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By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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How Do The Cosmopolitan's Chefs Splurge in Vegas?

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Front row from L to R: The Bromberg brothers, David Myers. Back row from L to R: Scott Conant, Costas Spiliadis, José Andrés.

© Melanie Dunea
Front row from L to R: The Bromberg brothers, David Myers. Back row from L to R: Scott Conant, Costas Spiliadis, José Andrés.

Yesterday, Tasting Table mapped out a strategy for eating one’s way through the 13 hot restaurants on the third floor of the just-opened Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas.

I asked some of the star chefs behind those restaurants what they love most about Vegas, and how they splurge when they’re in town. Here, their answers:

Scott Conant, D.O.C.G. and Scarpetta
“I really admire how this city attracts such great talent, whether it’s chefs or performers. There’s also real appreciation for hospitality, food & beverage and entertainment, and the professional approach they take to this here really resonates with me. Every time I’m here working, I pick a night to go on a restaurant crawl and hit up four of five great places in one night.”

Anthony Meidenbauer, Holsteins
“My splurge in Las Vegas is my recently found new ramen-noodle spot, Monta. It's a little hole in the wall that has amazing food, made in a tiny kitchen.”

David Myers, Comme Ça
“What I love about Las Vegas is the diversity of restaurants and culture, beautiful weather and the incredible realization that this is all in the middle of the desert. My splurge will be the weekend at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas taking in all the great restaurants, with some time at the pool and at the tables. Also, dinner at either Twist or Joël Robuchon at The Mansion.”

Eric and Bruce Bromberg, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
“Las Vegas has so many different faces. High-end casino experiences, travelers from around the world, funky Chinatown eateries, great weather, great routes to bike and a 24-hour mentality that makes New Yorkers like us feel right at home. Our favorite Vegas splurge: A great ride in Red Rock canyon by day, some afternoon shopping around town and then hitting all the great restaurants in The Cosmopolitan in the evening. And ending up at Marquee for a late-night blowout.”

José Andrés, China Poblano and Jaleo
“I love Vegas for its energy. Every place has a unique rhythm, and this truly is a city that never sleeps, a place that draws people from all over world for the unique environment it offers. To have so many great chefs in one city, like Robuchon, Boulud, Keller, is amazing. I love the Strip, the casinos, but people need to take the effort to know the real Las Vegas. I go to the arts district, which is genuine and full of great people, as is the local restaurant scene.”

Chefs

A Cool Cooking Class in Grenada

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Red Snapper

© Amy Rosen
Fried red snapper.


Needing to escape the cold, I recently sought out warmer weather in Grenada, where I had the chance to visit BB’s Crabback Caribbean Restaurant. The chef, Brian Benjamin (hence BB’s), leads hands-on cooking classes. For $100, you’ll get schooled in all of the island’s local ingredients while cooking in the restaurant’s tiny kitchen. “It’s an opportunity for people to cook with foods they’ve never seen,” explains the jovial chef. To wit, we cooked with callaloo (a dark leafy green, like spinach), breadfruit (the texture is akin to a chestnut), shadow benny (a wild herb that tastes like cilantro) and dasheen (a starchy tuber). We made saltfish souse and bakes, fresh fried red snapper and creamy crabback. Then we ate it all and drank the afternoon away as a tropical rain shower swept through the open-air dining room.

Menus

Italian Beer Invasion

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beer

© Jen Murphy
Perfect Pairing: kale & parmesan crisps and Italian beer on tap.

 

Today, Tasting Table tapped into San Francisco beer geeks’ current love affair with Italian craft beers. The obsession has spread beyond the West Coast and beyond beer geeks. I just got back from a trip to Chicago, where Spiaggia’s star sommelier, Steven Alexander, told me about his new obsession for Italian craft beers. He’s created a remarkable Italian artisan beer list, with more than 15 brews from super-small breweries. I was lucky enough to have a mini tasting, paired with some of chef Sarah Grueneberg’s crispy kale and parmesan crisps and cheese from Spiaggia’s famous cheese cave. Cafe Spiaggia keeps Birra del Borgo’s Re Ale Extra Pilsner and Birrificio Italiano Tipopils on draft. My favorite of our tasting was Demon Hunter Dark Ale. Yes, it has a pretty bad-ass name (and a label that I’m sure some beer lover will mimic as a tattoo), but this dark brew made by Birrificio Montegioco in Lombardy is my perfect winter beer, with notes of chestnuts, caramel, plums and lots of spice. Italy has already tackled wine. It seems like it has now pretty much mastered beer. I hope more US sommeliers follow Alexander’s lead and start showcasing some great bottles.


Restaurants

Preview from Sam Talbot's Seafood Restaurant

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miami preview dinner

© Billy Farrell Agency
Preview dinner for Sam Talbot's new sustainable seafood restaurant.

Chef Sam Talbot (the Top Chef heartthrob and chef of Montauk, New York’s Surf Lodge) gave a select group of super-fashionable guests a peek at some of the sustainably minded seafood dishes he’ll be serving at Imperial No. 9, his forthcoming restaurant that will open at the Mondrian SoHo in NYC early next year. The dinner, hosted by photographer Poppy de Villeneuve, was held at Miami’s Mondrian Hotel during Art Basel, and the long communal table was appropriately decorated with de Villeneuve’s photos and Talbot’s own paintings (when he's not cooking, he paints). The menu included fried oysters with chowchow and crispy ham; lemon king crab a la plancha with sweet-and-sour butter and crispy garlic chips; four-hour octopus with chiles, soy and lime; and spicy cucumber kimchi with napa cabbage.
 

Entertaining

Band of Outsiders Dinner Party

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marmalade

© Wired Images
Kevin West's Dewar's-spiked marmalade


The super-hip fashion label Band of Outsiders just opened a cool new design studio in Los Angeles. To christen the space, Band of Outsiders founder Scott Sternberg hosted a dinner party there last week, with cocktails from Dewar’s and food catered by F&W Best New Chefs 2009 Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Animal.

Among the 100 guests who sat down to the brown-butcher-paper-covered table were actress Marisa Tomei, editor Lisa Love, model Jessica Joffe and author Bret Easton Ellis. A highlight of the night was Kevin West’s take-home gifts: The former W magazine editor turned jam obsessive, founder of West Sweet Preserves, used Dewar’s White Label to make an awesome marmalade with local Valencia oranges, Eureka lemons and Marsh grapefruits. For those not at the party, click here to order a jar.

Wine

Punta Del Este's New Food & Wine Festival

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punta

© Ariel Fernández of Southern-Press
Ambassador of USA in Uruguay, David Nelson, Gabriel Bialystocki, chef Ben Ford, and chef Toshio Tomita.


I’ve always associated Punta Del Este, on the eastern coast of Uruguay, with glamorous beaches rather than excellent food. But Gabriel Bialystocki, founder and director of Punta del Este’s first ever Food & Wine Festival, is changing that. Bialystocki has collected an impressive lineup of chefs from the US, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to participate in the month-long event. Each Saturday, selected chefs will host special dinners for up to 180 people. The dinners will highlight Uruguay’s local ingredients, and each dish will be paired with Uruguayan wines. Bialystocki e-mailed me an update from this past Saturday’s six-course dinner, prepared by Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, CA; Gastón Yelicich of Isla de Flores in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay; and Toshio Tomita of Nobu in New York City. Highlights: Ford’s candied fennel, preserved lemon and mascarpone risotto; Tomita’s tuna sashimi in yuzu-soy sauce with jalapeños, with a garlic puree; and Yelicich’s dulce de leche mille-feuilles with chocolate mousse and sabayon cream.

The November 27 finale will be hosted by Argentinean chef Francis Mallmann, who will cook using his trademark seven fires, and Bialystocki promises to report on all of the delicious details.

Restaurants

Arsenal’s Awesome New Stadium Food

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arsenal

© Arsenal Football Club
Arsenal's new WM Club restaurant.


I am a huge sports fanatic, particularly when it comes to soccer—or, as the rest of the world refers to it, football. Usually, I find myself watching a match in a pub in London or a bodega in Barcelona, screaming at a TV screen with the locals. But this year I managed to score tickets to see Arsenal take on Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium in London (and, against all odds, lose!). The Brits have taken a few notes from the new haute food offerings at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium and opened three new restaurants and Legends, a cool sports bar with 40 TV screens, at the Club Level. Raymond Blanc protégé Oleg Ibragimov is in charge of the excellent menu at the WM Club restaurant (named for Herbert Chapman’s revolutionary 3-2-2-3 WM formation that looked like a “W” and “M” on the field). I dined pre-game and had my own personal “table concierge,” who delivered foie gras–and–pear compote with crème brûlée spoons; ham hock terrine with crispy quail’s eggs and homemade piccalilli; and Suffolk pork cheek and belly with red cabbage and crispy pork crackling. Before leaving for the start of the match, I was asked to fill out my halftime menu order. Would I like a cheese plate, wine, perhaps a beer? I checked off my menu card, and my snacks were all waiting at my table at the half. Guests can also come back post-game for Angus beef burgers, drinks and a chance to see Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger and former players mingling with the fans.

Restaurants

F&W Exclusive: Why Three-Star Laurent Gras Is Leaving L20

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© Shimon and Tammar
Laurent Gras Is Coming to NYC.

First of all, let’s have a big round of applause for Laurent Gras, one of F&W’s beloved Best New Chefs, who is now also a Michelin three-star chef (remember, there are only nine such chefs in the entire United States). Here's what he has to say about his surprise move to leave his epic Chicago restaurant L20, right as the Michelin buzz is in full blast:

“I love L2O and am very proud of everything we achieved there. But [owner] Rich Melman and I have always had different points of view on L2O. In July, we talked about changes he wanted to make, and for me, these changes would alter the character of L2O and ultimately make it a different experience. I let him know then that I would be leaving. It seems sudden, but we worked together these past months to make the transition. For me, the most important thing was to make sure the restaurant stayed open and all my staff remained employed.”

And here’s more applause-worthy news for those of us in NYC: Gras is moving back to Manhattan, and he’s got a very interesting project (or two) up his sleeve. Look for news about it on his new blog, coming soon.

Cocktails

A Great New British-Countryside Retreat

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cocktail

© Jen Murphy
Cocktail time at the Barn at Coworth Park.

Every fall, I make an annual trip to London, and I have made a habit of indulging myself with a day or two in the British countryside before heading into the hectic city for work. In the past, I’ve stayed at Brit designer Ilse Crawford’s cozy coaching inns in Hurley and Amersham. This year, I decided to be a bit more posh and checked into Coworth Park.

Located on 240 acres in Ascot, just 45 minutes from London, this new hotel fulfills every fantasy I’ve ever had of a Posh-and-Becks-style country escape, complete with Georgian manor house, stables, deer running in the fields and a lake full of swans. My sporty side loved the tennis, croquet, horseback riding, running paths and polo (it’s the only hotel in the UK that has its own polo fields), and the fab eco-spa, which has an amethyst-lit lap pool that plays music underwater and offers exclusive organic treatments from Dr. Alaitis (some made from lavender grown on the spa’s green roof). And my gluttonous side took total advantage of the awesome food from Michelin-starred chef John Campbell. The Barn, appropriately housed in an old converted barn, has a casual gastropub feel and comfort foods like cottage pie with braised root vegetables and beer-battered fish-and-chips (both pair excellently with Coworth Park’s own beers). Warm homemade bread gets served in cute feed bags. The bar on the second level has horse tacks on the walls, cooking-pot chandeliers and one of the best gin selections I’ve ever seen, plus intuitive bartenders who know exactly how you like your drink. At night, I swapped my muddy Wellies for heels and ate at chef Campbell’s signature fine dining restaurant within the mansion house. A shire menu features ingredients sourced from no more than 70 miles away, while the tasting menu is more brainy and theatrical and might include a liquid nitrogen sorbet of sage and Bramley apple prepared tableside, or a frosted vase of flowers that releases an infusion of garlic smoke over the table. The vegetarian tasting menu was perhaps the most intriguing, mixing flavors like carrot, galangal, ginger and pine nuts in one dish and butternut squash, artichoke and quinoa in another. The restaurant offers the perfect bit of city cooking in the country.
 

Chefs

Alchemy of Taste and Smell—The Scented Dinner

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© John Sconzo
Alchemy of Taste and Smell Chefs Included David Chang and Wylie Dufresne.

I don’t know what you all did for dinner on Saturday night. Me, I sat in a small dining room in New York City’s Astor Center and got showered with vanilla-scented bubbles from a machine that looked like it was borrowed from a Bensonhurst disco while Roberta’s chef Carlo Mirarchi served luscious sea urchin with carrot granita and vanilla. It was just one of the courses in the Scented Dinner that closed the Alchemy of Taste and Smell conference, and I was just one of the guests (Ruth Reichl, Jeffrey Steingarten and Harold McGee were there too). And Mirachi was just one of the chefs creating extra-sensory dishes with help from perfumer Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. Coi’s Daniel Patterson, the festival’s organizer, cooked beets in hay and then scented them with more hay, and flowers too. Wylie Dufresne, of WD-50, infused his outstanding aerated foie gras with just the right amount of pine and then served it on pine paper with a burning edge – long story short, it evoked a big burning fireplace, which was just about the only thing missing from that dinner.

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