Saturday, February 27, 2010

Parma Again

After telling Ian about Parma, I had to go back with him so he could try their food as well. He ordered a half of a Parma sandwich (pictured left) and I ordered the antipasto salad and a cup of Pasta Fagioli soup. Although we ordered different items than I did the last time I was there, everything was just as good, so I'm glad they seem to be consistent in the quality of their offerings.

There aren't too many places in Vegas giving the same kind of attention to sandwiches that Parma does, so we were impressed. The bread it was served on was crusty and chewy, so much so you needed a little jaw strength to tear it (in a good way). The imported Italian meats and cheeses stuffed inside were great, and we liked the use of very finely shredded lettuce on top. The sandwich was dressed well with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil, which gave just the right amount of acidity to cut through the fat in the meat. It was quite the bargain, too, at $5.95 for an oversized half that could easily have been sold as a whole.

The antipasto salad ($11) was also a bargain for its size as it could easily feed two people with not much else. It was basically the same thing as the Parma sandwich, minus the bread, with the addition of imported olives, garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, and a more lettuce. The Pasta Fagioli soup was $5 for a cup, which was served in a rather large bowl. In fact, I think a bowl ($8) would be too much for one person. This was definitely one of the better pasta fagioli soups I can remember having, for several reasons. There was an adequate amount of the rich broth (sometimes all you get is beans and pasta), the pasta was cooked perfectly (usually overdone and mushy), and there was a lot of flavor from good parmesan cheese. Next time I feel like a big bowl of soup, this will be the soup I envision having. Two thumbs up for Chef Marc.

Today's Food Rating: 8 (some points were deducted since the dishes weren't terribly creative and they can't take credit for making the meats)


Cara Cara Contest

While Az and I were getting our nails done on Tuesday she handed me a "Desert Companion" magazine to read, mistaking the name for "Dessert Companion," a discovery we made later that night. It happened to be the food issue, which is why I paid no attention initially, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In one of the articles I read, local food critic John Curtas recommended the Cara Cara oranges at Costco. I forgot about it until we went to Costco to pick up some vitals the other day and saw the big bags of them in the produce section. Even though we don't go through enough fruit to justify buying any at Costco, I had to buy one. I tried my first after I had the chance to chill in the fridge and was delighted by the taste of this variety of orange I hadn't been exposed to before. The flesh was reddish-pink, juicy and tasted somewhat like papaya. The only downside was the thick membrane and pith that clung to the orange causing the segments get stuck in my throat. We agreed the oranges would best be used for juice, or cut into supremes for a salad, which is a method for cutting away everything but the flesh (see picture below).

Yesterday, while buying scallops for dinner at Whole Foods, I noticed the Cara Cara oranges were available there as well. I thought this would be a good opportunity to test the quality of the same seasonal fruit from a different (and much more expensive) store. I had Ian devise a tasting contest for Az and I after dinner to see if we could tell the difference. He cut supremes from each and placed two segments on each of two sets of identical plates. We shouted out where we thought each segment came from on a count of three, both of us shouting Whole Foods for segment number one on both plates. Well, Ian tricked us and put both segments from Costco on the first set of plates and both from Whole Foods on the second. Obviously, we couldn't tell the difference blindly, but after going back and tasting them with knowledge of where they came from, we found one subtle difference. The Cara Caras from Whole Foods were slightly more tart than those from Costco. Az preferred the Costco oranges whereas I preferred the more sour oranges from Whole Foods. I love sour foods so we came to the conclusion that neither was tastier than the other, they just appealed to different pallets. The deciding factor in choosing the better orange was price, which was double at Whole Foods ($2/pound vs. $7.99 for an 8 pound bag). Unless you just want to try a Cara Cara orange and can't finish a whole bag (they're pretty good so you probably could) you are better off buying them at Costco. No matter where you buy them, I highly recommend you make the purchase!

Today's Orange Rating: 8 (or a 9 if made into juice or cut into supremes)

Dinner at Home: Scallops and Chive Risotto

Last night Ian made another terrific dinner for Azurde and me. She had seen pictures of my Valentine's dinner and thought the scallops looked like something she would enjoy for the late birthday meal Ian offered to cook for her. The scallops were served over chive and bay shrimp risotto (adding the bay shrimp was my idea), topped with a sun-dried tomato cream sauce and Parmesan crisp. I took a picture of just the scallops and risotto (below) to show what the sauce covered up. Our main dish was accompanied by a shaved asparagus and Persian cucumber salad tossed with red onions, fuji apples, and cilantro in a pomegranate vinaigrette. The use of raw shaved asparagus was interesting and successful and we all agreed the dish should be added to our archive of salad recipes.

We devoured everything, so the meal was obviously well-received. Ian, however, had some personal criticisms regarding the color of the sauce, which was somewhat muddled and not as bright as it could have been (maybe I shouldn't have urged him to use the basil). Additionally (and he'll be mad that I'm adding this), the Parmesan crisp could have used some work as well. He admitted that he left it on the stove too long, causing it burn somewhat and develop a bitter taste in the process. Not everything always goes as planned in the kitchen, even for a trained professional!

Tonight's Food Rating: 7.5
Would he make it again? YES, WITH A LITTLE TWEAKING

Food Finds: Heaven's Cookie

These addictive little morsels are handmade locally and are available in the bakery departments of Las Vegas' Whole Foods. I passed by them several times before I purchased my first box since the price seemed a little steep, $6.69 for a small box. I finally gave in because, as a fellow local vendor in Whole Foods, I wanted to support another Vegas-based business. After one bite I realized I was crazy for not giving in before. These all-natural and hand-rolled cookies are made with pure ingredients, of which there are only seven (hurrah!), and have a buttery short bread taste. They are studded with Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (a white chocolate version is also available) and are perfectly bite-sized. I have two of the cookies with my coffee every morning and it gets my day off to the perfect start. The owner, Jan, is most ingenious in her use of brown rice krispies, which give the cookies a unique texture and keeps them light and airy. An added benefit of purchasing the cookies is that a portion of the proceeds goes to shutting down puppy mills, a passionate mission of Jan's and the reason she started the company. So, despite the hefty price tag, the reward is three-fold. Support a local vendor on a quest to shut down puppy mills while enjoying a most delectable little cookie!

Panna Thai

After we left the insurance office yesterday we tried to go to a tapas restaurant nearby that we had eaten at once before, but sadly, as we pulled in the parking lot we saw it was yet another casualty of the recession. Instead, we opted for Panna Thai, located at the very South end of Fort Apache, just past Russell. We have eaten at Panna Thai several times since our trek to Thailand in 2007, and would go more frequently if it was in our neck of the woods since it is one of the better Thai restaurants we've found in Vegas. The decor is certainly better than any other Thai restaurant in the valley, of which the best part is a massive six panel shimmering gold painting of two elephants facing one another. I took a picture of it (below) to show my friend Katie because earlier in the day we had been talking about her deep love for elephants, which subsequently led to her elephant tatoo. Any elephant lover or Southeast Asian art enthusiast should really come see the panels in person.

After we sat down we took note of the lunch specials, reasonably priced at $6.95 and $7.95, but opted to order our favorites on the menu instead since we don't get out here very often. Ian was somewhat frugal and ordered the larb ($8.50) but I wasn't frugal at all and ordered the spicy basil clams ($14.95). Larb is a Thai specialty made with either ground beef, pork, or chicken that has been tossed with slivered red onions, cilantro, chilies, lime juice, and toasted rice powder. It is served with a crispy wedge of cool cabbage that you break apart in order to use the leaves as chip-like utensils. The larb at Panna Thai is a well done version because they use an adequate amount of toasted rice powder, which gives a nutty flavor to the meat, and an adequate amount of lime juice, which helps to cut through the fat. It's addictive and certainly worth trying if you haven't before. My spicy basil clams were not quite as fresh as they have been in the past, and were slightly over-cooked, but the fantastic flavor was still the same. The clams are served on a sizzling platter with sauteed onions and bell peppers, in addition to the basil and chilies. The sauce reduces to a wonderful sweet and spicy syrup as you are eating, which is great for pouring over the side of Jasmine rice they bring you in an adorable tin cup.

Though only one clam shell in my dish was broken (none would be better) I managed to get a small piece of shell from that single clam in one of my first bites and nearly broke one of my teeth. This is never a fun experience, as Ian can attest to. If there is any sort of physical contamination in a dish, he always seems to be the one to get it. He once found a piece of brillo pad in a cup of soup, a pebble in a salad, and the tip of a lobster claw in a sashimi dish (this was at Joel Robuchon so these things can happen anywhere). Luckily, we survived yet another meal, and I won't hold it against Panna Thai.

Today's Food Rating: 7
Ambiance: 7.5
Would we go back? YES, IF IN THE AREA

Tip: Go to Panna Thai on a nice day and play a round at the neighboring Putt Park miniature golf course after you eat. It's kind of an odd location since the course is built in the middle of the parking lot, but it looked well maintained and it's the only outdoor mini golf I've seen in Las Vegas since Scandia closed.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Food Finds: Dyer's Popcorn

This afternoon as Ian and I were walking out of our new insurance office on Durango and Flamingo we noticed a little popcorn shop next door called Dyer's. Of course, I had to go in and see what it had to offer. I was tempted by the sign that said "Chicago Stlyle Gourmet Popcorn," because I love the famous Garrett's Popcorn of Chicago and I wanted to see how Dyer's compared. Immediately I noticed the little empty sample cups on a table to the left, waiting to be filled with one of the four flavors on display. Most were artificially colored, which could be the reason the shop was named as it was. The gentlemen who worked there was nice enough to let us try some of the cinnamon and white cheddar (not bad), and offered the banana (gross), which I refused. There is nothing I hate more than artificial banana flavor. They had a variety of other flavors as well including pena colada (yes, that's how they spell it), caramel pecan delight, and jalapeno (sadly wasn't ready). We settled on buying a small bag ($4) of their best seller, cheddar and caramel (pictured left). This is a good version of what you get in the big tins so popular at Christmas time. The artificial cheddar was really cheesy and the caramel corn had a rich caramel flavor and a little snap of the sugar coating when you bit in. Was is as good as Garrett's? No, but it was still pretty good popcorn, and a good start for Vegas. It might be nice to bring to an office, or, Ian had the idea of making popcorn balls with it, which sounds like a good idea.

Today's Popcorn Rating: 7

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Yesterday afternoon Lauren, Ian and I dined at Maru, a Korean and Japanese restaurant located off Town Center in Summerlin. I must say Korean food is not one of my favorite cuisines, perhaps because Koreans are very adept at food preservation and I've never been a huge fan of anything fermented, with the exception of alcohol. Something about the little fizz attached to fermented foods makes me a little squeamish. Kimchi is a great example, although it can also be prepared fresh, which I prefer. In any case, I like to expose myself to all cuisines so I still eat Korean food occasionally.

The Korean dish I like the most is bibimbap, which is not only fun to say, but also fun to eat. It is an authentic dish that is accessible to the American pallet, best served in a hot stone pot. It consists of white rice topped with a pretty display of meat, a variety of vegetables, and a raw egg, along with a sweet and spicy sauce (pictured above). The first time Ian and I had this dish we got it without the egg and started eating the toppings first, dipping them in the sauce. We were corrected by the waitress who came over and poured the sauce over the toppings, then used a long metal spoon to mix all the contents of the pot together into a tasty hodge-podge. After she did so the dish made more sense, and the next time I didn't omit the raw egg since the the heat of the rice and the pot cooks it to a state I much prefer (see what the dish looks like after mixing below). Bibimbap is served at almost all Korean restaurants and usually one pot is enough for two average eaters, so it is as affordable as it is yummy (at Maru it is$9.99).

Korean food is always accompanied by banchan, or little side dishes, so I find this is a good way to try Korean specialties without having to make a whole meal out of them. The side dishes can range from seaweed and fishcakes to cold mashed potatoes and kimchi, and generally you are served about five of them. The banchan at Maru are very good, and I appreciate that they always change so you have a bit different experience each time.

Ian ordered the spicy pork lunch special which wasn't as good as the bibimbap. The flavor was fine but the pork was very oily and it was hard to find the good cuts of meat in the pile. It came with mediocre tempura, an average salad, rice, and a delicious cup of miso soup (one of the better I've had). We agreed we probably wouldn't order it again.

Maru, which has a lovely modern dining room complete with mini atrium, also has a sushi bar. I ordered sashimi here once and thought it was incredibly fresh, though the rolls on the menu aren't as interesting as say, Sushi Fever. It's nice that the restaurant offers two cuisines so you can please all the pallets in your party.

Today's Food Rating: 6.5
Ambiance: 7.5

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dinner at Home: Rib-eye and Root Vegetables

Tonight we prepared a rib-eye that was sent to us by the butcher who makes our dog food at The Butcher Shop in Oregon. This is the kind of steak that makes you question why you pay so much for a comparable steak served at a place that charges more than five times as much. Of course, the person preparing the steak (Ian) makes a big difference, but no matter how well you cook, you can't change the quality of meat you started with. It was so juicy, so well-marbled, so full of flavor, and so unlike the steaks available in Vegas, even the better shops, i.e. Larry's Great Western Meats and Whole Foods. With the exception of the top notch Strip steak houses, you just can't get meat like this here.

The primary reason we chose The Butcher Shop as the supplier of meat for our dog food is that we were so impressed by the quality of meat they have access to. Additionally, their prices are much more reasonable than anywhere else since they get all their meat directly from the farmers and cut out the middle men (this steak cost us about $7, where as a comparable steak at Whole Foods would have cost us at least $20). It was only after contracting the making of our dog food to Cam and Brian at The Butcher Shop that we decided to put some meat for ourselves on the pallet that was already headed south. Yes, our dogs are that spoiled. My dad says that we should sell this meat, but perhaps only to the people who buy our dog food. We'll start thinking about that...

Besides the glorious steak, Ian prepared some heirloom carrots and organic parsnips roasted with olive oil, thyme, rosemary, garlic, shallots, and agave nectar, which he finished with touch of butter and chicken stock (combining the latter two over a flame at the very end of the roasting process creates a shiny and mouth-watering glaze). It wasn't a fancy dinner, but the simplicity made it all the better. His catering services are available for parties of 20 or fewer. Inquire via

Tonight's Food Rating: 8.5
Ambiance: 9 (Nothing beats a delicious meal at home, however, points were deducted because the smoke from Ian's blackening spice makes it hard to see, let alone breathe. I'm looking forward to outdoor grilling in the summer.)
Would we prepare this again? ABSOLUTELY

Plated dinner

Root vegetables pre-roasting

The Un-Frugal Foodie: Prime Steakhouse

I apologize in advance for the photos but it is very difficult to get a good photographic representation of a meal in a dark setting. There would be have been no photos at all if my best friend, whom I will refer to from this point forward as Azurde (since she does have a name), hadn't taken them with her camera. Her Droid has my iPhone beat in low-lit areas since it has a flash. Anyhow, we went to Prime Steakhouse in the Bellagio last night for her birthday dinner, a restaurant owned by the reknowned chef Jean-George Vongerichten. I have eaten at his name-sake restaurant in New York so I was very excited that Azurde's mom, Loraine, and her boyfriend, Tom, invited us to experience the food here. My overall opinion would have to be that the restaurant was very good, but fell short in a few areas.

Az and I split two dishes, the Chilean Sea Bass served over braised mushrooms, poblano peppers and dill, and the special: a bone-in filet that was dry-aged 21 days. They served our meal first, which was a little disconcerting as it was split table-side. I was slightly cringing at the thought of the other dishes getting colder while ours was being prepared. The filet was terrific, perfectly cooked and juicy, while the sea bass was good, but rather un-inspired. The mushrooms underneath the seabass were superb, however, the poblano and dill were so mild the flavors never would have been obvious to the consumer. Mike, Az's fiance, ordered the roasted duck breast with almond crust and red wine amaretto sauce (pictured above). The crust was fantastic, but the duck was a bit tough. The best dish of the evening was ordered by Jan, Az's grandma. This was the rack of lamb with smoked chili glaze and broccoli rabe. The lamb was so tender and juicy, and the inherent flavor was fantastic. Obviously it came from a really good little lamb (I didn't start eating lamb again until a few years ago. They're pretty cute and very young so I was opposed to eating them for awhile, but apparently my morals have succumbed to the great flavor of lamb and my love for food).

As far as the sides, I would have to say they were hit and miss. The brussell sprouts were something worth going back for. They were roasted with just the right amount of char, and the use of pistachio nuts was ingenious. Execution = perfect. The sweet potato puree, which I swear also involved butternut squash, was superb, but the parmesean broccoli was painfully overcooked and the florets were cut too large for easy sharing.

All in all, I would say that Prime definitely uses great ingredients, and the food was solid, yet for the price I think one should demand more. I think this is a case of the talented, celebrity chef opening up a restaurant in Vegas because the $$$ is there (or rather, used to be there) and in the process reliquished a bit too much power to someone not as talented as themselves.

Tonight's Food Rating: 8
Ambiance: 8 (we had a beautiful view of the Bellagio fountains)

Rack of lamb

split bone-in filet and sea bass

me in front of the fountains, definitely more exciting in person

Full Ho

Even though this restaurant isn't one to write home about, it is worthy enough to blog about because it is a great value. Full Ho, which used to be Ho Ho Ho, is located in the crappy shopping center off Jones and the 95. There used to be a Smith's there, but now Full Ho is amongst the few remaining businesses (perhaps this is why they also sell ice - 10 lbs. for $1.85). The ambiance is drab, but you can learn a lot about yourself by reading the Chinese Zodiac place mats. I found out that as someone born in the year of the Boar, I am prone to marital strife, so I was at least pleased to see that Ian, the creative yet timid Sheep, is one of my best love matches.

All the food is prepared by one woman, whose sweet and competent daughter serves the food. Ian and I were mildly impressed by the food for a few reasons. First, it is one of the only places that serves Chinese lunch specials where we didn't have to doctor the soups that are included with the meal. Normally, we have to add soy sauce to the egg drop soup to give it some flavor, but here is came out well-seasoned and piping hot. Ian opted to upgrade to the hot and sour soup for $1 more, which was more impressive the last time we went. This time, although flavorful, you could see the excessive amount of pepper coat the spoon. Even Ian, who always asks for a level ten heat in Thai restaurants, thought she went overboard on the pepper and couldn't finish the small bowl. We found this strange because the Chinese are not big on heat.

Ian ordered the Grandfather's Chicken ($5.95) and I ordered the Shrimp with Vegetables ($5.95). The Kung Pao Chicken he got last time was only $4.95, so you really can't beat the lunch prices here. I asked him to describe in three short statements what he thought of his dish and his response was: 1) The chicken is over-fried, 2) Nothing in nature could produce the color of this gelatinous sauce, and 3) It's like eating a boot. I was more positive about my Shrimp with Vegetables. So positive, in fact, that I forgot to take a good picture before I had eaten most of it. The dish was loaded with fresh and perfectly cooked broccoli (which you won't see in the picture because it was gone by the time I remembered), baby bok choy, carrots, snow peas, and celery. I really appreciated that the chef didn't overdo it with the typical vegetables like baby corn and water chestnuts. I really hate when you order vegetable dishes at quick Chinese restaurants and 50% of it comes out of a can, as these staples always do. The sauce in the dish was flavorful and light, and the portion of shrimp was pretty hefty for $5.95. I think I counted 7. I would certainly order it again. The meals each came with a side of mediocre fried rice (we much prefer the fried rice from our local China Joe's, a take-out/delivery restaurant) and what appeared to be a crab rangoon without crab. The fried cream cheese puff with no seasonings would be better left off completely, as it was clearly an afterthought intended to enhance the perceived value of the dish on the menu.

I suppose this review won't likely inspire you to go to Full Ho, however, if you are on a budget and pick the right thing on the menu, I don't think you'll be dissatisfied. Even Ian said he would go back despite his chicken comments, but I'll let you know if he changes his mind.

Today's food rating: 5.5 (would have been a 6-6.5 if Ian hadn't ordered anything)
Ambiance: 5

Tip: Don't go on Monday. They're closed.


Yesterday was my best friend's birthday so we went out to lunch with her mom at place recommended by my yoga teacher. I had driven by Parma (just off Summerlin Pkwy on Buffalo) but hadn't ventured in until now. The chef has owned several other eateries in town but I can't remember being particularly impressed by the one I had eaten at. I think this is why I had never made a point of going, but after getting the recommendation and reading several reviews, I decided to try it. Perhaps he has evolved as a chef, or perhaps he has found his niche with this cute little deli, because I was pleasantly surprised by our lunch. We shared spinach manicotti, gnocchi in Sunday sauce, and a chopped salad. The salad was dressed properly and had the perfect amounts of cheese, salami, peppers, and onions. The spinach manicotti was stuffed with plenty of spinach and ricotta cheese and served in a deliciously creamy sauce. The gnocchi were light with a bit of chewiness (it is obvius all the pasta is made in house) and served in Sunday sauce, which was really the same sauce that covered the manicotti, but without cream. Sunday sauce is the term Italian New Yorkers gave to marinara because every Sunday this is what they would eat. Usually it is served in copious amounts, as you can see in the picture below, which is very un-Italian, and is generally poured over the noodles rather than tossed with them. Since I lived in Italy I prefer for pasta to be lightly dressed in sauce, but the bread they serve at Parma is very good so I was happy to have something to dip it in. We finished the meal with a piece of moist Limoncello cake topped with whipped cream frosting. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful lunch enjoyed in true Italian style - long and talkative!

I would like to go back and try Parma for dinner. At lunch they have a limited menu, which no doubt contributes to the success of each dish, and you order at the deli counter. About half the restaurant has tables and the other half is a deli/market/lounge area with big comfy couches. It seems like it would be a great place to go back and share a bottle of wine in the lounge, and then move into the restaurant area to enjoy items from the more extensive dinner menu. I will let you know if dinner is as good as lunch.

Today's Food Rating: 7.5
Ambiance: 7
Would I go back? YES

Tip: Pick up some freshly prepared pasta and one of their home-made sauces for an easy dinner.

Pho Saigon 8

As promised, I went to Pho Saigon 8 to compare their vegetable pho against that of Pho So 1. It is now obvious to me why Pho Saigon 8 is repeatedly hailed as having the best pho in town. I had been to Pho Saigon 8 once before and remeber being happy with the meal, though I had ordered a pho with meat that had a little too much tendon and cartilage for my liking. Since I am moving closer to becoming a vegetarian (not because I don't like meat but because I'm becoming rather disgusted with the way animals in America are raised), I love when restaurants do veggies well. The pho here had a much wider array of vegetables as you can see in the photo above, which not only made it more colorful, but also more nutritious and fun to eat. The veggies were cooked perfectly to boot, and the broth was richer and more flavorful than the other. Even though it was a dollar more than the pho at Pho So 1 ($6.95 vs. $5.95), it was definitely worth the added expense. Since I was with my friend Lauren, we also ordered the Bun Tom Thit Nuong Cha Gio, AKA #70 ($7.95). The bowl included grilled shrimp and grilled sliced pork atop thin vermicelli noodles, as well as vegetables and an egg roll. It was served with a sweet sauce to pour over the dish along with chopped peanuts and cilantro as garnishes. The pork was sweet and had great BBQ flavor, but the shrimp needed a touch more seasoning. I was thrilled when I dug to the bottom of the bowl and found another layer of crisp vegetables beneath the noodles. I love a dish with an element of suprise!

The service and ambiance were not as exciting as the food. It is a busy place with family style tables so we were rushed to place our order, and there is nothing redeeming about the space. They have some very strange decorations around the cash register (old grapes intended to be an offering, from what I could gather), and a bizarre ceiling fan (two non-functioning metal desk fans circling around a light). I would not let these elements stand in the way of my coming back, however, I wouldn't recommend it as a place for a first date.

Today's Food Rating: 7.5
Ambiance: 5.5

Bun Tom Thit Nuong Cha Gio, #70

Mundo Again

Since I've already reviewed Mundo I'm just going to do a quick breakdown of what we ordered and how it tasted.

Signature Margarita - Thumbs up! I would definitely get it again.

Guacamole - This had a poor presentation and was definitely prepared in advance. It also needed a kick. I would not order it again.

Garden Quesdilla appetizer - This was tasty but not too interesting. There was not enough "garden" and a it was a little heavy on the cheese. Also, someone should tell the chef that sun-dried tomatoes are not the same as oven-roasted tomatoes. I would probably not order this again, though I liked the white bean relish on top.

Arrachera Style Skirt Steak - This dish is full of flavor which is significantly enhanced by the accompanying chimichirri and spicy serrano chile drizzle. I would absolutely order this again.

Corn Risotto side - This wasn't quite as good as I had remembered but I still love the concept and would order it again.

Chicken Enchiladas - This was another winning entree with just the right amount of heat from the fresh sauce. The chicken inside was tender and well-roasted so I would certainly order this again.

Flan - This is as good as any other I've had in town, but my mom argued it wasn't quite as good as the caramel custard she made all the time in college (she's a great cook so I believe her). The presentation was beautiful, so it was an all around successful dessert and I would order it again.

My dad - He is the ever generous host and terrific dinner companion. I would definitely take him with me again.

The Un-Frugal Foodie: Bouchon

Though eating out on the Strip is expensive, there are a lot of well-respected chefs with restaurants located in hotels, so occasionally we splurge. Alas, the Frugal Foodie is not always frugal, but it would be a shame not give these restaurants the opportunity to impress us since they often expand our culinary horizons and give us great ideas for cooking at home. Sometimes the restaurants are unimpressive and we reluctantly hand over the credit card, but usually the price is the only deterrent for not eating on the Strip more often.

That being said, on Sunday we went to Thomas Keller's restaurant Bouchon for breakfast. We have yet to eat at The French Laundry, so Bouchon is the closest we can get to Keller's cooking. This is our third time eating at Bouchon, but our first time having breakfast. We figured this would be less expensive and better for the blog. We could have left the restaurant for under $35, including tip, had I not ordered a beautiful bellini ($12.50) and Ian not ordered a bottle of Stella Artois ($7), so we did try to be somewhat frugal by only ordering three small items to share. These three items were mostly delicious and we left satiated.

We ordered the smoked salmon with baguette ($16), a side of lyonnaise potatoes ($5), and a chocolate and almond croissant, which was the pastry special of the day ($4). The smoked salmon would have received my mother's seal of approval and the baguette was fresh and toasted to perfection, adding the perfect textural difference with it's addictive crunch. The chive cream cheese that accompanied it was very good, but we both agreed it would have been better whipped, in order to make it more spreadable. The tomatoes and onions were both fresh, however, I prefer my onions to be sliced razor thin for this preparation. When they are thin I find they cling better to the salmon and the bite isn't too powerful. The dish was impossible to eat gracefully as there was no real way to prepare the baguette without using your fingers, but I like playing with my food so I didn't mind. The lyonnaise potatoes were top notch, about a million times better than the version we had recently at the Golden Steer. The onions were well caramelized and the potatoes themselves must have been from an heirloom variety as their texture was silkier and more buttery than your typical supermarket taters. For $5 I would order these again, hands down. The croissant was flaky and chocolaty, but a bit overstuffed with the almond paste filling. Ian thought the croissant itself tasted a little stale, which I disagreed with. Considering that Ian hates baking and sweets (he wouldn't have passed Baking and Pastry in culinary school without my assistance) I wasn't swayed by his opinion and thought it was still very good, minus the excess filling. Next time I would order the more simple pain au chocolat instead.

As we glanced at our bill, which was still pretty hefty considering that we ordered some of the least expensive food items on the menu, we discussed how sad it is that in America you have to pay through the nose for what the French eat everyday at reasonable prices. I'm sure they would have a nice laugh if they saw the menu at Bouchon, but in our defense it still costs less than a plane ticket.

Today's Food Rating: 8
Today's Drink Rating: 8.5
Ambiance: 8

Lyonnaise Potatoes
Chocolate Almond Croissant

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bj's Brew House

This morning we had intended to go to Vintner Grill for brunch, however, their website hadn't been updated showing their reduced hours so we ended up going to BJ's Brew House nearby. Although we prefer to patronize independent restaurants since chains aren't usually too exciting, we find you can get decent food at reasonable prices and the food is always consistent. Obviously everyone else must feel the same because you don't see too many of them closing once they've opened, and well, just look at every street corner in urban areas.

I ordered the "French Toast Combo" ($7.95, pictured above) but subbed the adult french toast for the children's Cap'n Crunch coated and fried french toast. I don't know why you'd order sugar-coated and deep fried food for your child but it sounded pretty good so I though I'd give it a whirl. The eggs came out nice and hot and the apple-smoked bacon was of decent quality, but not crispy enough for my taste. The french toast was especially crispy but did not fall into the category of "lightly fried" as the description on the menu suggested. At first I thought it was alright but then I pressed down with my fork and saw oil starting to pool. Yuck. I reluctantly cut into the other piece which was astonishingly better. The Cap'n Crunch taste was nowhere to be found but it was much lighter and a fun version of french toast. Ian had the grilled chicken and cheese stuffed baked potato ($8.95). The Alfredo sauce that accompanied it tasted like it was straight out of a bag of Bertolli's frozen pasta (really bad) and the potato was unexciting. It was definitely a GMO potato if I'd ever seen one; just look at the size of the thing (pictured below). What is America coming to...

Today's food rating: 5.5 (the extra half point came from the second piece of french toast)
Ambiance: 7
Would we go back? PROBABLY NOT