My goal: Eat everything in California!

My goal: Eat everything in California!

What’s good everyone? I recently traveled back California to enjoy more of its beautiful scenery, the wine, and most of all, the FOOD! Plus I wanted to be able to brag that I drove the entire length of the State and visited every county, lol. My last visit here we covered 1230 miles from San Francisco Z&Yto San Diego visiting different cities over a 2 week period (read about it HERE). This time we are heading to see what Northern California has to offer. We will drive from SF to Crescent City, which is the northernmost city in the state. We only have 8 days this time, so our plan was to drive north first and then work our way down to wine country and celebrate my birthday weekend in the Napa/Sonoma area. We were lucky enough to have escaped a NYC heat wave that began the day of our flight (awesomeness).  The one unfortunate thing is that California is currently experiencing a bad drought and there are many wildfires raging all over the state. During our entire drive we could smell the smoke, and at first we thought there were campfires burning, but we actually smelled were forest fires, and we also encountered quite a few river beds drying out (Sorry Cali, I’m sure you will bounce back). This visit to California had a different vibe, it was more relaxed and outdoorsy, but as always I craved another great culinary experience.

From left to right: Crispy Prawns, Spicy dumplings, House cold noodles, Frog in flaming chili

Z & Y restaurant from left to right: Crispy Prawns, Spicy dumplings, House cold noodles, Frog in flaming chili

We arrived in San Francisco around noon and decided to start the trip with good lunch after the long flight. The last time I traveled to SF I did not have the opportunity to actually walk around and explore the entire Chinatown district and since we were only to spend one night in this area, we are off to find Chinese food! I was tired of eating Chinese fast food and wanted some authentic tasting food. After wandering around we came across a long line of folks waiting in front of this small restaurant and we decided to investigate. The name of the place was Z & Y restaurant at 655 Jackson St, and after a quick Google search I learned that it was rated one of the best Szechuan eateries in the city. After about a half an hour wait we were seated in this small and very busy restaurant. Most of the dishes on the menu are spicy, so if you hate this type of food steer clear of this place; but if you can tolerate a decent amount of spice, this place is for you. The menu had some other interesting things on it such as: “Numbing” beef tenders, spicy intestines (type of animal not described) and fresh frog dishes. We decided to order a few things: spicy fried prawns with jalapeno, dumplings in spicy chili sauce, house cold noodles (also spicy), and since I was feeling a bit adventurous (not unknown intestine adventurous) I ordered the frog in flaming chili oil. The food was amazing! The use of the different types of peppers was well executed, and the food was not overly spicy like one would think. I was actually able to enjoy the food without screaming for water all night and each plate had a different type of spicy flavor and all of it was very delicious. I have cooked and eaten frog legs many times in the past, though only fried. I could tell from the first spoonful that this frog was freshly harvested and it was obvious that more than just the frog legs were used in this bowl, it seemed most of frog was used…. (yikes) hey waiter, I think I’ll have another beer now!

11221910_10204904000784600_1861530769746035467_o

Avenue Of The Giants


IMG_0385

Dramatic Road Trip!

DSCN5296We drove about 30 minutes north of SF to stay in San Rafael for the evening in a motel right off highway 101, so we could have a little bit of a head start on the long drive the next day. The hotel clerk recommended we walk down to San Rafael harbor to Pier 15 restaurant for dinner. We did not have high expectations of this place but the drinks were good, bartender was cool, the food decent, except the “prawn quesadilla” that seemed to have been prepared with the tiniest shrimp I have ever seen.  The next morning we began our drive toward Trinity CA, which was about 6 hours north of our location and along the way we planned on driving through the “Avenue Of The Giants”  which would set us back another hour, but who cares? This road is a 31 mile stretch that used to be the old highway 101 and takes you through Humbolt Redwoods State Park with its winding roads and huge old-growth redwood trees. Upon entering the park we stopped at a small tourist spot for lunch called the Chimney Tree Grill that is situated beside a unique 1,500-year old hollow, living redwood tree. We had a couple of grass-fed beef burgers, and got attacked by a swarm of bees (they didn’t like us city folk I guess) so we moved on. We arrived in Trinidad late afternoon, and immediately got excited when we arrived at the beach home that we booked through the budget-friendly website AirBNB. We had a fishing trip planned 6:15 the next morning so I threw some coffee-crusted beef rib-eyes on the grill for dinner and we hit the sack early.

The entire town of Trinidad CA

The small fishing village, Trinidad CA

trinidad fishing

From ocean to table in 1 hour!

The next morning at 5:30am the dock was deserted and the eerie combination of forest fire smoke and fog settled over the bay giving it an almost creepy horror movie-like feel (not that I was scared lol). Our boat from Patrick point Charters arrived at 6 am and we were off to fish for salmon and rockfish in the rough Pacific Ocean waters. 11911507_10204902228820302_424345293_nThis trip was among one of the best fishing trips I have ever taken! Although it was cold, rainy, and the boat felt like it would flip over on the rough waters, but the fishing was great. Emily was miserable with the weather and conditions, but also sort of happy with the fish jumping on the boat left and right like a cartoon. No one bagged any king salmon but we all hit the limit for blue & black rock fish (10 each=20 for us!) and one sea trout within 90 minutes of a 5 hour fishing trip; and we continued to fish for another hour, perhaps throwing another-35-40 fish back in the water. It was a good thing that we had a full kitchen and a grill where we were staying, plus I was excited about cooking. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out on the beach, hiking the Trinidad Head trail, cooking and eating fresh fish, then exploring this small fishing village. The next morning we continued our trek to the top of the state stopping in the Redwoods National Forest for a national park passport stamp and some photos, then driving another 90 minutes to Crescent City and the Jedediah State Park which is the home to the most beautiful of the old growth redwoods parks.The plan was to hike the Boy Scout Trail and the most popular trail, Stout Grove. But a local hiker gave us some secret directions to what is known as “Grove Of Titans” which is a less traveled grove in the park that is home to ten of the world’s largest trees. I could not believe the size of these trees, it made me feel small as an ant and it was so quiet and peaceful. We hiked most of the day, drank wine, and ate sandwiches in the middle of the forest then headed to Crescent City which is only 20 miles from the Oregon border for some sightseeing, before heading back to Trinidad.

PicMonkey Collage1

Pegs

Peg House BBQ Oysters

The next morning we purchase some smoked white sturgeon, albacore, local king salmon, and halibut from a cool place in Trinidad called Katy’s Smokehouse. We wanted a breakfast sandwich for the ride and stopped at the Beachcomber Cafe, where we ordered our food and drink to go, only to find out after the food arrived that they don’t have plastic cups because they are “green”. So after getting some bad attitude from the heavily tattooed gal at the register (like we, as tourist should have known they did not have cups) we skipped the coffee, drank our apple juice on site, and were given our sandwiches on egg cartons as to-go plates (nice touch). It was time to embark on the next leg of this trip which is the 5 hour journey down south to wine country. California is a really beautiful state with so many different types of environments, from the awesome sunny beaches in the south, to the dramatic coastal rocky cliffs and cooler weather in the north. I mean, in Trinidad we had to wear jackets in the morning in mid-August because of the 45-50 degree temperatures, with daytime highs of only 70 degrees. But as we drove more inland and further south the temps began to warm up enough to shed our sweaters. We passed through the “small” town of Legget, and by small, I mean The town has a single gas station, K-12 school, a small grocery store, restaurant, full service mechanic, fire station and the famous Drive-Thru Tree (which we opted not to do for a $6 fee). For lunch we came across this great roadside outdoor restaurant called “The Peg House” that featured an amazing blackberry sundae and some huge and delicious BBQ oysters.

IMG_0630

Our hosts Lori & Avram were awesome!

Vineyard only 25 yards from our cabana

Vineyard only 25 yards from our cabana

We arrived in the Sonoma area early afternoon and boy was it hot here (90 degrees), so we headed towards another place I booked through AirBNB. This was listed as a poolside cabana located on a private vineyard and owned by married couple Lori & Avram; She is an artist and teacher, he is into real estate and is a local winemaker. These were two of the best host we have ever met and their property was amazing! They have a nice sized vineyard on the property along with two private poolside cabanas, picnic tables under a walnut tree and a magnolia tree, a hammock among the growing grapes, different types fruit trees all over, and the heated pool… my goodness, that pool. We were greeted by Lori with a bottle of their wine “Tres Hijas”, and since I still had tons of fish packed on ice, I gave her some because she told me she loved cooking and was also a foodie; she was also nice enough to refrigerate the rest for me. She surprised us each morning with homemade pastries, coffee, and fresh fruit picked from the property each day, great people!

Chef Timothy Mosblech at Farmstead

Chef Timothy Mosblech at Farmstead

The road trip for the day wasn’t over, because we had dinner reservations in St. Helena which was another 1 hour drive north (sheesh, I’m tired already). The restaurant of the evening was Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which is one of Napa Valley’s best farm to table restaurants. Also we have never done the “Chef’s Table” at a restaurant so this would be interesting. What made this night more exciting was that we were the only couple to book this service for the evening, so it ended up being personal chef experience for two! Estate Chef Timothy Mosblech greeted us with a couple of glasses of wine and took us on a walking tour of the grounds and garden, while giving us an extensive history of the ranch. He then escorted us to a private dining house that was not attached to the main restaurant. Here, we watched the chef cook us a killer four course meal with perfect wine pairings, he actually ran outside a couple of times to grab our veggies right from the garden. We also were given two menus with our names printed on them after dinner, what an unforgettable experience! Click Images below to enlarge:

11907986_10204929725987714_584069635_n

Chilled cucumber gazpacho w/ olive oil poached egg, tomato and garden herbs

Chilled cucumber gazpacho w/ olive oil poached egg, tomato and garden herbs

Wild Pacific king salmon, sweet corn puree, braised cabbage & pistou

Wild Pacific king salmon, sweet corn puree, braised cabbage & pistou

Left: LMR grass-fed beef tenderloin, toasted farro, brocollini de cicco, salsa verde Right: Red wine braised seascape strawberries, crushed almonds, tarragon, and spiced cream

Left: LMR grass-fed beef tenderloin, toasted farro, brocollini de cicco, salsa verde
Right: Red wine braised seascape strawberries, crushed almonds, tarragon, and spiced cream

Black Bear Diner Chicken-fried steak

Black Bear Diner Chicken-fried steak

After a busy day of eating and driving we got some well needed rest and I woke up on my birthday feeling refreshed, so I took a couple of laps in the pool and we decided to head to breakfast at the Black Bear Diner. They served up some decent food in large portions, which was fine with me since we had no problem with skipping lunch because we had big dinner plans that evening and I wanted to be very hungry for it. I had the chicken fried steak, egg, hash browns, and two of the biggest biscuits I’ve ever eaten! Since we are on vacation, and we have a full bellies, plus it’s my birthday it gave us an excuse to drink alcohol at 10 in the morning, so off to the wineries we go. Our plans for my birthday was to do two winery tours, and have dinner at the 3 Michelin star Restaurant at Meadowood. We visited Ravenswood winery first, since I come from a neighborhood that shares the same name (not the winery part though lol). We then wandered around downtown Sonoma sightseeing, toured Beringer’s cool wine caves, and then prepared for dinner.

meadow6

I received many birthday wishes from the Meadowood staff.

Grilled lamb with marigold plum

Grilled lamb with marigold plum

Now this was the dinner we were excited about! We tried to book reservations for the Chef Thomas Keller’s “French Laundry” 2 months in advance and were unable to, and a friend of mine recommended The Restaurant At Meadowood in the heart of wine country. We arrived to a very large full parking lot and parked quite distance from the restaurant, so when the valet asked me for the key and I refused telling him we are deep in the lot and we will get it ourselves, but he insisted without even seeing where we parked (ok, that was a little weird). The decor of this place gave you a fresh outdoor dining feel and it had a really friendly and accommodating staff.

Restaurant At Meadowood

Restaurant At Meadowood

The meal itself was a 15 course tasting menu of farm to table fare that was very well executed, but I did have a couple of problems. Like Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, it was billed as a 3 hour experience and this dinner was barely 2 hours which seemed a little rushed for 15 courses and it went by really fast. This particular tasting menu was vegetarian-heavy and you won’t know the menu until you actually sit down at the place. The 15 course tasting menu items consisted of 7 vegan, 3 proteins, 4 desserts, and 1 tea (seriously, 4 desserts?), and I enjoyed everything except the potato cooked in tendon w/ trout roe and dill which was under cooked and gummy tasting and the grilled date dessert was not that good. The highlights of the night were the borage oyster leaf mignonette, poached halibut, and grilled lamb tenderloin with marigold plum. I’m not trashing the restaurant because the staff put forth a great effort to make my B-Day special and the chefs are very talented, but a few things just could have been better. After dinner I was invited into the kitchen and everyone working in the kitchen gave me a huge birthday shout, and we were given two customized menus. Upon leaving,  would you believe that the valet found our car buried deep in the  parking lot and had it waiting for us in front? (Big Brother? smh). Click pics below to enlarge:

left to right: tempura fried zucchini blossoms, cherry tomato dashi, and borage oyster leaf mignonette

left to right: tempura fried zucchini blossoms, cherry tomato dashi, and borage oyster leaf mignonette

left to right: geoduck clam nastrurtium, abalone & eggplant, and cucumber with coastal grasses

left to right: geoduck clam nastrurtium, abalone & eggplant, and cucumber with coastal grasses

left to right: potato cooked in tendon w/ trout roe and dill, poached halibut squash and herbs, and duck tea chrysanthemum

left to right: potato cooked in tendon w/ trout roe and dill, poached halibut squash and herbs, and duck tea chrysanthemum

left to right: grilled date with walnut oil, strawberries fromage, brillat sunflower

left to right: grilled date with walnut oil, strawberries fromage, brillat sunflower

The garden, candied, Chocolate babka

The garden, candied, Chocolate babka

The next day which was our last full day in California, so we slept late kicked back at the pool the rest of the morning. we had lunch plans with some friends. We met our pals Sal and Delores via Facebook years ago and finally got to meet them in person. We met for lunch in Napa at a Italian restaurant very popular with the locals, Bistro Don Giovanni. Sal is is originally from my area in Queens NY and moved to the west coast in 1981 and he loves good food and wine just like me, so I trusted his judgement and expertise.The restaurant was bustling with people and it had a nice modern decor with an open kitchen, and the food was great. The brand new friendships and great conversation, in addition to the great food created nothing short of an awesome experience.The tasty chicken fra diavolo, fresh ravioli, steak frites, and the expresso crème brûlée were the highlights of the afternoon, and we all left happy.  Later that night we had dinner at a wonderful restaurant that Lori our host recommended called Olive & Vine.Sal and I

 Don Giovanni Clockwise: Carpaccio, chicken fra diavolo, Ravioli, and Birthday deserts at Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni Clockwise: Carpaccio, chicken fra diavolo, Ravioli, and Birthday deserts at Don Giovanni

Chef Catherine owner of Olive & Vine

Chef Catherine owner of Olive & Vine

The Olive & Vine restaurant in Glen Ellen CA is co-owned by Chef Catherine Venturini and Sommelier John Burdick. It is a very busy place and lucky for us Lori was friends with the owner, and she called and got us a short notice reservation. We were not disappointed at all, the food was wonderful and John recommended some very good wine for our meal and Chef Catherine came to the table to wish me a happy birthday, and she also frequently made her way around the restaurant to check on the guest, and then jumping back on the line to help get food out, an amazing woman.

Olive & Vine Niman Ranch Pork Chop

Olive & Vine Niman Ranch Pork Chop

The highlights of this meal were the black cod & bok choy dumplings in lemongrass, kaffir lime broth w/ chili infused oils & sweet pea shoots, also Emily really praised the mustard grilled Niman Ranch pork chop. Our last dinner in California turned out to be one of the best! We spent our last evening by the pool watching Netflix on my laptop and drinking wine made by our hosts.

Our flight the next day was in the late afternoon and we were in no rush to take the 1 hour 15 minute drive to the San Francisco airport. One of our friends from back east suggested we visit the Fremont Diner for brunch. The place was old school and very country-like in decor, and we chose to be seated outside with some great mimosas served in mason jars. I went with the classic spicy chicken and waffles and emily decided to have something called the “Hangtown Fry” which was scrambled eggs, fried oysters, arugula, & potatoes w/remoulade & bacon (sounds horrible lol). While I loved my perfectly cooked food, Emily was quite disappointed with her breakfast. It looked great and I told her the reason may be that she is not an “oysters in the morning” type of person, In my opinion having oysters with eggs really made it a weird breakfast.

Chicken & Waffles at the Fremont Diner

Chicken & Waffles at the Fremont Diner

The trip did not end without a little drama, as we were packing our luggage for the drive to SF, I noticed our brand new camera was missing. After a few phone calls I found that I left it at Beringer winery 2 days ago which is a 1 hour drive north (flight was now in jeopardy). We live in a world where we take most of our pictures with cell phones, and I never even noticed it was missing (or could it have been I had too much wine? wow). This trip ended the same way the last Cali trip ended, a mad dash through the airport to the boarding gate and this time we had a little bit of luck on our side. Our flight was delayed by 15 minutes because of a technical issue and we still were the last to board which means we would have missed the flight, phew! I want to say thank you to all our friends and the chefs that made this an awesome foodie road trip and big thanks to everyone for taking the time to read this blog and take another road trip with me; who knows where we will end up next, stay tuned… #letsride

Goodbye California, Cheers!

Goodbye California, Cheers!



 

Summertime in NYC is here! I want to bring seafood back to my blog during the season. I love risotto and I love paella, so why not combine the two? Ok seriously, I could not find Spanish short grain rice (Bomba Paella Rice) so I used the next best thing, Risotto. I also did not have a paella pan handy (I recommend one), so I used my 16 inch cast iron pan to get the job done. Enjoy!
Ingredients:

6 chicken thighs (3 drumsticks & 3 thighs are also suitable)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1 large onion, small dice
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
4 cups Aborrio rice
7 cups water, warm
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed well
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed, debearded, and rinsed well
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
3 lobster tails, split in half
1/2 cup sweet peas
salt and pepper, to taste
bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Lemon wedges

Directions:
Heat oil in a pan over high heat. Brown the chorizo, remove and put aside. Season chicken with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, paprika, and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and reserve.
In the same pan, saute the onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes and the flavors blend together. Then add the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in the the warm water and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring, so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken, chorizo, and saffron then simmer for 2-3 minutes. Then add the clams, mussels, and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. Give the paella a stir and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is cooked, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, tuck the lobster tails into the rice and add the peas. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, raise the heat until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom (the toasted rice is called “socarrat”) , then remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes and serve garnished with lemon wedges and parsley leaves. Bon Appetit!

 

11422690_10204523110222574_664402655_n


Lobster poached in sous vide bag

Lobster poached in sous vide bag

With this recipe I poached the lobster in a sous vide bath. If you don’t have a sous vide device, you can simply just steam or boil your lobster with a bit of lemon juice and skip the first step. Sous Vide is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times. I will cover the sous vide method of cooking in a later post and believe me, you will want one. In this case, I poached the lobster in butter, chili, and herbs prior to adding it to the pasta sauce. This was a yummy way to prepare lobster because in the sous vide it cooked perfectly. No more rubbery lobster, Yay! Enjoy.

For the lobster (sous vide):

4-5 frozen lobster tails thawed and removed from shells (reserve the shells)
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs chili paste
1-2 sprigs thyme
1-2 sprigs parsley
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tsp salt

For the sauce:

the reserved lobster shells
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Lb linguini or pasta of your choice
4-5 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh parsley sprigs
salt & white pepper to taste

Directions:

Set up a sous vide bath at 140 degrees. Remove the lobster meat from the tails and put the shells to the side for later. Place the butter, chili paste, garlic, and herbs into a sous vide bag. Season the lobster with a little salt and add to the bag and vacuum seal it. When your water is up to temperature, add your bag to it and allow it to cook for 30 minutes. (If you are using steamed or boiled lobster skip this step)

While that’s going heat the oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Add reserved lobster shells and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in the tomato paste for a few minutes. Add your tomatoes, wine, vinegar, garlic, thyme, and parsley. Add cream and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer just until lobster flavor infuses cream, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Strain sauce into large bowl with cheesecloth or a metal strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the liquid to another saucepan on low flame. Cook your pasta per directions on the box. Cut up the lobster tails into small chunks and add it to the sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Drain your pasta and return it to the pot and add the sauce and toss until completely covered in sauce and serve immediately. Bon Appetit!

Lobster Pasta

Lobster Pasta


Having fun with shrimp at Madison Square Garden

Having fun with shrimp at Madison Square Garden

10704162_10202794223961498_3608841624086900213_nHey everyone! I am back from a long hiatus and ready to start blogging regularly again. Some very positive things have happened in my life since last fall. First, I started my own catering company, Gourmet Deconstructed Catering & Personal Chef Services. I also have a new Facebook page which I would love for you to please visit and “like” http://www.facebook.com/gourmetdeconstructed Secondly, I landed a great job! Starting last fall I have been a Sous Chef at Madison Square Garden working and learning the business from Chef Rudy. We spent the season preparing food for the elite season ticket holders and VIP celebrity guest during all 2014/2015 NY Knicks & NY Rangers home games. Our chef team had tons of fun and a great season at The Garden (big shout-out to my colleagues!).  I had the honor of cooking for other events such as Eric Clapton concert, Taylor Swifts birthday party, NCAA basketball games, the 2015 NBA All-Star game where we got to meet Carmelo Anthony. Currently we are cooking for the 2015 NHL playoffs in which the NY Rangers are playing in the eastern conference finals. We cook a delicious assortment of regional and global cuisine by world-famous chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Chef team with Carmelo Anthony at 2015 NBA All-Star Gam

Chef team with Carmelo Anthony at 2015 NBA All-Star Gam

I gained so much culinary knowledge over the course of this long season and I look to apply it to some big future plans (I’ll fill you in later). Needless to say I have been a very busy chef this past Fall/Winter season. Last month my girlfriend Emily and I found time to take a trip to Las Vegas for a week. We are not gamblers, so finding other activities to do would be key to having fun. We decided that visiting some of area’s best eateries and taking a 2 day road trip to the Grand Canyon would be money well spent; far better than gambling it away. We are very much foodies, not extreme eaters that would eat a quadruple decker burger at the Heart Attack Grill; but more of the type that seek out a variety of unique and palate pleasing flavors. We also love taking road trips! I even chronicled one of our many adventures here-> My Great West Coast Road Trip, where we drove and ate our way down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego.

Ahi Tacos at Trump International

Ahi Tacos at Trump International

We arrived at Trump International and immediately hit the pool area for lunch. We had some good cocktails and some really great Ahi tuna tacos while poolside. It got a little late and we were very tired from traveling and planned to order room service that evening and begin our fun activities the next day, but why would we do that? We are in Vegas baby! Some people gamble until they are broke (literally), some party and drink until they die (not literally), but what we love to do is eat great food and a have drink or three. Anyway, I knew it would be a little rough getting dinner reservations at a decent restaurant last-minute, but I lucked out and secured a table at “The Top Of The World” restaurant located 107 stories atop of the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino. Having dinner more than 800 feet up, overlooking Vegas at night sounded cool to me! What’s even cooler is that this restaurant spins a full 360 degrees over the course of 80 minutes which allows the diner to enjoy the entire bright Las Vegas skyline from above during dinner. This place even has amusement rides on the roof! So it’s not unusual to see a bungee jumper drop by during your meal. Dinner here was splendid with the highlights being; Australian Wagyu Filet Carpaccio w/Parmesan Reggiano, white truffle oil, and garnished with potato gaufrettes, and the 60 Day Aged 22oz. Bone-In Kansas City Strip w/Maitre D’ Butter with a slice of Fois Gras on top.

Top of The World Restaurant

Top of The World Restaurant

It was a fun place that I would like visit again, and this time, catch the sunset.  What an awesome culinary intro to this trip! The next morning we had breakfast at a Vegas mainstay, the Peppermill Restaurant. This place has been on the strip over 40 years and I was told it’s where the locals eat. When you walk in you wonder to yourself, “Is it a strip club or a IHOP on psychedelics? ” with its 70’s decor. The Peppermill has a great atmosphere, decent food, and good drinks. We had a huge breakfast and rolled out happy.

Peppermill Restaurant

Peppermill Restaurant

Machine gun fun!

Machine gun fun!

We spent the day touring Red Rock Canyon where there was a ton of rock climbers (Emily loved this), and finished the day shooting machine guns at a firing range (Emily hated this). It was time to get back to the hotel and prepare ourselves for the ultimate dining experience: The world famous Joël Robuchon Restaurant! The first and only 3 star Michelin Guide winner in Las Vegas, and his only restaurant in the United States. To make this night even better, Emily got a phone call earlier in the day to inform her that she got the new job she interviewed for before we left NYC; so it turns out that this was a celebration dinner! Before I talk about our meal, let me say that we enjoy a wide range of different types of cuisine like street food, cultural dishes, wild game, and fine dining. The best fine dining experience I have had up until this point has been the French Restaurant “Bouchards” in Newport, RI.,  so I tend to measure up all restaurants to this place. We decided to do the 16 course Menu Degustation with the wine pairing. This was out of our budget, but it’s not often we get to eat at a 3 Star Michelin restaurant either. Let me just say that Joël Robuchon’s delivered a food experience like none other! From the small intimate dining room (we were seated next to the fireplace), and dramatic butter service, to the insane dessert cart. The service was top-notch and the wine pairings on point. This meal was more of a culinary adventure than just some expensive dinner, I mean I actually ate two dishes that had shaved gold leaf on top. Joël Robuchon’s has catapulted to number one in my book (sorry Bouchard). After dinner we were given 2 customized menus with our names on them and a splendid lemon pound cake gift wrapped. If you are ever in Vegas and have a few bucks to burn on food (ok, a lot of bucks), I highly recommend this place. Two Thumbs Up! Pictured below is each course with a description (click on pic to enlarge):

Appetizer: Oscetra caviar served atop of king crab and a crustacean gelée

Appetizer: Oscetra caviar served atop of king crab and a crustacean gelée

First Service From top left clockwise: Main lobster in a thinly sliced turnip with sweet and sour dressing; Carpaccio of foie gras and potatoes covered with black truffle shavings; and White asparagus frivolity with essentials oils and Osetra Caviar

First Service From top left clockwise: Main lobster in a thinly sliced turnip with sweet and sour dressing; Carpaccio of foie gras and potatoes covered with black truffle shavings; and White asparagus frivolity with essentials oils and Osetra Caviar

2nd service clockwise from top left: Morel mushroom royale on delicate foie gras mousse with vin jaune and asparagus: Egg yolk and herb ravioli with spinach sprouts and fresh ricotta; Frog leg fritters with garlic purée and parsley coulis

2nd service clockwise from top left: Morel mushroom royale on delicate foie gras mousse with vin jaune and asparagus: Egg yolk and herb ravioli with spinach sprouts and fresh ricotta; Frog leg fritters with garlic purée and parsley coulis

3rd service clockwise fom top left :Seared diver sea scallop served with kumquat and caviar and gold shavings; Truffled langoustine ravioli with simmered green cabbage; La Soupe folichonne Medley of aromatic herbs in an exotic broth

3rd service clockwise fom top left :Seared diver sea scallop served with kumquat and caviar and gold shavings; Truffled langoustine ravioli with simmered green cabbage; La Soupe folichonne Medley of aromatic herbs in an exotic broth

4th service from top clockwise: Caramelized black cod in a Malabar black pepper sauce with pak choy; Spiny lobster grilled with a green curry jus and fresh coriander; Sea urchin atop a purée of fennel and potato with citrus jus

4th service from top clockwise: Caramelized black cod in a Malabar black pepper sauce with pak choy; Spiny lobster grilled with a green curry jus and fresh coriander; Sea urchin atop a purée of fennel and potato with citrus jus

5th service: Le Plat “Tradition

5th service: Le Plat “Tradition” Farm Chicken and foie gras with Château Chalon, porcini and asparagus simmered in a cocotte

Les Desserts:from left  Campari infused grapefruit sorbet, kaffir lime leaf cream; Mango with a fleur de sel caramel mousse, exotic coulis and a crunchy perroquet tuile;Passion fruit and banana mousse, Martinique rum granite with coconut foam

Les Desserts:from left Campari infused grapefruit sorbet, kaffir lime leaf cream; Mango with a fleur de sel caramel mousse, exotic coulis and a crunchy perroquet tuile;Passion fruit and banana mousse, Martinique rum granite with coconut foam

Chocolate and cherry griottine «Black Forest»

Chocolate and cherry griottine «Black Forest»

Fun at the Bourbon Room

Fun at the Bourbon Room

The next day, one would assume that we would be still on a food overload, but the show must go on! The next morning we decided to dine at “Hash House A Go Go” for breakfast, since I’ve heard so much about it. The food was great, and the portions were insane! I ordered sage fried chicken & waffles with crispy leeks and was served up 2 HUGE pieces of what I think added up to a half of bird. Emily had an enormous chorizo breakfast quesadilla with a spicy chipotle sauce, which is totally acceptable morning fare in Las Vegas.

Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles at Hash House A Go Go

Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles at Hash House A Go Go

We spent the day shopping, touring Fremont street, and blah blah blah…Back to the food! We had another great dinner planned, this time at American chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller’s restaurant. He owns “Bouchon“, which is a French Bistro located on the 10th floor in the Venetian Hotel and Casino. He is also a chef that has a total of 7 Michelin awards for his restaurants in California and New York. But before dinner, it was time for some drinking! We decided to go to a club in the Venetian since we were dining there, and we found this little hotspot called The Bourbon Room, where we had some good drinks, listened to music and took pictures. We made our way to the restaurant and once again Las Vegas has hit high culinary notes at this great bistro with affordable prices compared to his other restaurants (Per Se in NYC, and French Laundry in Yountville, CA). Every dish was presented very well and the flavors were out of this world! The highlights of the night were the country-style Pork pâté w/ watercress, cornichons, radishes & Dijon mustard; sautéed Idaho rainbow trout, haricots verts, toasted almonds & beurre noisette; and a duck/fois gras dish with a yummy cherry sauce, which was the evenings special. With another successful dinner in the books it was time to prepare for the next couple of days at Grand Canyon National Park. It’s road trip time! Bouchon Bistro pics Below (click on pic to enlarge):

Watercress-endive salad, Roquefort  & walnuts with walnut vinaigrette

Watercress-endive salad, Roquefort
& walnuts with walnut vinaigrette

Escargots à la Bourguignonne Burgundy snails, parsley-garlic butter & Bouchon Bakery puff pastry

Escargots à la Bourguignonne
Burgundy snails, parsley-garlic butter
& Bouchon Bakery puff pastry

Roasted bone marrow with garlic,  parsley, shallots & sherry vinegar

Roasted bone marrow with garlic,
parsley, shallots & sherry vinegar

Country-style Pork pâté w/ watercress, cornichons, radishes & Dijon mustard

Country-style Pork pâté w/ watercress, cornichons, radishes & Dijon mustard

Duck& fois gras dish with a cherry sauce

Duck & fois gras dish with cherry sauce

Sautéed Idaho rainbow trout, haricots verts, toasted almonds & beurre noisette

Sautéed Idaho rainbow trout, haricots verts, toasted almonds & beurre noisette

DSCN4746

With about a 300 mile trip ahead of us we got an early start since road trips never come without stops. On the way out of Vegas we stopped at the Hoover Dam for some photo ops and to marvel at this man-made wonder. We also made a stop at Guss’s Fresh Jerky where we purchased some delicious elk and venison treats, and then had a hot dog lunch at a gas station off Interstate 40. We arrived late afternoon at The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, AZ, one mile outside the park we just missed some snow the night before and it was rainy & freezing outside. So we decided to have dinner at the restaurant in our hotel, The Canyon Star Steakhouse. Before I talk about this place let me say that we did not go to the Grand Canyon expecting to find fancy 5 star restaurants, we just wanted good food. Now for the ugly…This restaurant did not deliver and we never made it past the appetizer. I don’t make it a habit of bashing restaurants on my blog (I reserve that for Yelp), but the rude staff with bad attitudes and horrible appetizer which was supposed to be simple tortilla and queso sent us scrambling across the street to Wendy’s (it was after-hours and too late to look for another restaurant). After three inquiries and 40 minutes it arrived and looked like, I guess, Velveeta microwaved congeal with pieces of ground beef suspended in it. I refuse to post a picture of it because I fear my readers will get sick and revolt and not visit my blog again (joking), shame on the chef that sent that dish out! Grand Canyon dining is certainly not off to a good start.

 Roasted Half Duck With sundried cherry merlot sauce served with roasted poblano black bean rice and seasonal vegetables

Roasted Half Duck
With sundried cherry merlot sauce served with roasted poblano black bean rice and seasonal vegetables

Indian Fry Bread Taco

Indian Fry Bread Taco

IMG_8595

El Tovar Tomato & Basil Platter

The next day we had a good breakfast at a GC mainstay “RP’s Stage Shop”, and then we hit the canyon for some sightseeing. We arrived at the entrance just as a herd of elk overtook it for some early morning grazing. This place is so amazing and all of the pictures I have ever seen do not measure up to actually being here. We had lunch at the Desert View Snack bar and were blown away by what seemed to be tacos on Indian Fry-bread, so tasty! After an amazing day we headed back to prepare for dinner at El Tovar Dining Room located in the historic hotel of the same name. U.S. presidents have dined here before such as Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. Needless to say I had high hopes for this place, especially after last nights debacle. This place is located overlooking the south rim and we tried to catch the sunset before dinner but missed it by 5 minutes (Drats), because this place was jumping! Apparently everyone swarms here to watch the sunset so that explains why finding parking was our downfall. We were treated to the sight of another herd of elk invading the parking lot. The hotel had a very Grand Canyon IMG_8594lodge-like feel from its decor and cozy atmosphere. Dinner was also very good and the highlights of the night was a pork loin dish that Emily loved and I had a roasted half duck with sundried cherry merlot sauce and roasted poblano black bean rice and vegetables. My faith has been restored in Grand Canyon dining! The next morning it was time to take the long drive to back to Las Vegas to catch our flight back to NYC. I must say, this was a short but very tasty vacation that I will always remember for years to come. When we arrived back in NYC Emily hinted that maybe we should try to take a European roadtrip, hmmmmm…. Stay tuned & thanks for taking this ride with us!

IMG_8488


Gumbo

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken 3-4 pounds
2 large onions, 1 quartered the other medium diced
3 stalks of celery, 2 halved and the other medium diced
2 carrots halved
3 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
2 Tbs peppercorns
1/2 lb of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 Lb of Andouille sausage
1 green bell pepper medium dice
1 red bell pepper medium dice
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 Tbs creole seasoning
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Gumbo filé powder (dried sassafras leaves)
Salt & Black pepper to taste
sliced scallions or chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Combine the chicken, carrots, fresh thyme, halved celery, quartered onion, peppercorns, and 2 bay leaves with 10-12 cups of water into a 10 quart stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken is cooked through; about 35-45 minutes. Remove the chicken, allow it to cool then discard the skin and shred the meat from it. Strain the stock and set it aside.
Heat the butter in an 8 qt saucepan over medium high heat and whisk in the the flour. Continue constant whisking until you have a dark brown roux. Add bell peppers, chopped onion, chopped celery, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until onions become soft then add Creole seasoning, filé powder, cayenne, dried thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and andouille sausage; cook until fat begins to render from the sausage, about 5 minutes. Add 6-7 cups of the reserved stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook (frequently stirring) until it thickens 10-15 minutes. Add chicken and cook 5- 10 more minutes until hot, serve in a bowl with white rice and garnish with scallions. Bon Appetit!


Jamaican-style curry shrimp

Jamaican-style curry shrimp

Ingredients:

Shrimp seasoning:
1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined
½ tsp Black pepper
½ tsp Salt
2 tsp Curry powder

Curry sauce:
½ Green bell pepper, large dice
1 Scotch Bonnet or ½ Red bell pepper, large dice
1 Small onion, chopped
3 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 Sprig fresh thyme
½ tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Coconut milk
1 Tbsp Curry powder
1 Tbsp Ketchup (optional)
½ tsp hot pepper sauce (optional, especially if you use a scotch bonnet)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup Water

Directions:
Season the shrimp with the 2 Tbsp of curry powder, black pepper and, salt then set aside. Dice green and red bell peppers(or Scotch Bonnets) and onion; mince garlic, then heat the cooking oil on high in sauce pan. Sauté peppers, onion and garlic until onion is transparent then add 1 sprig of thyme. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the coconut milk. after about 3 minutes add salt, ketchup, hot pepper sauce and 1 Tbsp curry powder; stir well. Lower the heat and add shrimp to vegetables and saute until shrimp just begins to turn pink. Mix water and cornstarch together and add to saucepan and simmer for 1 minute, or until shrimp are firm and curry sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and serve with rice (I prefer basmati or jasmine rice) and Garnish with cilantro.  Bon Appetit!


I’m Back! I have not been posting for a little bit due to computer issues(burnt out Laptop). I am officially back up and running with a new and better PC. I will be posting a whole lot more, because we have so much catching up to do! Lets get back into the flow with another Cajun dish straight out of the bayou, Enjoy!10436280_10202324262972767_210687890293012934_n

Marinade:

2 Large Eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbs Creole Seasoning
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
1/2 tsp Onion powder
1 Tbs Crystals hot sauce
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper

To prepare:

2 cups Flour
1/2 cup Cornstarch
2 Tbs Creole Seasoning
1 tsp Lemon/pepper seasoning
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Black Pepper

Fisrt wash the frog legs, then separate the legs into individual pieces. Put the buttermilk, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, pepper, garlic, and onion powder to a large bowl or ziplock bag and mix well. Add the frog legs to the mixture and make sure that all of the legs are covered good. Marinate in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
Pour the oil into a deep cast iron skillet. Heat the oil on high until it is very hot. Mix the flour, cornstarch, Creole seasoning, lemon/pepper, salt, cayenne, and black pepper and pour the flour mixture into a plastic or paper bag. Drop the legs into the bag and shake it up a few times. Place legs in the oil a few at a time without bunching them up in the pan. Cook them about 3-4 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Do Not Overcook.
Remove the legs and place on a rack to cool and drain. Serve immediately with Crystals Hot Sauce or the sauce of your choice. Bon Appetit!