Sweet Dessert Dreams...

On my last post, I commented on the cool visit to restaurant Alex and others in Las Vegas. During that trip, although I had read about it and the chef and heard much about both in various articles and from colleagues, I had yet to experience the shop and taste the treats personally. I love dessert and all things sweet. Although I oversee the entire kitchen and am really more active on any given day in the savory, I gravitate towards that that is of dessert nature. Having traveled to some great places in Europe in Paris, Milan, Venice, Zurich and even Germany, I have always been searching for that kind experience here in our own backyard... the US! When I was living in San Francisco, the closest shop that I absolutely loved was La Nouvelle Patisserie, ran and masterminded by Jean Yves Duperret. He is a master pastry chef. Well, this did it. I found another place that is heavenly sweet~ Jean Phillipe Patisserie in Las Vegas at the Bellagio Hotel on the strip.
After trying some of the cool offerings, I wanted to share this with you. Many, many people stop by there each and every day and waking moment...wait a minute, Vegas does not sleep, so that sounds off. Oh well, here are some of the shots of the place. Some of the bites that I tasted was first a trio of gelatos, freshly made and smooth; hazelnut, which was delicate and light, a coffee, nice and rich, yet again, delicate and a rich dark chocolate. Sublime! Next, we sampled a few dessert pastries...

the first, a wonderful combination of two favorites, Chocolate and Banana! It was called Chocobana...a small, round crisp sablee crust filled with caramelized banana cremeaux, topped with dark chocolate mousse, powdered cocoa dusted over top and a halo of tempered dark chocolate and filigree erupting out of the top. The flavors of chocolate and banana were great together, which the caramelization made it over the top.

The next was called Blue Mountain, again, a concoction nestled inside a crisp sablee, this time a toasted hazelnut version, filled with a a thin layer of feuillatine, then dark, rich chocolate fudge, a thin bitter chocolate slab in the center, then dark chocolate and cappuccino mousse piped over the top. It too had a dome and dusted with cocoa powder. Too much chocolate at 11pm, not even. Finishing with some various cookies and macaroons, an espresso and some nibbles on the chocolates that I purchased, albeit intended solely for my crew at the club, I was set. No wonder nobody sleeps. I highly recommend a visit to the desert to check out this adult wonka factory. Here you will experience not only the flavors and tastes of the various masterpieces in his showcase, but you will also see many things around the shop, like a fresh made-to-order crepe station, with many various fillings and toppings.
The gelato bar(although I have seen bigger, but the flavors are great). A mass array of "French Style" pastries, savory bites like panini, filled croissants and the like, cookies, boxes of artisan chocolates, candies etc, and the mammoth Chocolate waterfall! It takes over 2 tons of melted chocolate to make this thing work. It has over 500 feet of stainless piping and tubing for the flow. It took over two years to design and develop but it was worth it. Enjoy, and good night.


A Visit to Alex...

As we found ourselves in the desert, I made a point to visit my good friend and colleague; Jenifer Witte...Restaurant Alex's goddess of sweets and pastry, and partner in crime to the swank and elegant eponymous dining room's Executive Chef; Alessandro Stratta(aka...Alex). My only regret is that I did not have the opportunity to dine at this kingdom of cuisine as they had what is called a "buy-out". In layman's terms, some filthy-rich and well-off clients with either a sick expense account, or a bottomless inheritance takes the restaurant for the night for about $75k. The latter prevailed in this instance. True, I would be in my element, basking in the subtly lit, rich wooded walled "salon du cuisine", sampling and tasting my way through a crazy-good degustation, hand-crafted by Alex and Jenifer and their team of "cuisiners", but for this quick excursion, I will gladly settle for a very cool and personal tour of the kitchen, chef's table, private salons, pastry kitchen and savory, as well as the little tucked-away nooks and crannies that all cool kitchens have. Jenifer is in heaven, as am I. Just on different sides of the spectrum, and...about 30 degrees warmer in her corner! As I salivated over the Bernadaud and Christofle, the hella-cool amuse station and the plethora of nick-knacks, I soon realized that I too am spoiled. We then visited another restaurant; Corsa, which the two of them had just "inherited" to run, direct and operate, just a hop, skip and a jump from Restaurant Alex. A much more casual, Italian influenced locale made comfortable and approachable to all walks of life. On one hand; the elite, the lavish, the decadent and the extreme...on the other; the fun, the simplistic, the affordable, the money maker. Good business.
After meeting some very nice and personable chefs, she showed me the hotel's bakery operation; where all the bread is baked around the clock, 24/7 for each and every outlet. Freakin out of control! This place was amazing. No frills. No fancy Bragard clothed cooks with ten titles embroidered underneath their names. No cool micro greens or specialty ingredients and condiments. Flour, yeast, sugar, salt, butter(obviously more complex than that, but you get the message) and that was about it, along with a good handful of deck ovens, proofers, steam ovens, and walk-in baking units. A lot of table space, sheeters and dough processors or sorts filled the rest of the kitchen. What is totally awe-inspiring is that this "kid"; Boris, who barely looks old enough to drive, and his entourage of "boulangeres" crank out some 13,000 pieces each day of roughly 75-80 varieties of some of the coolest breads, rolls, epis, ficelles and crackers, pretzels and the like I have ever seen. Granted, during my trips to France and Italy or Per Se and Daniel(NYC), I have experienced some awesome bread baking, the best I've tasted, but at this level, scale and volume, the flavor and sheer organization was simply incredible. Good times.
And so, after conversing about the luxuries and idiosyncrasies of this non-stop town of decadent lifestyles, the politics and those that run them, the ludicrous amount of dollars spent on just about anything and anybody and the love of our craft, it was time to say our good-byes. As she was off to prepare "sweet endings" in the kitchen for the "soup nazis"(the Campbell Soup heirs), and I was headed to meet with the "familia" to enjoy yet another journey in Sin City. Hours later while nibbling away on fresh spun Espresso and Hazelnut Gelato, looking out over "Lake Bellagio" in the setting sun of 80-degrees in mid-fall, knowing full well that our "crib" in the homeland was being pummelled with heavy rain and 50-mph gusts worthy of capsizing the SS Minnow, one starts to think that this desert thing is looking mighty good. What if???

Three Days to Kill in Sin City...

Las Vegas~ day one found us drooling over Jean Phillipe Patsisserie with the wonderful chocolates, pastries, gelato and crepe station complete with an incredible 2-ton chocolate waterfall. As we walked and consumed the gelatos, weaving in and out of mid-western "touristas" smoking cigarettes and pissing away their money on the slots, we did some recon on the food scene. With so, so many choices, and my kids in tow, we opted for one of Todd English's swank eateries; Olives at Bellagio. I started with a special appetizer offering of Roasted Pumpkin Soup with shaved Porcini Salad, Arugula, "Crostini", (a raft afloat in the thick sea of subtle sweet Autumn Gourd Puree), Walnut Pesto and a Saba (sardinian grape must syrup) drizzle. Every chef seems to have their favorite tried and true recipe for pumpkin(or winter squash) soup. This one very fitting of the season although 80 degrees in the desert in mid October seems odd, if not completely out of sorts. The most tasty of our dishes however.
The next course was a tasty Pan Roasted Foie Gras Steak, nicely seared although a touch cool inside. Still, for me it becomes a bit like the pizza cliche..."pizza is like sex...even when it's bad, it's still pretty good!" This dish was served with a pressed "block" of Duck Confit, tender and moist topped with Pistachios, an oversized mound of Medjool Date Jam (a bit on the sweet side), toasted Sponge Cake, and Frisee tossed with a wisp of Sherry Vinegar. Next up, I opted for one of the pasta offerings; A Chestnut Ravioli, which came out more like an "agnolotti"- no worries. Call it whatever so long as it tastes good. It was indeed tasty, yet with two richly constructed dishes prior, this was a bit much. I like to eat, and still, a bit much. My bad! This is why I favor the tasting menus- to get the flavor and "flava" of the dish and the chef, without the monster portions, creating an inability to consume the whole, rather just a few sums of their parts. Unless I am having one or maybe two dishes, it seems wasteful (hence my 10-year old's $46.00 12-ounce Rib Eye. Yea right... like he was going to finish that one!) Flavorful mind you and with Truffled Frites! My better half ordered a flavorful Flatbread (that's pizza "nouveau" to someone perhaps from some far away town not keeping up with the Jones' or one that has just crawled out from under a rock) with Roasted Portobello Mushrooms, a smooth Mushroom Puree, Red Onions, Fontina and White Truffle Oil. Very aromatic, savory and totally English(Mr.) The crust quite thin and crisp, as it should be. We all shared a couple dessert bites. A typical and mainstream offering of "Molten Chocolate Souffle Cake", with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream( I guess we are in somewhat of a pedestrian market) and a plate of warm Cookies, Biscottis, Macaroons, Bars and a Red Velvet Cupcake. Fun Times! A smooth cappuccino later and we were set to go. The lasting thought to this tasty gathering, sporting a moderately hefty price tag was that Seattle diners have no clue as to what steep pricing is(or at least do not seem to). We'll see where the next journey takes us.


17 Courses in 8 Hours...

So it became...a gustatory feast for two separate groups, totalling a motley crue of foodies of 16 in attendance! They were foodies all right, every last one of them. In the first group, there were folks that were very "intoxicated" with the shear thought of good food, some that just oohed and aah'd, and the group as a whole, who's only request was "that they wanted to spend the day in France"! The next group, was out for a full-on experience as well. A couple of them had just been to Ducasse and came away with not the excitement they should have. Kind of like getting a date with a hot girl, and only walking away with a kiss. Great, but not what you were hoping for. It is this kind of pressure and challenge we love. To give good food and good times. The others, in celebration of a special birthday, who could have gone anywhere, chose my pad at the chef's table. Here is what we laid out. Some of the bites look similar, yet yielded a new spectrum of flavors and tastes. After all, we did not want to be repetitive, not because it was not the same people, but because it was the same kitchen. The only bummer was no photos:(

Like an awesome guitar solo, here are the chords in this lick...

Warm Truffled Sunchoke "Cappuccino"
gingerbread brioche
Maine Lobster Salad
beets, oranges, avocado, tomato ice, yuzu-blood orange vinaigrette
Warm Matsutake Mushroom Composure
confit of silver salmon belly, potato-horseradish foam, micro kohlrabi
Pan Roasted Diver Sea Scallop & H.V. Foie Gras
delicata squash "silk", black mission figs, hazelnuts, saba drizzle and fleur de sel
Grilled Hawaiian Ahi Tuna
organic mustard greens, roasted porcini, fregola sarda, carrot "etouffee", truffle oil
Black Plum Salad
micro black radish, lychee sorbet
Coffee Crusted Oregon Lamb Loin
chanterelles, heirloom tomato fondue, parsnip milk, syrah jus
Merlot Braised Veal Cheeks
anson mills white grits, harvest onions, sweet onion mustard cuisson
Valrhona Manjari, Fig Salad, Maple-Pecan Ice Cream
Pistachio Gelato Milkshake, White Chocolate "Semi Freddo", Linzer Wafer
Callebaut Creme Brulee, Nectarines and Olive Oil Gelato
one hour intermission
Maine Lobster "en Chemise"
mango, avocado, american sturgeon caviar, yuzu-rose champagne sabayon
Broiled Mediterranean Sardines
fennel-olive-preserved lemon composure, duck prosciutto, blood orange olive oil
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
truffled apricot conserve, warmed fig compote, hazelnuts, brioche, gingerbread dust
30 year-old balsamic condiment
Fennel Dusted Hawaiian Ahi Tuna
pan roasted quail breast, matsutake mushrooms a'la plancha, fregola sarda, truffle oil
Poached Black Plums
Watermelon-Last of the Season Tomato Granite
Spice Crusted Loin of Lamb
puree of delicata squash, chanterelles, baby carrot "etouffee", "big island" hearts of palm
parsnip foam and jus d'agneau
Dark Chocolate "Pave", Fig Jam, Espresso Sorbet
Pistachio Gelato Milkshake, Caramelized Citrus, Chocolate Brulee
Applesauce Crumb Cake, Liberty Apples, Autumn Spice Ice Cream
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bites, Blackberry Pates de Fruits, Pecan-Demerrara Macaroons
Warm Citrus Zeppole