10.21.2007

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???

2 Comments:

Anonymous Theresa said...

Hey Chef,
I'm glad you had a great time in Vegas. Vacation before the holiday whirlwind? I knew you had a sweet tooth, but I didn't know you were a sugar junky. LOL!Who Knew!?!
See you soon.
T =)

11:03:00 PM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

I keep it to myself sometimes so I don't have to share! Ha ha. Have a great holiday season.

10:38:00 PM  

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