Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sorry for the Wait...

Again, life intervened. I feel like a terrible blogger this weekend, but I promise to have more good stuff up soon. Stay tuned...

Monday, February 21, 2011

My First Take on PJ Clarke's

Bar food. We hate to admit it, but we absolutely love it. And I was finally able to stop at a bar with some exemplary bar food that... Well, let's say they're raising the bar.

For quite some time, I've been hearing about this place. But last week, I finally had a chance to taste the magic of PJ Clarke's for myself. I was at a special event, and I had a very special opportunity to sample all sorts of goodies for dinner.

Before dinner, I tried a few appetizers. (Disclaimer: I couldn't snap photos of these.) The bacon wrapped dates had the perfect marriage of sweet, savory, and salty. The mini sliders were quite beefy, which should satisfy just about everyone who enjoys the flavor of that ever elusive "All American Beef Burger". And I don't think I've had so much fun with tater tots as I did with PJ Clarke's!

From there, it was onto dinner... And all the kitchen mayhem! For some reason, the servers were having a hard time serving dishes where they needed to be, leading to a bit of mass confusion. Some dishes were served out of order, and at one point it was quite difficult to order a drink. Maybe this was just because of the event? Maybe it was just a super busy night and the restaurant was overwhelmed?

Well, at least the food itself provided no confusion or consternation!

The salads weren't bad, though they weren't phenomenal either. My friends and I were served a spring salad with standard raspberry vinaigrette, and some sort of "chicken salad" with dandelion greens and shaved parmesan. I guess John Curtas was right in that regard.

However, from there onward, I was in for some amazing grub. We were served two giant buckets full of steamed mussels, and my goodness did they taste fresh! And by fresh, I mean these tasted direct from the ocean. I have a feeling I need not worry about being served nasty, "freezer burned" seafood here.

The mac and cheese followed, and then I knew I was in LOVE! At first, I didn't quite know what to think. I'm used to stick-to-one's-ribs thick mac and cheese, so I was surprised when I saw this mac & cheese with more of a soupy sauce. However as soon as I tasted it, I was smiling. The sauce may have been loose, but it was still quite rich and full of fresh, sweet peas and fatty bacon.

Following the mac and cheese, I was surprised by the crab cake. It was full of sweet crab meat, but not too heavy or bogged down by too much mayonnaise. I've usually not been into crab cake, but I was actually liking this!

And then, dessert arrived. Oh jeez, where do I start! The chocolate pudding was quite divine, as it had just the right amount of sweet, a rich and deep chocolate flavor, and a lovely house made whipped cream topping. The bourbon bread pudding was quite hearty, and dazzled with its hearty custard and "bejeweled" raisins. Oh, and the apple cobbler just screamed, "America, F*ck Yeah!" to me... And yes, that's a compliment. ;-)

Were there some bumps in the road on my journey to great American Bar Food at PJ Clarke's? Honestly, yes. Hopefully, the service kinks will be worked out and the salads will be more interesting. Otherwise, the (rest of the) food was quite solid... Enough to catapult it to the best of the bunch. And perhaps as PJ Clarke's grows into its new digs at The Forum Shops, it will become as much of a Vegas landmark as it already is a New York legend.

Style: Gastropub
Price: $$$
Open: Lunch & Dinner

The Rating

Food: 4.7 (out of 5)
Service: 2.4 (out of 3)
Ambiance: 2.0 (out of 2)
Overall: 9.1 (out of 10)
Good Eats, Worth the Trip

P.J. Clarke's on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ACTION ALERT: Let's Reopen Bet on the Farm!

In case you haven't heard yet, Las Vegas' best farmers' market was recently shut down. Why, you ask? Well, let's just say I've yet to hear a good reason for it.

And why exactly should we care? I'll let Mr. TLV explain.

While I won’t say that Las Vegas is as culturally devoid as most naysayers say, I will say that for a metropolitan area of approximately 2,000,000 residents, we have quite a bit of catching up to do. What little cultural treasures we have is usually some kind of import from New York, Montreal or Los Angeles. Most of the residents here are imports themselves, which increases the difficulty in creating a sense of community. For the most part, generations of families haven’t grown up together in Las Vegas. Neighbors have rarely seen the baby boy next door get married to his high school sweetheart some 25 years down the line. We are a young community, just starting to grow our roots and develop the same way much older metropolitan areas have done so. The Bet On The Farm Market is exactly the kind of nutrition we need to grow into the community that I believe everyone wants us to be. [...]

One of the few things that is for Las Vegans, by Las Vegans (that’s actually good for us) is no longer available to us. It’s a shame that bureaucratic red tape is preventing Las Vegans from experiencing one of the great things that develop a metropolitan area into a thriving community. I can only hope that whatever needs to be done to get this treasured market up and running again is done in an expeditious manner. It would be an incredible shame to see this branch of our budding community wither away and die.

So what can we do about it? OK, here's where we need you lighting up your keyboards and phones. Here's the list of Clark County Commissioners. I highly recommend you write your Commissioner and let him/her know how much you care about Bet on the Farm, explain how important Bet on the Farm is to sustaining our community (in more ways than one!), and why it should be allowed to reopen as soon as possible. In addition to contacting your Commissioner, it may also be a good idea to write a letter to Clark County Commission Chair Susan Brager as well.

What happened last week was tragic, but we need not allow this to continue. Please let your voice be heard, and let's get to work getting Bet on the Farm reopened!

Monday, February 7, 2011

As Cosmo Goes... The. Best. Burger. EVER??!!

Back in 2009, I had my first experience at LBS, an upscale "burger joint" way out in the mysterious hinterlands often referred to as Summerlin. I've constantly been amazed by the superior quality of the food, the interesting vibe of the place, and the surprising value they offer...

But can the folks behind LBS score a successful sequel on The Strip? So far, I'm inclined to say yes. Holstein's really took so much of what I love at LBS, and takes it to an even higher level at Cosmopolitan.

My recent lunch out was off to an interesting start with a small bucket of "truffle popcorn" awaiting me. I must admit the popcorn was quite addicting. It had great flavor without being too greasy.

Pretty soon, my cocktail arrived. I ordered a Blood Orange Cosmo, and it arrived full of great, refreshing, sweet orange flavor. Just what I needed.

Yep, this was just what I needed to relax and whet my appetite for more. And oh my goodness, did I get more! My "Urth Burger" was a house made vegan patty that didn't taste like "imitation meat" or "random veggie blob", but rather a hearty patty full of great flavors and complemented well by the nice bun and tangy Point Reyes Blue Cheese (that I added onto the burger). This, for me, is the hallmark of a truly great burger palace. If it can take the often maligned "veggie burger" and turn it into this wonderful, edible masterpiece, than it can do pretty much anything!

The shoestring fries were also a nice complement on the plate. They tasted fresh. They weren't overly greasy. They were addictive.

Of course, no great lunch is truly great without a stunning dessert, so I gave into temptation and ordered the "chocolate slider with fries". Basically, it turned out to be a plate of a "slider" consisting of rich chocolate ganache sandwiched between two delectable chocolate cookies. YUM! And even better, it came with these pillowy soft and delicately fried churro "fries" along with a cup of tangy strawberry "ketchup" for dipping. Was it gimmicky? Perhaps? But was it so damned good that I really didn't care? ABSO-F*CKING-LUTELY!!!

So what else can I say about Holstein's? The food was phenomenal. The atmosphere was groovy. The service was quite friendly. And I finally found the perfect "veggie burger". Did I just find heaven? ;-)

Style: Upscale Burger Joint
Price: $$
Open: Lunch & Dinner

The Rating

Food: 4.9 (out of 5)
Service: 3.0 (out of 3)
Ambiance: 1.9 (out of 2)
Overall: 9.8 (out of 10)
Outstanding, Destination Eating!

Holstein's (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Money Can't Buy You Class... But It Will Buy You Ass

Remember the discussion that ensued when Wynn Las Vegas suddenly and shockingly decided to close Alex last month?

Well, this just confirms what we were saying all along.

Beverage revenue rose 7 percent during the last fiscal period, to $909.6 million, for the 39 Strip casinos generating annual revenue of at least $1 million. Strip beverage revenue rose 2 percent in fiscal 2009. The Strip accounted for 66 percent of beverage revenue from the state’s highest-grossing casinos.

The booming nightclub industry in Las Vegas, including the emergence of a 24-hour, pool-centered party scene and a slew of elaborate new clubs and drink menus, is partly responsible for the increase, analysts say.

New clubs and lounges at CityCenter, Encore and Hard Rock Hotel, which opened a rooftop bar and pool as part of its expansion last year, are among the new venues noted in the report.

Today’s opulent nightclubs offer a potentially more expensive experience than the more mundane drinking holes of years past, said Brian Gordon, a principal with Las Vegas consulting firm Applied Analysis.

During conference calls with Wall Street analysts last year, Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn highlighted the runaway success of Surrender nightclub and the attached Beach Club at Encore, which opened May 25.

The performance of its nightclub venues in Las Vegas stands in “sharp contrast to the softness in the market,” while generating high profit margins, Wynn told investors. The company reported a 16 percent increase in food and beverage revenue in the third quarter, in large part because of the new venues, surpassing revenue generated in other departments, with the exception of gambling.

It's all about the money, honey. And right now, the money is being made in the day/nightlife industry. That's why MGM, Caesars, Wynn, and LVS are all falling over each other to open more clubs and revolve more and more of the other amenities in their casinos around their nightclubs.

When just looking at the bottom line, why should Steve Wynn care about maintain extraordinary culinary standards at his hotels' restaurants when the money is being made at Surrender, XS, Encore Beach Club, Tryst, and Blush, and Wynn executives suspect most within the target demographic group for their clubs don't really care for the "fru-fru eating" offered at restaurants like Alex? Never mind that Wynncore now risks losing its entire foodie reputation. It's all about the dollar signs, baby.

So are we supposed to expect more of this in the future? Or is this just another fad that will change and/or die? And does Las Vegas' reputation as a great foodie destination hang in the balance?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Porchlight Always On

Sometimes, the best things in life come unexpected. That happened to me yet again last month when I discovered Porchlight Grill on the west end of Spring Valley, near Summerlin. It's not easy to impress me, and most often "mini casinos" with restaurants attached don't... But this was different. Read below to find out how.

As always, photos from both visits are included at the bottom.


Tucked away at a strip mall at Durango and Desert Inn is an interesting little "mini casino" that honestly surprised me. I typically don't rush to neighborhood "mini casinos" for dinner, but some friends suggested it and I went along. What's the worst that could happen?

To my surprise, I wouldn't even have to think of that. I tried a thin crust pesto pizza with goat cheese and mushrooms, and I was really enjoying it! The pesto was especially interesting, since it was packing heat! It tasted like serrano chile(s) were probably used, and they went well with the tangy goat cheese and earthy mushrooms on the crispy flatbread.

I also tried the spicy fries, and these were surprisingly addictive. I kept going back for more, as they had an interesting spicy mesquite seasoning.

Oh, and since we're talking about a mini casino here, I must say I merrily downed my Midori Sours. All in all, I had a good time here and I would definitely have no problem coming back whenever I'm in the 'hood.


And I indeed last week for a party some friends were throwing there. I had a great linguine with (again, spicy!) pesto, along with an out-of-this-world brownie sundae. Funny enough, I didn't know I could get a brownie with the sundae there, but the manager brought out a hot, fresh one to complete it! Heh, customer service at its best. ;-)

Style: Neighborhood Casual
Price: $
Open: 24 Hours

The Rating

Food: 4.6 (out of 5)
Service: 3.0 (out of 3)
Ambiance: 1.7 (out of 2)
Overall: 9.3 (out of 10)
Good Eats, Worth the Trip

Porchlight Grill on Urbanspoon