A Foodie Road Trip (The Las Vegas/Grand Canyon Edition)
Posted by Chef Justice Stewart
Hey 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 NY Knicks & NY Rangers home games. Our chef team had tons of fun and a great season at The Garden. I had the privilege of cooking for other events such as Eric Clapton concert, Taylor Swifts birthday party, NCAA basketball games, the NBA All-Star game where we got to meet Carmelo Anthony. Currently we are cooking for the 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-renowned chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Needless to say I have been a very busy chef this past 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.
We arrived at our hotel 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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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, 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.
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. 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 lodge-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!
About Chef Justice StewartI am an ex-construction worker turned chef/cookbook author from NYC that will educate the average cook on how to prepare restaurant quality meals. Please Subscribe to this blog to enjoy some wonderful recipes and tips.
Posted on May 28, 2015, in Foodie Road Trips & Other Fun Things and tagged Bouchon, Carmelo Anthony, Caviar, El Tovar Dining Room, fois gras, Grand Canyon, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Joël Robuchon, Las Vegas, Madison Square Garden, Menu Degustation, NY Knicks, NY Rangers, Peppermill lounge, Road trip, stratosphere, The Bourbon Room, The Canyon Star Steakhouse, Thomas keller, Top of The World Restaurant. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.