by Megan Romano (Aureole) and Michelle Lee (Rick Moonen’s rm seafood) and wines provided by Wirtz Beverage.   That’s pretty sick.  Tickets for this amazing event roll for $295 a person.  For more info about the Palladin Fund for the James Beard Foundation, visit http://www.jamesbeard.org/index.php?q=education_jlp_about. For more info about this extraordinary dinner call RM Seafood at (702) 632-9300 and ask about the Palladin Dinner.

The Other Good Part About Football (photo: whitemeat.wordpress.com)

The Other Good Part About Football (photo: whitemeat.wordpress.com)

I don’t really give a shit about football, but I’m sure glad for the specials it brings to just about every restaurant with a TV and a barstool.  RM Seafood is sporting some nifty specials, such as; select half-priced sushi rolls, $5 Stella Artois and Asahi Drafts and a $12 RM Burger special which I have now had three weeks in a row and I can’t get enough of it.  Easily one of the best burgers in town…yes…at RM Seafood.  Also rolling with footyball specials is Rao’s at Caesars Palace.  Rao’s is doing something cool where they are taking some of their classics on the menu and transforming them to tailgating food.  Uncle Vincent’s Lemon Chicken Wings, Meatball Hoagies and a Flatbread Steak Melt to name a few.  Also joining in on the fun is the Vin Bar and Lounge at Valentino’s in the Venetian.  They’re putting together antipasto platters of all sorts of charcuterie, salumis and cheeses.  Also, there are crudo platters where you can choose from a number of raw items like Blood Orange Lobster Tail or Green Apple Scallops. For the crudo plates, you can either order a la carte or have your choice of three for $12 or six for $24.

A New Low In The History Of Eating Out

A New Low In The History Of Eating Out

Hopefully with the technology gods at our side, the very first Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will be online and ready for your enjoyment sometime in the afternoon on Wednesday, October 6th! Yes, I have polluted your eyes enough with this mess…now it’s time to get to work on the ears!  Joining me on this momentous occasion will be Michael Manley (remember him?) and, of course, The Wife! I’m also very excited to announce that that very first interview was with the one, the only, the fighter and the lover….Executive Chef of Wazuzu, Jet Tila! Jet has had, and continues to have, an extraordinary amount of shit going on, so we had plenty to talk about.  We covered everything from Schwan’s to Wynn rolling vegan-style to cooking for James Beard’s groupies to his thoughts on Vegas in general.  Good times were had, you’re not going to want to miss this one!  Make sure you also follow The Official Twitter of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast at @TLV_ThePodcast!

—–
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

Behind The Scenes: How My 2010 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks Were Picked

I don’t know about you, but when I see Top (insert number here [that's what she said]) Lists, my blood usually starts boiling.  I often find myself thinking, “Are these people fucking stupid, corrupt, or a little bit of both?”  Whether it’s a Top 5 Greek Restaurants in Vegas list that doesn’t have The Fat Greek (yes, I’m still breaking your balls on that, Vegas Chatter) and a restaurant that hasn’t opened yet in a hotel that hasn’t opened yet, no less; or, a Top 5 List of Late Night Eats that have places that close by midnight at the latest and/or serve utterly heinous food (yes, I’m looking directly at you Haute Living)…it usually takes all my willpower to not throw my laptop across the room when I see these awful lists.

Oh…and while I’m here…..can we PLEASE get rid of the word, “haute”?!? Enough is fucking enough with everything being haute.  First of all, the god damn word is pronounced “oat,” so trying to be clever by substituting “haute” for “hot” either means you’re ignorant or you sound like a retarded Scotsman.  Balls, that just irritates the shit out of me.  Yes…I know…I’m an angry man.  Ok…back to the subject at hand…..

Always Thinking Of A Way Out...

Always Thinking Of A Way Out...

So obviously these lists, more times than not, piss me off…and now here I am, doing one of my own.  Oh boy.  I was ready to take the heat as karma was cracking its knuckles getting ready to do work.  However, much to my surprise, the overall reaction to the list was overwhelmingly positive.  People really dug the list.  The restaurants picked (obviously) REALLY dug the list.

By the way, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a direct link to The 2010 Tasting Las Vegas 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks for the Blogworld and New Media Expohttp://www.blogworld.com/2010/09/21/the-2010-tasting-las-vegas-7-7-restaurant-picks/ If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out first and then come on back.  A few of you have asked how I settled on the restaurants I settled on and the thought process behind it, so I thought I’d try to share what was going on in my brain when I put it together…

Tasting Las Vegas Panel Discussion is on October 16 @ 2:45pm!

Tasting Las Vegas Panel Discussion is on October 16 @ 2:45pm!

As an invited speaker to the 2010 Blogworld and New Media Expo to be part of the “Tasting Las Vegas” panel discussion along side the Queen of Buttercream, Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery, The Strip Podcast himself, Steve Friess and Ms. Vegas Chatter, Julia Buckley; I was asked to do a post for Blogworld’s blog as well as a dining guide.  I decided on killing two birds with one stone.

My goal with the 7 & 7 list was to come up with as diverse of offerings as I could that really showed off the special culinary offerings we have here in Las Vegas.  I wanted to show off our different cuisines, price points, locations, meal times, etc. and approach the whole thing from a visitor’s perspective.  If I’m a visiting a place, I want to have an experience that I can’t have at home.  Originally I was going to do 5 restaurants On The Strip and 5 off, but I couldn’t narrow it down that much….and technically I didn’t really narrow it down to 7 and 7 either with all of the little bonus mentions…but I did the best I could.

Some people have asked why I included Off The Strip restaurants on the list if it’s intended for visitors.  My answer is that I think there’s enough people out there that want to stay away from the resort corridor and drive through the neighborhoods to see where us locals eat.  It’s a weird town.  Visitors need to know that there’s good eats off The Strip, and locals need to know there’s good eats on The Strip.

The two most difficult things about putting the list together was (obviously) deciding on the final 7 & 7 and also not using dick and fart jokes.  It was a self-imposed ban on my trademark dick and fart jokes with varying degrees of foul language.  I don’t know how real writers do it.  I figured without my dick and fart jokes, people won’t even get past the third suggestion!  I suppose that’s why I rarely get through an entire restaurant review in a “legitimate” publication. So boring.  Oh well…here’s to hoping…

Lobster Pot Pie from Nobhill Tavern: Tastes A Lot Better When It's 2-for-1

Lobster Pot Pie from Nobhill Tavern: Tastes A Lot Better When It's 2-for-1

Settling on the final list was agonizing.  There were restaurants that were on the list until I slept on it overnight, then took them off.  Two On The Strip joints that didn’t make the final edit was Nobhill Tavern at the MGM Grand and Payard Patisserie & Bistro at Caesars Palace.  I wanted to find a place on there for Nobhill Tavern, but if I put them on, then why not all of the other Mina restaurants, Bradley Ogden, Sage and the list goes on and on.  What ultimately decided why Nobhill Tavern didn’t make it, is because I see it more as a restaurant on The Strip that is better for locals.  The 2-for-1 entree deal they used to run for locals upped its appeal and since the true extraordinary nature of their service is seen on multiple visits, it stayed off this list for once-a-year convention goers.

Payard Patisserie and Bistro: Good Macarons Made Here

Payard Patisserie and Bistro: Good Macarons Made Here

Payard was tough.  They have a fabulous 3-course prix fixe for lunch that hovers in the $20 range.  They also have the best macarons in town, and also would have given the Harrah’s empire some recognition on the list.  If Silk Road wasn’t so damn magnificent, it would have been on there…but by limiting myself to 7-ish picks on The Strip, there wasn’t enough room for two Breakfast and Lunch joints.  Also, having Silk Road on there gave me an angle to throw out a bonus shout out to Sensi with the Heierling connection.  I almost said fuck the whole 7 & 7 angle and included Payard, but with this being Vegas, 7 being lucky and 7 & 7 being the well-known adult beverage that it is…I couldn’t pass it up.

Yes, a few pointed out that while the individual properties were diversified on the list, MGM Resorts had a landslide victory.  That’s because MGM Resorts have better restaurants.  I can’t help that.  Take away Caesars Palace and Harrah’s is a steaming pile of shit when it comes to restaurants.  I can’t put Guy Savoy on there when there is Robuchon. Rao’s is decent, but the prices are too jacked for me to send a bunch of bloggers there, and while Bradley Ogden is fine and dandy, I can’t have a restaurant on there just because they make the best burger in town.

Fabulous Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chop from Sirio Ristorante

Fabulous Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chop from Sirio Ristorante

Another glaring omission is that there was no On The Strip Italian joint.  This was more due to a diversity in property rule I tried to adhere to, and there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to have Julian Serrano on the list to make room for Sirio Ristorante.  Sirio is fabulous, though, and when people ask me for a suggestion for Italian on The Strip, that’s always where I send them.  The Goat Milk Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter and Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chops are out of sight.  If it wasn’t for Silk Road, Sirio would be the must underrated restaurant in all of CityCenter.

Funky Toro from Raku

Funky Toro from Raku

Off The Strip was just as agonizing, if not even worse.  I could have easily put Ichiza, Archi’s, Raku and Soyo on there, but four out of seven slots be Asian (five if you include Bachi Burger)?  That ain’t right.  Some may argue that Raku deserves to be there over Ichiza, to which I say this;  Raku is overrated. There, I said it.  Yes, the guy has brilliant knife skills and is an artist when it comes to presentation, but sometimes the best, most fresh ingredients aren’t used.  I’m not saying that Ichiza does either, but Ichiza never pretends that it does.  And I’m not saying that Raku is bad by any stretch of the word….but I think it’s about time to stop giving Chef Endo the neverending blowjob that so many in our restaurant community give him.  Give your tonsils a break, boys!

Fukuburger: Good Food and Good Times Served Here Nightly

Fukuburger: Good Food and Good Times Served Here Nightly

Another tough call was if I should give a nod to a food truck on there or not.  Fukuburger is most deserving and does wonders considering they’re cooking that shit in a truck, but comparing flat out burger-to-burger, there’s no contest between Fukuburger and Bachi Burger.  Like I said, it was a tough call.  It really comes down to personal values in dining out, and I guess when it comes down to it, for me….food trumps the hang.  Fukuburger is indeed made of awesome.  Great hang, great guys working it, great prices, certainly one of the best burgers in town.  Like I said…tough call.

Marche Bacchus: Good, but there's probably Better

Marche Bacchus: Good, but there's probably Better

If I have one regret on the list, it’s putting Marche Bacchus on there.  It’s another overrated place.  Don’t get me wrong, the food is good there, although inconsistent.  I’ve had a perfect pork chop there and I’ve had a raw one.  If the setting wasn’t so nice and if there was anything else in the vicinity that I knew better, it probably would have been on the cutting room floor.  It’s my own fault for not knowing the non-Asian restaurants on the west side enough to be able to recommend something else.  Yeah yeah yeah…I’m working on it, damn it!

Like I said, I’m surprised more people didn’t give me shit about the list.  Maybe this post just opened up the can of worms…who knows.  I’m glad it was so well received and that it went viral in a hurry on Facebook and Twitter.  I hope the people that read it eat well from it.  Many thanks to Babette Pepaj of Bakespace.com fame for including me in on the fun.  I’m looking forward to this Blogworld and New Media Expo and getting to hang with Kari, Steve and Julia.  Good times are inevitable!

—–
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 Is Coming; The Food World Locks Up Their Daughters

The next phase of Tasting Las Vegas is upon us – Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast - The Las Vegas Restaurant Scene Will Never Be The Same

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast - The Las Vegas Restaurant Scene Will Never Be The Same

From the beginning, the whole idea of Tasting Las Vegas was to work towards a podcast, and after  nine long months of writing, writing, writing… the dream is now coming to fruition!  Hopefully the technology gods will be at our side so that the first broadcast of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will happen on October 6, 2010.

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will feature news, reviews, interviews and so much more with myself hosting along with a cast of co-hosts that will include a reunion with Michael Manley, as well as Julia Buckley of VegasChatter.com fame, Steve Friess of TheStripPodcast.com and VegasHappensHere.com fame, and of course the one who always keeps me in check, The Wife!

As always, your interaction is the most important, so send in your own tips, reviews and requests to the Official Twitter Account of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, @TLV_ThePodcast or e-mail them to TLVThePodcast {at} gmail [dot] com.  I know many of you that read this mess are in the Las Vegas Food and Beverage industry, so if you have something to say, say it on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!  A big part of the show will be talking with real live people in every aspect of the industry.

I’m so excited to share this new low in Las Vegas restaurant coverage with all of you!  Good times will be had.  More details will be coming in the following days leading up to the very first show.  Make sure you follow The Official Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast Twitter Account at @TLV_ThePodcast for the most up to minute information!

—–
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: Last Chance To Help Get Me In Bourdain's 'Medium Raw'

Help Get Me Published in This!

Help Get Me Published in This!

TLV Army! We are finally coming to the end of the grueling voting period where not only I have begged and pleaded, but so many of you have begged and pleaded to your own friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook on my behalf.  I am grateful beyond words.  I’ve been hovering around 64th place the past few days, and to be 64th out of over 1,750 entries for vote getters, I can’t be sad about that.  I’m proud of myself that I didn’t cheat by making bogus accounts to vote for myself.

There are still a few days left.  My goal was to be in the Top 50, of which I’m still a little more than 150 votes behind.  I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I’m thankful for you to push through that voter fatigue and keep the faith through 09/30/10.  From there, the publishers will go through all of the entries and pick their top 10, with votes each entry gets playing a signficant part in their decision.  Once they pick their Top 10, they’ll send them off to Anthony Bourdain who will pick the winning entry.

For those that have no clue what I’m talking about, I entered Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Medium Raw’ Challenge.  The challenge was to write a 500-word essay on what it means to “cook well.”  The winning entry will be published in the paperback edition of his latest book, ‘Medium Raw,’ as well as pull down a $10,000 cash prize.  Obviously this is the opportunity of a lifetime, and all of the votes and support you guys have given me these past few weeks has been inspiring.  No matter what the outcome, I thank all that helped me from the bottom of my heart.  Speaking of the outcome, I should know something in around November 1st.

A direct link to my entry, ‘Cooking Well Is First’ can be found here – http://bourdainmediumraw.com/essays/view/1409

A terrible picture of Spinach LInguini Oil and Garlic with Shrimp from The Pasta Shop. So tasty!

A terrible picture of Spinach LInguini Oil and Garlic with Shrimp from The Pasta Shop. So tasty!

Don’t forget, on September 29th, the brand spanking new location of the Pasta Shop Ristorante should be open and there will be much rejoicing.  At least for me, it’s closer to the homestead!  The new location of the best pasta in town is at 2525 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy., Henderson, NV 89052 (corner of Horizon Ridge & Carnegie).  Best wishes to the Alenik Brothers and crew for much success with their new digs!

Cupkates Logo

Cupkates Logo

All through the month of October, Cupkates, a cupcake bakery that delivers direct to its customers will be offering a special collection to help benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  The “Pink With A Purpose” bouquet has 6 full-sized cupcakes, 5 mini cupcakes, and 4 chocolate-covered marshmallow lollipops. Deliveries in the Las Vegas Valley are free of charge and the bouquet itself costs $48, a portion of the proceeds going to the Komen Foundation.  It’s a nice way to get a sugar high and help save the boobies all at the same time!  For more information about Cupkates, visit her website at http://www.CupkatesLV.com.

Rosemary's Restaurant Logo (photo: Rosemary's Facebook Page)

Rosemary's Restaurant Logo (photo: Rosemary's Facebook Page)

Thanks to fellow local restaurant writer, Jim Begley, (a.k.a – @Splurgemonkey) for hipping me to a special Dogfish Head Beer Dinner going on at Rosemary’s Restaurant on Tuesday, September 28th (that’s tomorrow!).   A reception with following four-course meal, each course is paired with one of Dogfish Head’s delicious beers.  Examples include a Tempura Scallop with Asian Pear slaw and Thai Green Curry paired with a side-by-side of the Dogfish Head 60 and 90 Minute IPA’s as well as a Kurobuta Pork Cheek with Dark Chocolate Mole paired with their Indian Brown Ale.  Sounds good to me, and the 5-courses and beers come in at an all-inclusive $75.  Reception is at 6:30 with dinner starting at 7:00.  For more information and to make your reservation, call 702-869-2251.

—–
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

Mike and The Wife Do California, Part III: Tales Of Love From Yountville to Santa Barbara

It’s time to bring The Wife and I’s journey throughout the Golden State to a close.  With how ridiculously busy things have gotten since our trip in the beginning of August, Part III has obviously been put on the on the back burner.  I shall do my best to recall the events as accurately as I can.  The first part of our adventure brought us to the awe-inspiring Sequoia National Park, then the second chapter was the epic recount of our time in San Francisco.  This third and final chapter of our travels brings us from San Francisco up to Yountville where The Wife and I celebrated 5 years of wedded bliss, then a gorgeous drive down the coast to Santa Barbara and finally back home to Our Little Twinkle in the Desert.

The Wife and I: Five Years and Running Strong

The Wife and I: Five Years and Running Strong

It was August 6, 2010; five years to the day that The Wife said the biggest mistake of an “I do” in her life.  Other notable “I do” failures throughout history include include;

“Hey Judas, do you know where Jesus is hanging today?”  “I do.”

or…

“Hey George, do you really think there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?”  “I do.”

or even worse…

“Hey Brooke, you think we should give this Rachael Ray kid a shot at her own show?” “I do.”

Yes, The Wife’s “I do” on August 6, 2005 goes in the record books among the worst “I do’s” in history, but I, for one, am glad for The Wife’s egregious error in judgment.   Somehow we have made it five years, so we decided to mark those five years with a day of good food in a beautiful setting.

Easy Street Cafe in San Anselmo, CA

Easy Street Cafe in San Anselmo, CA

On our way up to Yountville from San Francisco we made a quick side stop to see The Official Only Living Relative I Still Talk To, Cousin Jimmy.  Cousin Jimmy moved to the Marin area in California a little bit after The Wife and I moved to Las Vegas.  Somehow he landed a sweet and beautiful girlfriend of which the Laws of Logic have yet to explain how.  Her name is Arden and she works at the Easy Street Cafe in San Anselmo, CA, a cute little town near San Rafael.  We met up with Cousin Jimmy there and had a ridiculously good breakfast.

I was at first a little apprehensive at meeting Cousin Jimmy at Arden’s place of work.  The last thing on Earth I needed was for the food to suck and I’d have to write about it.  He is after all The Official Only Living Relative I Still Talk To and to make things uncomfortable by submarining his woman’s place of work may very well have changed his title.  However, I am both pleased and relieved to say that it wasn’t only delicious, but it was the best breakfast we had in California by a mile, and one of the best breakfasts I’ve had.  Period.

Greek Scramble from Easy Street Cafe in San Anselmo, CA

Greek Scramble from Easy Street Cafe in San Anselmo, CA

An Eggs Benedict Meets Corned Beef Hash from Easy Street Cafe

An Eggs Benedict Meets Corned Beef Hash from Easy Street Cafe

I talked about this in the other two posts, but it bears repeating; California kicks our ass in the produce department.  Here at this unassuming little breakfast and lunch joint in the middle of a strip mall (sound familiar fellow Las Vegans?) were incredible ingredients being prepared well.  You can’t ask for anything more than that.  I think what I had was called the Greek Scramble. It had artichoke hearts, feta cheese, spinach, onion and kalamata olives scrambled up in eggs.  Paired up with good Sourdough toast and fabulous home fries with the perfect bacony / well-seasoned griddle taste, it was a work of art in the medium of simple breakfast.  Take good ingredients, scramble them up and serve it with toast.  It’s not rocket science, but when it happens you know it’s something special.  Something worth waking up for.  By the way, if you wind up going to the Easy Street Cafe and you have a lovely server named Arden, please tip her generously…you have no idea the man she goes home to.

The Wife, Cousin Jimmy and Me with Michael Narada Walden's Bling at Tarpan Studios

The Wife, Cousin Jimmy and Me with Michael Narada Walden's Bling at Tarpan Studios

Tarpan Studios: Hit Records Recorded Here

Tarpan Studios: Hit Records Recorded Here

After our fabulous breakfast, Cousin Jimmy took The Wife and I to his new gig, working for the venerable Narada Michael Walden at Tarpan Studios in nearby San Rafael.  The name Narada Michael Walden might not mean shit to most of you, but I guarantee you know his work.  Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey….he did Lionel Ritchie’s Dancing on the (Motherfucking) Ceiling!  This guy literally wallpapers his office with platinum records.  Again…how the hell Cousin Jimmy landed this, I have no idea.  Dream girl, dream gig…you either got to be happy for the guy or it makes you puke.  Ha!  I’m kidding, of course.  I’m very happy for him and it was nice to see him.  Better to see Arden. ;-)

O.G. Bouchon in Yountville, CA

O.G. Bouchon in Yountville, CA

From San Rafael we made the quick hour or so drive to Yountville.  The rolling golden hills of the Napa Valley splashed with vineyards is something to see.  You drive and drive, seeing nothing but quaint little roadside shops, vineyards, a house here and there, more vineyards and eventually you pull up to Yountville.  You would have no idea by looking at it that it is one of the Culinary Meccas on the planet.  Many a chef touches their head to their knife roll in Yountville’s direction daily.  For some reason, unknown to me, Yountville is home to His Excellence Chef Thomas Keller and his temple of the French Laundry along with his O.G. Bouchon, O.G. Bouchon Bakery and Ad Hoc places of eating. Also in Yountville is the Michelin starred Bistro Jeanty, recent James Beard Award Pastry Chef winning Redd, and the place where The Wife and I decided was the perfect place to celebrate 5 years of government approved love, Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. Isn’t that sick?

Staying in Yountville is not for the faint of heart when it comes in terms of the wallet.  Holy shit is this place expensive.  There’s a lot of money flowing down Washington St. With many of the available rooms floating in the $700 per night range, we lucked out with a coincidentally timed cancellation at the time of my desperately placed hopeful phone call to the Napa Valley Railway Inn. They had only one room for only one night and we were able to get it.

Our Room at the Napa Valley Railway Inn

Our Room at the Napa Valley Railway Inn

A fraction of the price of what you’ll find just about anywhere else in the area, the Napa Valley Railway Inn is a series of renovated train cars, each car having it’s own room and potty.  It’s a pretty decent room and in an outstanding location being two doors down from Bottega and right across the street from Hurley’s, O.G. Bouchon Bakery and the O.G. Bouchon.  I’d highly recommend the Napa Valley Railway Inn for anyone that would rather blow the cash on the food and wine rather the bedroom.

Hurley's Restaurant in Yountville, CA

Hurley's Restaurant in Yountville, CA

Perfectly Dressed Salad at Hurley's

Perfectly Dressed Salad at Hurley's

A Nice Short Rib Dish at Hurley's

A Nice Short Rib Dish at Hurley's

With a fabulous breakfast just hours ago and our reservations for Bottega not too far away, The Wife and I decided a quick, light lunch was in order, so we walked across the street to Hurley’s. Hurley’s has a cheap two-course prix fixe lunch that runs for something like $18, a bargain for how fine the food is.  For the first course I had a salad with (I think) a citrusy vinaigrette.  What I remember most about the salad is that it was perfectly dressed.  Just enough for proper flavor punch and lubrication, but not too much as to drown the lettuce and cancel out all other flavors.  The second course wasn’t the most light of summertime lunches, but it was certainly delicious.  Short Ribs with Root Vegetables in demi-glace.  If someone says “demi-glace,” I come running.  There’s nothing better than a good reduction of meat juice.  And while not the lightest sounding dish, the pristine ingredients made it as light as it could be.  Among such giants in the culinary world, you don’t hear much about Hurley’s, and based off this one lunch, it’s a shame.  Or maybe it isn’t.  Maybe it’s just a testament to how deep the bench is in Yountville.  I like it there. I like it there a lot.

Chef Michael Chiarello's Little Corner of the Earth

Chef Michael Chiarello's Little Corner of the Earth

After a much needed nap back at the inn, we strolled over to Michael Chiarello’s Complex of Good Stuff.  In some stunningly beautiful old-world type buildings and garden areas, Chiarello has a small empire in the heart of Yountville; his return to the kitchen in Bottega and one of the best shops I’ve been in in a long while, NapaStyle.

Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle in Yountville, CA

Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle in Yountville, CA

A Taste From Vegas on Display at NapaStyle

A Taste From Vegas on Display at NapaStyle

Salt Tasting Station in NapaStyle

Salt Tasting Station in NapaStyle

NapaStyle is a food nerd paradise.  My impression of the joint is that it’s basically all of the stuff that Michael Chiarello likes in one place and available for sale.  Genius. The cookbooks of friends and colleagues (nice to see Chef Rick Moonen’s ‘Fish Without A Doubt’ prominently on display), all sorts of glassware, flatware, pots, pans and dishes.  And salt. Lots of different kinds of salt. In fact, there’s a little salt tasting station with 19 different varieties of salt.  What an education that was getting to try all of them back-to-back.  I enjoyed NapaStyle so much that it has served as an inspiration for Tasting Las Vegas: The Store (still a work in progress).

Bottega in Yountville, CA

Bottega in Yountville, CA

Entrance to Where Good Food is Made

Entrance to Where Good Food is Made

Now finally we get to the part where this whole massive road trip hinged on; Our Anniversary Dinner at Bottega.  I don’t really have a good reason why I was so hell bent on going to Bottega for our 5th anniversary.  I’ve always enjoyed Michael Chiarello on his Food Network show; he was one of the last of “the good ones” on there, in the time I refer to as B.R.R. (Before Rachael Ray).  Then he came around again kicking ass on the first season of Top Chef Masters.  After hearing about his return to restaurant life, I was enthusiastic to try his food.  Nothing fancy, no pirouettes on the plate….but you damn well knew that his stuff was going to taste good.  And my how good it did taste…

Oh, the meal that was about to be put on this table!

Oh, the meal that was about to be put on this table!

One of the Hippest Water Glasses Out There is at Bottega

One of the Hippest Water Glasses Out There is at Bottega

The Wife and I wanted to put ourselves in the kitchen’s hands, so we asked our outstanding server, John, if they did a tasting menu of some sorts. He said there was a chef’s table, but that had to be booked in advance, but he was happy to take the wheel.  I was more than happy to let him lead as you could immediately tell that this guy knew his shit.  He wasn’t some guy trying make ends meet until he landed his big soap opera gig.  He was a guy that loved food, loved to work with people and loved his job.  One of the best servers I’ve ever had.  We started with a little Prosecco toast and went on from there.

Wood Grilled Octopus Salad from Bottega. Extraordinary!

Wood Grilled Octopus Salad from Bottega. Extraordinary!

Right off the bat John brought out something I’d never order, a Wood Grilled Octopus Salad.  Octopus usually sucks.  It’s almost always tough and rubbery, and even when it’s chewable, who cares.  Well, when someone spends a few days to prepare the octopus, your opinion of the cephalopod is quick to change.  It was extraordinary.  A revelation.  From what I can remember, the octopus was marinated for a day, then braised the next day, then finally finished over a wood-fired grill before serving.  The most tender, succulent, flavorful octopus you could ever have.  The flavors were so layered, so balanced and so pristine that it instantly raised the bar for how I judge all food.  If a miserable protein like octopus could be like this, then their ain’t no excuses for shrimp and tenderloins.  The bar was set mighty high.

Polenta Under Glass With Wild Mushrooms from Bottega

Polenta Under Glass With Wild Mushrooms from Bottega

The next course was one of Chiarello’s signature dishes, Polenta Under Glass with Wild Mushrooms.  Perfection.  The polenta was silk, the mushrooms brought the perfect amount of earthiness and the accompanying balsamic / stock reduction brought a brilliant contrast.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  I love me some grits, but these were grits on another level.

Garganelli with Rabbit Ragout and Housemade Ricotta

Garganelli with Rabbit Ragout and Housemade Ricotta

Our third course was appropriately a pasta course, and once again it was like our server crawled into our heads and knew exactly what we wanted. Garganelli with a Rabbit Ragout and Housemade Ricotta.  Garganelli are ribbed square pieces of pasta that are rolled to form a tube to sort of be like penne.  The tomato and rabbit sauce was reduced down to a perfect thickness to compliment the ridges on the pasta and also have that flavor of love that only time can do.  The creamy ricotta on top brought a luscious richness to the pasta for yet another layer of love.  It was one hell of a plate of pasta.

Confit of Half Duck from Bottega

Confit of Half Duck from Bottega

Smoked and Braised Short Ribs of Love from Bottega

Smoked and Braised Short Ribs of Love from Bottega

Fourth course came our entrees, which The Wife was served a Confit of Half Duck with Red Wine and Duck Jus and I was given Smoked and Braised Short Ribs.  Just as with all preceding courses, the best ingredient was time.  No…not thyme…but actual time.  The man hours put into each dish is extraordinary.  This is not food thrown together at the last minute.  This is food with a plan.  This is food with purpose.  I can’t stress enough the amount of work that goes in to each dish to produce such extraordinary results.  There were so many places where corners could have been cut, and labor saved…but it wasn’t.  The final product was the most important and all steps necessary were taken to ensure the dishes were delivered at the highest possible level.  I like that.

Panna Cotta, I think with Mango Purée

Panna Cotta, I think with Mango Purée

Chocolate and Hazelnut Molten Cake

Chocolate and Hazelnut Molten Cake

Dessert also continued the parade of excellent flavors, with a luscious panna cotta and chocolate and hazelnut molten cake.  Every time Chef Chiarello walked by our table, I wanted to give him a hug.  He appeared to be playing mostly a shaking hands and kissing babies role on this night.  Not a bad gig.  Walk around, allow people to tell you how wonderful you are and enjoy the empire that you built.  A goal for everyone behind the flames, I suppose.  Chef came by our table a few times, once telling me that I look like his nephew.  I feel sorry for his nephew.  Unfortunately by the time I was drunk enough from his family vineyard’s Petite Sirah to ask for a picture, he was on his way home before we could score the snap.  It doesn’t matter who people are, I always feel odd asking people to have their picture with me and usually need some liquid courage to do so.

The Wife. Ain't she pretty?

The Wife. Ain't she pretty?

The Wife and I walked back to our room, happy and satisfied.  Our dinner at Bottega could not have been a better way to celebrate 5 years of legal love.  I’d like to thank John our server, Chef Chiarello and the rest of the Bottega crew for one hell of a memorable dinner.  Remember, to put things in perspective, I’m writing this over a month and a half after the dinner of which I took no notes.  And we had champagne, a bottle and a half of wine plus dessert wine.  That’s what I call a memorable meal.  That’s what I call a great meal.

The Yountville Coffee Caboose, attached to the Napa Valley Railway Inn

The Yountville Coffee Caboose, attached to the Napa Valley Railway Inn

The next day came one of the longest drives of the trip, going from Yountville to Monterey and then down the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara, so we left early.  Before we left we were able to score a few more amazements from Yountville, one was a made to order French-Pressed take out coffee from the caboose of the Napa Valley Railway Inn, appropriately called the Yountville Coffee Caboose.  Are you kidding me?!? French-Pressed coffee to go?  Can I live here? Please?   We also picked up the best road snacks of the trip by stalking up at the O.G. Bouchon Bakery.

The O.G. Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, CA

The O.G. Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, CA

Good Pastries Served Here

Good Pastries Served Here

Yes we have a Bouchon Bakery here in Vegas, but it was a treat to be able to go to the Original Gangsta.  We loaded up on macarons, ham and cheese croissant and pain au chocolat and began our journey southward.  Driving down Highway 1 is something I’ve always wanted to do, I’m glad we did it, but I’ll never to it again.  It’s long, it’s winding and there ain’t shit other than ocean and woods.  It’s pretty.  Here’s a few photos we snapped along the way…

Ham and Cheese Croissant from Bouchon Bakery: Road Food of Champions!

Ham and Cheese Croissant from Bouchon Bakery: Road Food of Champions!

The View for about 6 Hours along CA-1

The View for about 6 Hours along CA-1

More Ocean along the California Coast

More Ocean along the California Coast

Long, Twisting, Winding....but Beautiful

Long, Twisting, Winding....but Beautiful

I’m not going to spend much time talking about Santa Barbara, as it was the least liked portion of the vacation for me.  Our hotel, Hotel Mar Monte, was nothing like the pictures online and all of the highly recommended food we had, sucked.  People love Santa Barbara, and I don’t get it.  I guess it’s nice to be able to say we’ve been there, but hindsight being 20/20, I would have picked somewhere else.

Your Place Thai Restaurant in Santa Barbara. Definitely not MY Place!

Your Place Thai Restaurant in Santa Barbara. Definitely not MY Place!

Rancid and Overcooked Pad That from Your Place in Santa Barbara

Rancid and Overcooked Pad That from Your Place in Santa Barbara

A Bland and Gloppy Sorry Excuse for Panang Curry

A Bland and Gloppy Sorry Excuse for Panang Curry

One of the most recommended spots was a Thai place called Your Place.  It made me feel sad that the good people of Santa Barbara obviously have no clue what good Thai food is supposed to taste like.  Pad Thai that tasted of rancid shrimp with overcooked noodles, Beef Satay that was clunky and flavorless and a Chicken Panang Curry that was gloppy and bland.  Terrible food.

Less than mediocre breakfast served here

Less than mediocre breakfast served here

A fairly uneventful jambalaya at Cajun Kitchen in Santa Barbara

A fairly uneventful jambalaya at Cajun Kitchen in Santa Barbara

Might as well call this Styrofoam Benedict. Awful.

Might as well call this Styrofoam Benedict. Awful.

Another highly recommended place was to do breakfast at the Cajun Kitchen.  Over-crowded and underwhelming.  It didn’t even have the allure of a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that would have Guy Fieri yammering about taking the bus to Flavor Town. Instead, the Cajun Kitchen took a Vespa to Boringville.  And yes, I’m ashamed of myself that I just typed that.

The Old Santa Barbara Mission

The Old Santa Barbara Mission

The highlight, if you can call it that, of Santa Barbara was a suggestion from the waitress at The Cajun Kitchen and that was to go to the Santa Barbara Mission.  Yes, that was the ground getting cold as The Wife and I went to church.  The Mission already had to be rebuilt from a devastating earthquake, and I figured it would be knocked down again from the mere presence of me and The Wife.   We’re not religious folk.

However, I do appreciate religious art, especially stained glass things, even if the subject matter makes me gag and/or break out into hives.  It’s nice to look at in the kind of spooky fairy tale way that it is.  Here’s some pictures from that…

Some Guy Obviously Much More Closer To Jesus Than I

Some Guy Obviously Much More Closer To Jesus Than I

Fountain at the Old Mission

Fountain at the Old Mission

When Jesus Isn't Enough, Call Upon The Good People At SAS For Your Protection Needs

When Jesus Isn't Enough, Call Upon The Good People At SAS For Your Protection Needs

Come on everybody, sing along!

Come on everybody, sing along!

Dead Religious People

Dead Religious People

After hanging with Jesus for the morning, The Wife and I retired to our hotel room to sit and drink on our balcony and enjoy the ocean.  Unfortunately what the Hotel Mar Monte doesn’t show in the pictures on the internet is the fucking high traffic road between the hotel and the beach.  This pissed me off as my main purpose for this part of the trip was to sit on a balcony and listen to the ocean.  I hate the beach.  Getting sand on my balls makes me irritable, so that’s why I wanted to stick to the balcony.  Oh well…you win some, you lose some.

Beer On The Balcony. Life can't be bad.

Beer On The Balcony. Life can't be bad.

Mississippi Mud is tasty!

Mississippi Mud is tasty!

The next day after a decent breakfast in the hotel café, Bistro 1111, we headed back to Our Little Twinkle In the Desert.  Along the way we accomplished a major life goal, and that was to visit the Calico Ghost Town.  Anyone who has driven the I-15 from Vegas to L.A. has seen the signs, but how many have actually stopped to experience the Calico Ghost Town?  I’m glad we finally did it, it was a nice and quick way to break up the drive.

Calico House Restaurant in the Calico Ghost Town

Calico House Restaurant in the Calico Ghost Town

I had no idea sarsaparilla was spelled like that.

I had no idea sarsaparilla was spelled like that.

Not The Worst Turkey Sandwich You'll Ever Have. Actually, Kinda Good

Not The Worst Turkey Sandwich You'll Ever Have. Actually, Kinda Good

Ghost Taxi

Ghost Taxi

Apparently the Calico Ghost Town is half real and half fake.  Some of the structures are are original, yet restored, from the mining town, and others are there to look original and have some kind of store to get the gold of tourists.  We got lunch at the Calico House Restaurant which is an old time looking food hall.  Waitresses in big poofy dresses, a player piano, peanut shells on the floor and the whole nine yards.  I got the Smoked Turkey sandwich which I was told the turkey was smoked on premises.  I guess I’ll believe them.  It wasn’t terrible, although obviously eating at a joint like this is more about the vibe than the chow.  I was just happy I got to order a sarsaparilla.  I felt like John Wayne.

Overall this was one hell of a trip.  From the big ass trees to my favorite city in the United States not named Las Vegas, to one of the most unforgettable meals I’ve ever had in Yountville and then down the scenic Pacific coast to Santa Barbara.  Sure, the trip sort of ended on a sour note for me, but it didn’t matter.  I got to spend an entire 8 days with the love of my life, who can ask for anything better than that?  We could be in the middle of a shit pile and find a way to be happy.  Driving through it all made me amazed at the diversity of California.  A whole bunch of rural backwoods towns, some magnificent spectacles of nature, some of the most cosmopolitan areas on Earth and one hell of a collection of chefs and a one hell of a selection of ingredients for those chefs to cook from. In total, we drove 1,559.1 miles and ate at 27 different restaurants. Good times were had in California.

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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

If not for me, vote so that the The Wife can have a better life. You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10

If not for me, vote so that the The Wife can have a better life. You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10

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

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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