Okay. Pursuant to yesterday’s blog entry, some careful strategy is required.
I think that, rather than striking out now as everyone – especially those in a position to make the decisions – prepares for the holidays or, in some cases, is already off on holidays, the campaign should hold off in order to maximize its efforts.
Plan and coordinate now, then launch in the second or third week of the New Year when everyone is back at the office – and eager to start green lighting those new projects!
I leave you to pick a target date.
And, speaking of planning, what do you all have planned for the coming holidays? Visiting relatives? Staying close to home? Getting away from it all with a trip to an exotic locale? Bora Bora? Fiji? Vegas?
Given the choice, if you could spent the holidays anywhere in the world EXCEPT home (or the home of a loved one), where would it be?
My Top 5 NOT Home For the Holidays Destinations:
5. Christmas in Hawaii
Well, why the hell not? Sure, there’s nothing like a white Christmas, but after one too many festive deep-freezes in my home town of Montreal, I think I’d appreciate a little change of venue. Maybe less snow and more sand. Less spruce and pine and more palm. Less roasted chestnuts, more poi. And, oh yeah, the beach.
4. Christmas in Hong Kong
The view from Kowloon of the colorfully lit buildings lining the Central Hong Kong across Victoria Harbor is absolutely stunning. Not quite the rest and relaxation offered by a Hawaiian getaway, but certainly a hell of a lot warmer than an east coast winter, and maybe even more cosmopolitan. If you’re looking to shop away the holidays, this is the place!
3. Christmas Tokyo
Well, of course. Tokyo out Christmases most North American cities with its stunning seasonal displays and spirit. Granted, the Japanese don’t quite celebrate the holiday like some of us do, eschewing family in favor of romantic dinners for two, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the festive mood.
2. Christmas in Savannah
I chose Savannah, Georgia because I’ve been researching the city of late, but I’d happily do Charleston, S.C. as well or any other down home American city that offers a southern take on the holiday complete with pecan pie and bourbon-spiked eggnog.
1. Christmas in Las Vegas
Well, surprise surprised? Not really. Unlike any of the other places listed, Vegas is only a few hours away, offering fun, sun, and restaurant lineup to rival New York and L.A.
So, let’s all start planning for next year! Where are we all going?
Huzzah! A big 13 page writing day now puts me on P. 51 of my new pilot. And, potentially, a little too long. My ballpark breakdown has been pretty spot-on so far and, if my powers of prognostication hold true, the rough first draft is going to clock in at a robust 64 pages. I think it’s a lot of fun but my colorful supporting character risks overshadowing my protagonist. That’s something I’m going to have to address on my next pass.
Days of Stargate Atlantis past continues with…
Robert Cooper coined the term “shepisodes” for these John-centered entries, and this is one of my favorites, an oh-so-different AU story that follows detective John Sheppard in his hunt for a serial killing alien.
The working title was CSI: Atlantis and, given its procedural trappings and colorful eye candy Vegas location, it’s no wonder. Rob does a terrific job writing, directing and producing one of the high points of Atlantis’s fifth and final seasons, with memorable performances by all involved. Joe Flanigan is perfect as the washed up detective with nothing to lose while David Hewlett delivers a what-might-have-been version of his character who is, at heart, very clearly, very much Rodney.
Great guest-performances led by Neil Jackson as the wraith-out-of-water. And there’s even a nod to Stark Trek: The Experience compliments of actor Robert Picardo who added the inside gag while shooting.
Everyone on the production who didn’t get to go to Vegas to shoot was, of course, jealous of everyone who did. I figured everyone had learned their lesson, so I was surprised that the next series, SGU was set on a spaceship flying through some distant galaxy. I thought we’d all agreed on Stargate: Hawaii!
While we were shooting Atlantis’s final episodes, fans were fighting to save the series.
Sheppard’s sweet ride
It looks better without the bullet holes.
To: Das. Love: Wraith. The incredible Neil Jackson
A couple of Sopranos alums guest star: Frank Vincent and Steve Schirripa. Both were stand up guys.
Also putting in cameos: the late Joel Goldsmith (left) and former MGM Senior Executive VP and huge Stargate supporter Charlie Cohen (middle).
Director Robert Cooper demonstrates sleight of hand, setting up a shot and skimming some poker winnings.
No sooner do I return home than I am preparing for my next trip – this one to L.A. in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow, Paul and I get on the phone with our agent to discuss the specifics: when we’re going, how long we’re staying, who we’ll be meeting while in town and, most importantly, what we’ll be pitching.
Our comic book series, Dark Matter, of course tops the list of what we want to go out with. Then there’s Project A.F. that we’re working on in collaboration with Robert Cooper and Ivon Bartok (reason enough to schedule our trip to coincide with Rob’s upcoming visit). And finally, there are about a half dozen series ideas we’ll get into tomorrow. In the meantime, the horror script and one of our pilots should be going out as well.
So we’ve got things on the go and out there but it never hurts to have more material in the pipeline which is why I’m giving serious thought to writing another feature. Like the horror script, it’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for years but have never had the opportunity to sit down and write. Aside from fleshing out some ideas for the L.A. pitch trip, the trip itself, and the two series pilots we’re working on, my summer is shockingly free so August would be the time to get it done. I won’t know if there’ll be anymore Dark Matter in comic book form until after the trade paperback release in October, but I am drawn to the idea of doing another comic book series.
Looking back over our recent trip, I have to admit I had a better time than expected at Comic Con. Loved the energy of the place and the fantastic array of fans who took the time to create some truly remarkable costumes for the event. My hosts at Dark Horse (Kari Yadro and co.) were wonderful and it was truly great to finally meet editor Lou Anders and artist John Picacio – and catch up with the lovely Marjorie M. Liu. Lou is telling me Dragon Con is THE place to be in September. If I’m not in Berlin for my friends’ wedding, I might consider it.
As for Vegas – hey, it’s always a good time, and made even better by Akemi who loves the strip. She told me that, two and half years ago when she was living in Tokyo, she could never have imagined visiting Vegas or San Diego (where her parents spent their honeymoon, though probably not during Comic Con) – or even Canada for that matter. Just goes to show – you never know what surprises life has in store!
A final batch of pics from Comic Con…
Pictured above, my Comic Con goodies including: a couple of dvd’s from the archives of Spike & Mike Festival of animation (compliments of Mike), a copy of the Futureshocks anthology edited by Lou Anders with cover art by John Picacio (compliments of Lou Anders), a copy of Hexed vol. 1 and the missing issues in my Avengers and Thunderbolts collection (compliments of my wallet).
Yesterday, I started Project Thunderbolts which will see me read the entire series from issue #1 to the present. At five issues a night, I should be done in a little over a month. Anyone familiar with the series? Opinions?
Yesterday, we were up early so that we could do a little more strolling and try our luck against the scorching heat.
Akemi Presents…The Artwork!
We headed over to Caesar’s for another lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab. We were a little early and Akemi needed to use the facilities. I consulted the handy mall map and their directions to the restrooms led me here:
I wasn’t sure which was the Men’s and which one was the Women’s. I ended up using the one on the right.
Whenever we go out to dinner, Akemi is so hungry that she polishes off the bread basket and then complains about the fact that she’s too full to eat dinner. This morning, she made me promise to turn away the bread basket at our next meal. So I did – much to her displeasure. I reminded her that she’d told me to turn it away – but she didn’t want to hear it.
The stone crab!
Then, it was off to the Bellagio for dessert at Jean-Philippe Patisserie…
The Snickers Bar (left) and the Red Velvet Cupcake (right).
This is the first and probably the last time I’ll be staying at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. In addition to the trifling annoyances (in-room safe not working, housekeeping skipping our room today, being told I could leave my valuables at the front desk only to be told by the front desk that I had to leave them with the Bell Captain only to be told by the Bell Captain that they had to be in an enclosed piece of luggage (forcing me to lug my laptop around with me all afternoon) only to later be told by someone else at the front desk that I could leave my valuables at the front desk, etc.) is the one big annoyance of being charged for in-room wifi. It feels so nickel and dime, well beneath a hotel of its supposed stature. Next thing you know, one of maids is going to stop by to ask if I’d like to pitch in for fellow employee Anita’s going away party. Akemi, on the other hand, likes the Cosmo just fine. She finds the bed incredibly comfy (I have to agree) and loves the patio…
Akemi says: “Come on out!”. I say: “No way.”
I’m not a patio (or standing on anything more than three feet off the ground) guy, so “nice patio” lines up in neither column so far as I’m concerned.
Today was our big walking day. Lots of walking punctuated by excessive bursts of eating…
Akemi checks out the steampunk telescope – to get an unreal view of the ceiling.
Yet another BIG SHOE.
Oh that perverted penguin.
Akemi induces vomiting.
For lunch, we headed over to a place I mean to try out every time I’m in town. This trip, we finally got there: Bobby’s Flay’s Mesa Grill in Caesar’s Palace.
We started off with a great corn soup, packed with a spicy wallop as advertised.
For her main, Akemi ordered a shrimp dish that came with a cilantro sauce. I requested the cilantro sauce on the side because she isn’t a fan. When the dish arrived, I couldn’t help but notice the shrimp were swimming in the cilantro sauce. I asked the (different) waiter who served us: “Is that cilantro?”. And he replied: “No cilantro.”
Hmmm. Sure looks like cilantro to me.
Akemi took a bite. As it turned out, either the waiter serving us desperately needed to brush up on the menu or the parsley on the plate was doing a bang-up imitation of cilantro. Akemi resigned herself to eating it but I wouldn’t allow it. I called over our original waiter and pointed out the cilantro. He tried to sidestep the issue by saying he had served the “chili oil on the side” as I’d requested. Even if that were true and I had asked for “chill oil” on the side (which I didn’t), the fact that the chill oil was also served IN the sauce as evidenced by the photograph makes his point moot. He then suggested Akemi try the dish and if she still minded the cilantro, he would exchange it. No pressure. We asked to exchange it. So he presented us with the menu. Again, I had to point out there had been some sort of miscommunication. We didn’t want another dish. We wanted THAT dish with the cilantro sauce on the side. Our waiter informed us this was impossible. Somehow, between the time I placed the initial order and fifteen minutes later, it had become impossible. So Akemi settled for a chopped salad.
I had the chile relleno.
We ended up trekking all the way over to the Wynn Hotel in search of a fantastic dessert place I swear I remember visiting once – only to come up empty. We trekked all the way back and, by the time we were within visual range of our hotel, we were hot and exhausted. So I suggested a little pick-me-up in the form of a sundae at Serendipity.
Akemi says: “Yeah. Whatever. Waterfall.”
She had the frozen hot chocolate. I did the amaretto-almond hot chocolate. AND the carrot cake sundae with vanilla and butter-pecan ice cream.
Properly recharged, we had plenty of energy for what lay ahead: Dinner at Jaleo…
Pan de cristal con tomate: Toasted rustic bread brushed with fresh tomatoes, topped with anchovy.
The golden fried quail eggs atop a bed of Spanish ratatouille. Akemi’s favorite.
Grilled squid with roasted artichokes in a squid ink sauce.
For dessert – a surprisingly great flan!
Akemi loved dinner and we would have gone back for a return visit – if not for the fact that we’d already booked Michael Mina at the Bellagio.
Well, with a little less than a week to go before I move to Toronto, it’s time to go over that Toronto checklist:
FIND SOMEWHERE TO LIVE: Nope. I’ve already bemoaned Toronto’s not-so-production-friendly accommodations situation. And, since that post, not much has changed. Hope those production offices are comfy. And pet friendly!
FIND A CAR TO DRIVE: Nope. I’ve been so busy searching for furnished rentals online that I haven’t even gotten around to looking into a car rental.
INFORM AIR CANADA WE’LL BE FLYING WITH TWO DOGS IN-CABIN NEXT WEEKEND: Nope. I was able to do everything online EXCEPT register my dogs. This, apparently, can only be accomplished by speaking directly to an Air Canada representative. And good luck with that. “The average wait time,”the recorded message informs me, “Is forty-five minutes.”! It’s been that way for the past TWO WEEKS!
FIND A SUITABLE DOGGY DAYCARE FOR THE GANG: Nope. I’m looking at two possible candidates, but won’t decide on one until I’ve had a chance to check them out personally.
FIND SOMEONE TO ACCOMPANY ME WITH A SECOND DOG ON THE FOLLOWING WEEKEND’S FLIGHT: Nope. I had plenty of offers for next weekend, so I’m hoping people will be in a flying mood two weekends from now. Anyone interested in a return flight to Toronto, business class?
ESTABLISH THE TEAM: The writers’ room starts spinning next Monday and, outside of Paul, Alex, myself and, (I assume) Rob, it’s still uncertain who’ll be in there with us.
TAKE DOWN THE CHRISTMAS TREE: Check! Done. Today.
I was up for most of last night angsting over the prospect of flying cross-country with the dogs. I brought the soft-sided carriers out of storage and started getting the pooches used to the closed environment – tossing in a treat to get them inside, tossing in another treat to get them to duck their heads so I could zip the sherpa closed, then tossing them a final treat for being good sports. Jelly, Maximus, and Lulu seemed fine for the two minutes or so they were inside, but Bubba went ABSOLUTELY NUTS, scratching and rolling, barking and crying. I think he may be claustrophobic. Is that possible? I am so screwed. We’re looking at a scheduled 4 hour and twenty-five minute flight! That’s not including the times enroute to and from the airport as well as the inevitable departure delays. I AM flying Air Canada after all.
Looks like I might have to invest in some children’s gravol.
Allow me to unwind with some pics of my recent Vegas trip –
I thought she looked cute, but Akemi prefers oversized sun hats with big honkin' sunflowers on top.
Outside the Venetian hotel. In the next James Bond film, I want to see a high speed gondola chase through the hotel's canal.
We received this lovely parting gift at the conclusion of our dinner at Joel Robuchon.
The raspberry (?) pistachio cake it contained.
Which we made short work of the following morning.
I love Vegas. It's so subdued.
Ceiling of the annex between Bally's and the Bellagio.
Ceiling of the Bellagio.
Joe's Stone Crab! We went twice.
I'm not a fan of key lime pie, but I LOVE the version served up at Joe's Stone Crab. So much so that I have seriously considered ordering in the past. They deliver!
Restaurant in the shopping plaza adjoining the Aria. I'd be too nervous to eat here.
Akemi makes a quick call in the Cosmopolitan lobby.
The chocolate fountain outside the Jean Philippe Patisserie.
Some of the unbelievable selection. Check it out. Rose macarons! I haven't seen those outside of Tokyo!
Intense: dark chocolate mousse, chocolate cremeux, and chocolate glaze. Yes, thank you! Rich, dark chocolate through and through. None of these airy fairy gelee's or light creams so prevalent in other so-called patisseries.
Snickers Cake: almond dacquoise, peanut crisp, caramel, milk chocolate mousse. As awesome as the dark Intense was, this was even better. Sublime.
The view from inside the shop. Screw the Venetian. Next time, I'm staying here. IN the pasty shop!
“Got a couple of maintenance issues for you to deal with,”said our pilot, motioning back behind him. And, as the two workers disappeared into the cockpit, so did any hope that our return flight would be departing on time. Moments later, the steward got on the intercom to confirm as much. We would be delayed by thirty minutes, give or take – presumably as long as it took someone to run down to Radio Shack and purchase a replacement part. I settled in and had almost dozed off – adrift in that delicious middle ground between almost asleep and asleep – when I was roused by the elderly Chinese woman sitting in front of us. “Miss!”she cried. “MISS! Your feet!”. Obviously referring to the 50-something woman seated to my right who had taken off her shoes and was resting one of her bare feet on the handrest in front of her. “Yes?”asked the barefooted woman, oblivious to any problem. “Your feet!”snapped the owner of the handrest. “They stink!” Blunt yet effective. The woman to my right lowered her foot and quietly slipped her shoes back on. Problem solved, thankfully before it became a problem for me.
Other than that – and the thirty minute delay – it turned out to be a pretty uneventful flight. Unlike last night’s fairly eventful meal – my last big dinner in Vegas, this one at Guy Savoy…
It was a very different dining experience than the one we enjoyed at E by Jose Andres the previous night. A lot more formal and, at times, somewhat staid, but the service on the part of our waiter was warm and friendly.
Since it was my final dinner in Vegas, I decided to go all in with the Prestige Menu which came with its own bread pairing. I kid you not. We were served a different bread with each couple of courses. But before getting into the individual breads, we were free to choose from…
The Bread Cart!
All the bread is baked on the premises – fresh and wonderful. But when you’re pairing it with an eleven course menu, it does fill you up quickly. Once I’d settled down to a parmesan bun (with choices of salted, unsalted butter, and sea salt and crushed black pepper for sprinkling), it was time for the main event…
French Club: The Guy Savoy version of the club sandwich is made with a double layer of foie gras and brioche. Next time, I come back for the whole sandwich!
This was followed by a small soup and tiny surprise in the form of tiny pea preparation which was, in turn, followed by the “Eggs All Truffle”: a heavenly combo of creamy egg and earthy truffle. It was served with –
Truffle-buttered toast for dipping!
Next up was the Tuna Carpaccio. I’ll let the video do the talking –
Subtle in flavor but certainly not in presentation.
We were then served a Crispy Sea Bass with Delicate Spices, one of Savoy’s signature dishes. Like most of the meal, it was quite subtle in its flavor with the exception of the accompanying vanilla foam that overwhelmed.
Our next dish was the Foie Gras en Papillote and Radish Bouillon. The foie was prepared sous-vide which, to be honest, seemed like an odd way to go. As was the radish bouillon.
Colors of Caviar. Another signature dish. Layers of caviar vinaigrette, caviar creme fraiche, haricot vert puree, Osietra caviar, and a sabayon. We were instructed to dig deep to ensure we spooned out all the layers. Loved it.
Our next dish as the Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup which was served with a toasted mushroom brioche with black truffle butter (for dipping). The soup was thinner than I expected, but tasty nevertheless.
Roasted Poussin. One of the juiciest chicken dishes I've ever been served.
Along with an outstanding black truffle mash.
We capped of the savory portion of our meal with a fine salsify dish before moving on to –
The Cheese Tray!
I enjoyed three soft cheeses with an orange marmalade, a berry jam, and some lavender honey.
At which point, it was time for dessert. First up was a pre-dessert dessert consisting of raspberry sorbet, green tea foam, and green tea pearls.
Apple - Apple slices, apple caviar, and apple foam. This was so tart, I couldn't manage more than a bite.
Chocolate Fondant, Crunchy Praline and Chicory Cream: Now THIS I DID finish. A rich dessert only this side of decadent because of the portion size.
And finally, we finished with = The Dessert Cart!
A very good meal with some outstanding dishes (the Poussin comes immediately to mind) but, at the end of the day, in the Battle of the Vegas High-End Dinners, it ranks an easy third with Joel Robuchon and E by Jose Andres battling it out for top spot.
Finally back in Vancouver, tonight’s dinner was comprised of baked Arctic Char with yuzu and sesame oil, steamed rice, and sauteed broccoli. It was a much appreciated change of pace.
Thanks to everyone who inquired about Akemi’s friends in family in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami to hit Japan. Her family home is located in Osaka, west of Tokyo, and wasn’t affected by the tragedy. Sadly, many, many people were. Here’s hoping for better news from the area in the days ahead.
I’ve eaten at several molecular gastronom-themed restaurants over the years (The Molecular Tapas Bar, Les Creations de Narisawa, Aronia de Takazawa) as well as restaurants that have offered occasional molecular-inspired menu items – but these have all been in Tokyo. Last night, I finally sampled one in North America when I dined at E by Jose Andres in the Jaleo Restaurant in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. I’ve already explained how I happened across an intriguing passing mention of this (purportedly) secret restaurant, an eight-seater, that can only be booked through a secret email. Fortunately, my google-fu was strong and a search for “e by jose andres secret email” turned up very positive results. I booked and had been looking forward to the meal ever since. And the recent arrival of my golden access tickets days prior to my departure only intensified the excitement.
I never thought my life could be...anything but catastrophe...but suddenly I begin to see a bit of good luck for me...'cause I've got a golden ticket...I've a golden twinkle in my eye.
Marty G., dressed appropriately for the weird and wacky night ahead
As much as I was looking forward to this meal, I’d say my fellow foodie Martin Gero was equally thrilled at the prospect of the culinary theatrics that lay ahead. We arrived, as instructed, well in advance of our seating, and enjoyed a drink at the bar while we waited for the rest of our dining companions to show. This would be theater after all. Delicious theater, but theater nevertheless, and the audience would have to be seated before the show could commence.
Our view of Jaleo, the restaurant within which E is located. Also a Jose Andres joint and one I'm making a point to check out the next time I blow through town.
When the rest of our dining party showed, we were finally ushered through an innocuous-looking door and into the mini restaurant comprised of bar seating which allowed all participants an unobstructed view of the proceedings.
As we prepared for our meal, I asked one of our genial servers, Anthony, about the presumed “no picture” policy. He explained that flash photography was not permitted (understandable in most high end restaurants) and that while the snapping of the occasional pic was not frowned upon, incessant photography, it was felt, tended to detract from the meal. “Bloggers,”he confided.
The meal went something like this. It was comprised of three parts: appetizers, mains, and desserts…
Stephanie kicks things off by concocting a wicked brew using liquid nitrogen and sangria.
Frozen Sangria and Grilled Strawberries. The warm sweet strawberries were in marked contrast to the boozy sangria that had the consistency of a slushy - albeit an adult slushy. To be honest, I'm not a fan of sangria, but I do like it in slushy version.
Caramelized Pork Rinds. The lightest pork rinds I've ever eaten, both sweet and savory. If they sold these at the concession stand, I'd start going to see movies at the theater again.
Spanish "Clavel". Named after a flower, the dish is actually - if memory serves me right - papered yogurt. Melt-in-your mouth sweet and slightly sour.
Beet Jewlery. Served up, appropriately enough, in a jewlery box: dehydrated beet curls sprinkled with gold dust. It packed so much intense sweet and salty beet favor in such a tiny crispy bite. One of my favorites.
Membrillo and La Serena Cone. Quince and La Serena cheese in a sweet cone. Another contrast of tastes (sweet, salty, slighly sour) and textures (creamy, crispy and crunchy).
Apple "Brazo de Gitano". This one is hard to describe - the cheese espuma was injected into the light firm foam that instantly dissolved in my mouth. Another intensely flavored dish that also ranked as one of my faves.
Jose Taco & Artichoke with Caviar. Fried artichoke and caviar. Iberico-wrapped caviar. Phenomenal. Akemi's favorite.
Bocata de "Calamares". Actually, an uni roll - fried sea urchin, aioli, and cucmber in a mini brioche baguette. Yet another favorite. I haven't stopped thinking about this dish and am already thinking about how I can replicate it back home.
It turns out that two of my fellow diners were also visiting from Vancouver – and were hitting the same restaurants we were on this culinary circuit: e by Jose Andres, Guy Savoy, and Joel Robuchon.
Ellaine and Yonnie from Van City.
According to our server, Stephanie, the restaurant has entertained a disproportionate number of guests from Canada – clearly home of the foodies.
Ajo Blanco. Bead, nuts, olive oil and a couple of mystery ingredients I don't recall.
Finished with almond milk. Interesting but not among my faves.
Jose Andres' beer. Apparently, he created it to specifically pair with certain foods. I'm not a huge beer drinker but thought this version was qutie tasty and very drinkable.
Santa Barara Spotted Prawn with Roses. Langoustine served in a sauce made from the head of the langoustine and accompanied by dollops of rose foam. The rose flavor was very subtle and I almost missed it entirely. The langoustines were delicious.
Smokey Oysters in Escabeche. Oysters were encased in a gel of their liquor and smoked along with some pearl onions.
Topped with toasted honey air.
Catch of the Day. Turbot served with black garlic and topped with citrus pearls. A wonderfully accomplished dish, its ingredients coming together with surprising subtlety.
Whole Lobe of Foie Gras Baked in Salt
Sitting atop a cacao smear -
And served with an orange sauce. Probably the lightest foie I've ever had.
Secreto of Iberico Pork. It's called "secreto" because, apparently, not many know about the meat sourced from between two layers of fat from the pig's shoulder.
Black truffles. $$$!
Interestingly enough, the only other time I tried the Secreto of Iberico was at another molecular restaurant - The Molecular Tapas Bar in Tokyo's Madarin Oriental Hotel.
And then we moved on to dessert…
Orange with Puree La Serena. La Serena cheese served with an orange puree, topped with basil and pumpkin seeds.
Plating the next dish.
Frozen Apricot Coulant. A fruit-based version of the molten-centered chocolate cake was one of the stand-outs of the evening. I never thought I’d say this, but I preferred this version!
Pedro Ximenez 1982. One of my favorite dessert wines!
Apples & Red Wine "Fredy Giradet". Vanilla ice cream with apples two-way - apple spheres and apple jelly encased in gel capsules.
Plating the next dish.
25 Second Bizcocho. Cooked for twenty-five seconds in a microwave. Tasty, very unique.
Our affable hosts take a bow.
To finish - Chocolates. Saffron milk chocolate and dark chocolate "air" with sea salt.
My culinary wingman is BACK and flying in high style!
Martin Gero knows his food, knows what he likes, and, more importantly, knows what I like when it comes to food – so his dining recommendations are to be given serious consideration. When Martin found out I’d be visiting Vegas, he insisted I visit two restaurants – the scenes of some of his most spectacular meals: Guy Savoy (booked for Thursday night) and Joel Robuchon.
Now I dined at Chateau Joel Robuchon in Ebisu a couple of years ago and, despite it being the final meal on an exhausting culinary excursion of Tokyo, it was a very memorable visit. Add to this the fact that I just finished re-watching Top Chef Vegas which, in one episode, featured the man himself, Joel Robuchon, Chef of the Century, as well as his lush, royal purple restaurant, and the prospect of following up on Martin’s suggestion became as obvious as truffle oil with squash risotto.
Joel Robuchon is located in the MGM Grand, a short hop, skip, and one loooong jump from where we’re staying at the Venetian – so we cabbed it and, unlike Monday’s dinner reservation, arrived well on time.
We were seated and offered the menus, but immediately informed the Maitre D we were decided. We’d be going with the Chef’s Winter Menu. At sixteen courses, it seemed a little daunting, but I was prepared. Mentally anyway. Unlike Marty G. who had readied himself by eating toast and water that day, I had yet to come down from the sugar high that two sundaes, a slice of chocolate pizza, and one large pistachio macaron had delivered.
As the waiter whisked away our menus, I began to regret that pisatchio macaron.
Well, fear not. I made it. Truthfully, I was full halfway through the meal but the dishes were so delicious, so exquisitely crafted and beautifully plated, that finishing wasn’t that difficult. Until it came time for the after dessert Dessert Cart.
But I get ahead of myself. Our meal at Joel Robuchon was spectacular, nothing short of epic. And it went something like this…
As we settled in, we were offered a selection from the Bread Cart. Now I usually don't partake in bread before a meal, especially a meal like this one, but I had to make an exception in this case. All the breads were served fresh and warm, loosening their tiny pockets of baked-in steam as they were pulled apart and -
Either dipped in exquisite olive oil or topped with house-churned butter.
Then, it was time for the main event…
Le Citron: Lemon and basil gelee, anise fennel cream. A delicate but flavorful start to the meal. Although the menu mentions lemon, I believe it was actually yuzu - the first of many Asian influences we noted.
Le Foie Gras: Carpaccio of foie gras and potatoes with black truffle shavings. The foie gras melted in my mouth - as foie gras is wont to do - and the truffle shavings lent the dish a wonderful aromatic earthiness, but it was the fingerling potatoes that surprised. Often the least interesting component in similar dishes I've had elsewhere, often because they're undercooked and don't offer anything in the way of true flavor, these were actually very flavorful.
La Symphonie de Truffe: Crispy truffle tart with onion confit, scrambled egg with golden toast, Paris mushrooms with veal raviolis cooked in broth. If you love truffles as much as I do, you'll want to hit Robuchon for this dish alone. The varying textures were remarkable: the firmness of the ravioli, the creaminess of the eggs, the contrasting snap and softness of the tart.
La Nois de Saint Jacques: Seared scallop, hearts of palm in coriander scented coconut milk, Mariner's style. The scallop was firm but very tender, its crown crusted, served in a broth this time Thai influenced.
Le Kabocha: Light kabocha pumpkin veloute, ginger foam and toasted pumpkin seeds. And now Japanese influence. The flavors of the soup took me back to my travels in Tokyo. Akemi marveled at the fact that it tasted exactly like the kabocha soup her mother used to make back in Osaka. Now THAT is praise.
Les Crustaces. Yet another stunning three-in-one. No, the starfish is not edible.
Lobster in sake broth with radish and nori. Akemi's favorite because, again, the dish was very reminiscent of Japan, delivering a sense of natsukashii that had her talking about it for the rest of the night. BTW - that's a lemon grass spear.
Sea urchin in a wasabi emulsion. The wasabi was quite delicate and married perfectly to the equally delicate uni possessed of a subtle sweetness you'll only find from the freshest variety.
Truffled langoustine ravioli. A tiny bite but bursting with truffled langoustine flavor. An incredibly dense and meaty pocket of seafood
Not picture – Le Black Cod: Black cod in daikon buoillon with yuzu zest. Damn. For some reason, I missed snapping a pic of this dish and it’s a shame because it was one of the highlights of among an entire evening of highlights. The cod was sweet and smokey, its accompaniments again redolent of the very best of Japan cuisine.
Le Chou: Crispy fried cabbage with vegetable medley. A more restrained dish than the others, but no less appreciated - here, the preparation allows the delicate flavors of the individual vegetables to take center stage. The crisp cabbage was also an elegant little addition here.
Le Veau: Sauteed veal chop with natural jus and vegetable talierinis flavored with pesto. The veal was nicely cooked and fairly subtle in comparison to the intense talierinis.
Martin goes "all in" with the wine pairing.
Le Soja: Risotto of soybean sprouts, lime zest and chives. Our final savory course and, alas, my least favorite only because I've never been a fan of sprouts.
L'Amande: Light almond panna cotta, tahitian vanilla and pineapple. Didn't really enjoy this dessert either - although I was odd man out at judge's table on this one. It contained an underlying flavor I found off-putting. I'd liken it to saffron - my least favorite spice.
La Framboise: Fresh raspberries and ginger infused sorbet, crunchy honey tuile. As most of you know, I'm not a big fan of fruit-themed desserts, but this was quite nice.
Sixteen courses, several fresh breads, some house-churned butter, and a few glasses of wine later we were thoroughly sated. And then some. At which point they rolled out the Dessert Cart.
The Dessert Cart. I figured it would be rude to pass.
My selection of mignardises - along with a few extras the waiter added because he obviously felt I hadn't had enough to eat.
Marty G. sizes up his religieux.
We capped off our meal with a tour of the kitchen where we watched the team in action, then met Executive Chef Claude Le Tohic and Pastry Chef Kamel Guechida.
Wake up late, work out, deal with any outstanding matters, enjoy a leisurely lunch, catch a taxi to the airport and arrive well in advance of the scheduled boarding time, leave Vancouver at 3:00 p.m., arrive in Vegas at 5:30 p.m., check in, unwind, then head on over to Scarpetta for our 8:00 p.m. dinner reservation.
Well, that was the plan anyway. Maybe, in some ideal alternate universe, that’s the way it went down but in this reality, things went a little differently. Arrived at the airport to discover the flight had been pushed an hour. Then an hour and fifty minutes. Then two hours and ten minutes. Then two and a half hours. Apparently our plane was delayed coming out of Toronto. The reason for the delay? No one, not even the Air Canada staff, had a clue.
Finally, the plane arrived. Iwas good to go! Unfortunately, Air Canada wasn’t. We had to wait for the cabin crew to clear customs. “Wait a minute,”I protested. “The flight crew had two and a half hours to clear customs!” I was informed that because of the delay, they had to switch out the assigned crew with a crew coming in from an international flight.
We finally left Vancouver, three hours late, made up no time in the air, and finally touched down in Vegas very, VERY late. A mad rush to the hotel, a hurried check-in, followed by breakneck charge to The Cosmopolitan andI was finally sitting down to dinner – formerly scheduled for 8:00 p.m., then pushed to 8:30 p.m., then pushed to 9:00 p.m., then pushed to 9:30 p.m., but it wasn’t until 10:00 p.m. that I finally sat down.
Of course the late dinner meant I was able to enjoy the company of an old friend who made the drive from L.A. just to see me – and enjoy dinner at Robuchon and e by Jose Andres.
No, not Paul Giamatti. My former culinary wingman, Golden Boy Martin Gero, showed. Of course, you wouldn’t know he was once my culinary wingman given that he hardly partook in any of the dishes I’d ordered – two appetizers, four pasta dishes, and three desserts. Apparently, he’d eaten on the way. Eaten at In And Out Burger!
Anyway, setting aside who did and did not eat for the time being, the Scarpetta feast was comprised of
Puree of Chestnut Soup with oxtail, celery root and smoked robiola dumplings. Good although the oxtail lost a lot of its typical marbled succulence in the soup. I thought the addition of the sliced almonds a nice textural touch.
Creamy Polenta with wild mushroom fricassee. Many people I know object to polenta because of its texture, almost akin to firm mashed potatoes, but I thought it worked wonderfully here with the fricassee. One of my favorite dishes of the night.
Pasta Dish #1: Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli with Marsala reduction. Given the Marsala reduction and foie gras, I thought this dish would be sweeter, a little more robust. Instead, it was possessed of an unexpected sharpness that, ultimately, left me kind of disappointed.
Pasta Dish #2: Agnolotti dal Plin with mixed meat and fonduta, mushrooms and parmigiana. A good dish that impressed me more for its preparation (perfectly al dente as were all the pastas) than its flavors.
Pasta Dish #3: Black Macaroni with Main lobster and basil bread crumbs. Multi-layeredcolors, textures and flavors made this one a table favorite. Again, the pasta was perfectly cooked with that nice, firm al dente bite I truly appreciate - that many Italian restaurants fail to achieve.
Pasta Dish #4: Beet and Smoked Ricotta Casonsei with pistachios and poppy seeds. An utterly delightful surprise and my favorite pasta dish of the night! Subtle, sweet, and toothshome!
Apple Crostata - cinnamon-sugar brioche, mascarpone gelato and blackberry compote. Sounded better than it was. I'm not a fan of pies or any similar desserts in which the crust is so easily separated from its filling. The highlight was the mascarpone gelato but the crostata to gelato ratio was off.
Zeppole - nutella center, vanilla sauce and candied hazelnuts. Alas, a disappointment. I was missing the promised nutella center.
Amedei Chocolate Cake with toasted almond gelato and salted caramel sauce. The richest dessert on the menu (I checked to make sure) delivers a BIG chocolate hit in the form of the greatest sof-centered chocolate cake I've ever had. And using my favorite chocolate no less. My only quibble was, again, with the cake to ice cream ratio. I'm a firm believer that it should be 1:1, one spoonful of ice cream to accompany each spoonful of cake. Otherwise, a terrific dessert.
Way past Marty G.’s bedtime.
On our way out, we passed owner Scott Conant himself, standing at the bar chatting with customers as they left the restaurant. He seems a lot more friendly and down to earth when he’s not berating you for undercooking your fish or improper plating. I told him I enjoyed my meal.
In retrospect, I should have mentioned my ice cream to dessert ratio issues.
I was exhausted by the time I got back to the hotel and just conked out – waking up at 4:30 a.m. when the hotel alarm clock went off. I eventually got back to sleep and woke up again at a far more reasonable and much later hour.
A lot of walking today which, naturally, worked up an appetite. For lunch, checked out Mario Batali’s OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria –
It was fine. Found the pizza too salty.
The sundaes to finish the meal were good.
Dark chocolate cake with graham cracker gelato and meringue.
Then, strolled through the Forum Shops at Caesar’s where I stopped by Max Brenner for the famed choclate pizza –
Milk chocolate, white chocolate, and sweet pizza dough. I found the dough had an undercooked quality that made it difficult to stomach. Oh well.
On the way back to my hotel room to get ready for dinner, I stopped by the Bouchon Bakery stand and picked up a giant pistachio macaron –
Lacked the fresh, crisp integrity of the macarons I enjoyed in Tokyo. Overly sweet and chewy.
While shopping for sunglasses, I received a call from my writing partner, Paul. Apparently, the American broadcaster has signed off and we’re officially on board this new project. Stay tuned for the grand announcement.
Or, barring a grand announcement, I’ll just fill you in on this blog in the coming days.
Off to meet up with Marty G. at Joel Robuchon. Wish us luck!