Sunday, December 21, 2008

Las Vegas Foodalogue - part 3

We dined at Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood Cafe in Mandalay Bay on the first night of our trip. RM is a Las Vegas staple for us. You may find repeated references coming up- it’s not a typo, we like the place a lot.

The cafe is downstairs with a higher end restaurant upstairs. The food for both places comes from the same kitchen, but we prefer the more open atmosphere downstairs- and the fact that it’s cheaper doesn’t hurt.

The bread basket had some great corn muffins and buttermilk biscuits. While waiting to order, I also snacked on one of the many small bags of oyster crackers that are on every table. I didn’t order it this trip, but their clam chowder is great.

Dearly Beloved started her meal with the soup of the day, a spicy and rich pumpkin soup. I went with the miso soup. Their miso features shiitake mushrooms, shiso leaves, scallions, and fat chunks of shrimp. Either soup is a great way to take the edge off of a cold day in Vegas.

As we were finishing up our soup, four conventioneers sat at the next table. We spent a little while trying to figure out which convention they were in town for, but didn't really reach a satisfactory conclusion- they really didn't seem like they were in town for the rodeo or for the construction convention. I guess they could work for Expedia- but honestly, they sounded like salesmen. All that we could really get was that one of them was the "client" and the other three were about ready to take him out behind the barn and shoot him.

Our next course arrived. I had ordered the seafood salad which was delicious, but a little tentacle heavy for some (Dearly Beloved). Herself had ordered the crab cake appetizer. With the appetizer, you get one crab cake. Order the entree and you get two crab cakes. Her comment about the crab cake - "Splendid. Better then anyone else's."

We also split two sushi rolls. The RM Roll is a favorite of mine. It contains soft shell crab, spicy hamachi, avocado and is topped with eel sauce. It is a great combination of taste and texture. The soft shell crab was slightly crispy without being at all difficult to eat.

The other roll was the Fuji Roll, which contains tempura shrimp, cucumber and spicy aoli. It's then topped with crab salad, tuna, avocado with citrus aoli, eel sauce and sesame seeds. It was creamy and wonderful. At any other restaurant, I'll stay away from aoli or strange sauce sushi, because I'm positive they only add the stuff to hide the taste of week-old fish. I had no such reservations here. It was great.

Dessert? No thanks. I don't know about my dearly beloved, but I was stuffed to the gills. After the meal, I walked for a while to work a little of the day off.

I love Vegas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vegas Foodalogue- An Aside

I mentioned last post that the Payard candy counter was closed (or ignored by the people that work there). Since I couldn't get at the freshly made candy, I bought the prepackaged candies that they had at their pastry counter. I picked up a raspberry marshmallow and a collection various fruit jellies- big mistake. The raspberry marshmallow was so old that the experience eating it was akin to eating raspberry scented leather. The fruit jellies had crystalized, turning them into fruit flavored sugar cubes.

Learn from my mistake- if you go to Payard, buy the fresh stuff and leave the pre-packed crud alone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vegas Foodalogue- part 2

I like Jean and Primm in Nevada- they are quaint. My Dearly Beloved and I skipped them this time, in our mad dash to get to Las Vegas. We parked at the Bellagio to see the Christmas display. Unfortunately, the Bellagio’s garden display was pretty much a repeat of last year. An employee had confided last year, the Christmas tree decorations had cost so much that they’d have to use it for years to get their money’s worth. It’s just too bad that I don’t like them.

Up until a year ago, Jean-Philippe’s Patisserie in the Bellagio was a mandatory stop for us. The pastries there were the best in Las Vegas. Time hasn’t done them any favors though. While you can still get a great dulce de leche brioche there, their pastries have become more about pleasing the eye then pleasing the palate. We’ve been opting to make our first food stop at Payard in Ceasars for the last few trips.

I fell in love with Payard (the place) the first time we ate there, right after they opened- so much so that my dearly beloved and I picked up two of Francois Payard’s books (Chocolate Epiphany and Bite Size). Great books with great pictures. Someday I’d really like to try my hand at his Spicy Chocolate Pots de Creme. I fell in love with Bouchon’s pots de creme years ago, and have always been scared that if I ever found out how to make them, I’d go overboard making and eating them. I’m fat enough already.

Payard has a candy counter- which is filled with one of my favorite types of candy - fruit jellies.

Unfortunately, none of the employees were able to help me at the candy counter. They were too busy wrapping up items for their Christmas displays to bother with customers that were standing at counters, five feet from them, shouting, “Excuse Me. I want to buy something. Hello!”

We had better luck at the pastry counter.

Dearly Beloved opted for a freshly made fruit crepe, which looked divine, while I went for the Cendrillon.

The Cendrillon was a wonderful pastry with pumpkin mousse, cranberry marmalade, cinnamon and ginger. There were also some macaroons on the sides. Underneath the orange coating, the mousse, marmalade and some cake, are built into delicious, moist layers of heaven. I was too blissed out to have any reaction other then "Yum".

Monday, December 15, 2008

Vegas Trip - Travelogue...well, Foodalogue-Part One

Dearly Beloved and I just got back from Vegas again- and I'll be sharing our travel pictures for the next couple of posts. If you aren't the type that gets into that kind of thing- come back in a few weeks and it'll be over. Just one note before I get too far- Vegas was not a busy place this trip. I know this is a slow season at good times, but the recession has made matters even worse for the city of sin. A few of the high end restaurants are taking a couple of weeks off while things are slow, still more have cut back on shifts for their staff to get through the lean times. I hope things get better soon.

Oh, heck, another note- The rodeo was in town while we were in Vegas. The NFR or something. It was a little surreal seeing cowboy hats and big hair in all the old familiar places. Turns out that I like cowboys and cowgirls- they're a lot more polite then the usual folks I see around during the rest of the year. I even saw people holding doors open for other people. How rare, that small kindness, has become.

On the drive out to Las Vegas, dearly beloved and I have our little rituals and stops. We chat for most of the first leg of the trip. Just when conversation starts getting droopy, about the time the miles start adding up, we'll get to our first big stop in Victorville. This is always a treat for us, our favorite little bagel place. I love bagels, but for some reason, I rarely get around to eating them. Unfortunately, we were in for our first disappointment of the trip. Our lovely, fresh bagel place was gone. It's a fully operational tattoo parlor now. What a difference a few months make- there wasn't any sign that the bagel place ever existed there. I can't lie, I was emotional.

So, we went to the donut shop in the same strip mall.

The cake donut was cakey, the apple fritter wasn't greasy, the cruller existed (they don't in a lot of donut shops these days). The coffee was okay too. It wasn't the same experience we'd wanted out of the bagel place, but it was good enough that it'll be a new ritual on the way to Vegas.

Next stop was Barstow for some gas and soon we were listening to an audiobook of Rex Stout's "The Rubber Band". Time passed quickly and we were in Baker for our next ritual - The Mad Greek. It's a great place to stop. The food is tasty, the decor is fun, and the bathrooms are clean. I love everything about the place except the ice tea- it's nasty.

We shared the "combo plate" at the Mad Greek- Hummos, tabouleh, tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves, blocks of feta cheese, olives and (not pictured) really greasy flat bread. The meal is heaven for the taste buds. The bread is hell for the gut, in a good way. Yum.

Next Episode: We'll actually be in Vegas!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today's Snowclone

Daily News, front page (at bottom) "Is gay the new black?"