July 7th, 2008
Joining us on our trip to Las Vegas was Food Writer extraordinaire Cynthia Nims and her husband Bob. It was a whirlwind trip of shows, cocktialing and dining!
We did a few lunches and “late” night breakfasts at the Grand Lux Cafe which is always a reliable and tasty mainstay at now both the Venetian and the Palazzo hotels. And did a bit of a show marathon: seeing both Elton John and Bette Midler. And they were amazing – though I enjoyed Elton John the most … it brought back junior high memories of listening to records in the basement …..yes, I still love that Yellow Brick Road album! (By the way fellow chef friend Bradly Ogden’s restaurant is a great pre or post show dinner or Lux bar snack option – located at Caesars across from the Colosseum)
But on to more dining. It was time to head to old downtown Vegas to go back in time and have a totally retro experience. We ventured to the 4 Queens Casino and checked out Hugo’s Celler – a total throw back in time!
Joining us was chef Charles Ramseyer (previously of Ray’s Restaurant in Seattle for years and now Western Regional Executive Chef for China Grill Management and living in Vegas) and his partner Lisa. Ok – Cynthia had been here before and I had been pre-warned of the super fun kitchyness of it all — but I was not prepared for the most retro bar snack I have ever seen – yes folks it was crocks of Chicken Liver Pate, Pimento Olive Cheese Spread, served with none other than Ritz Crackers and heart shaped water crackers. Might I say ….. a fetching partner for a perfectly chilled gin martini.
We moved to the dining room into our ultra plushy giant booth and started off with tableside salads: each garnished with what ever your hearts desire from the salad cart — anchovies, artichokes, nuts, croutons, palm hearts…. the list goes on. Our entrees included, of course, veal chops and fillet mignon with old-school bordelaise sauce….
And yes our charming waiter was a throw back in time too — he used to work at Fullers Restaurant in Seattle (the nationally acclaimed restaurant where I cut my teeth as a chef in the mid 80’s- now defunct). It was nice to experience formal old-style crisp service with attention to detail!
It was great catching up with friends, hearing from Charles and Lisa how life in Vegas is and just for a few hours pretending we were all living in 1958 – with no worries, a great cocktail and a great steak — and of course all crowned off with chocolate dipped strawberries and a rose for the ladies!
After a night of staying up way to late John and I trekked over to our ” healthy and needing something nutritious” mainstay– the Canyon Ranch Spa Cafe in the Venetian Hotel. We always eat there at least a couple of times whenever we visit Las Vegas. John loves their Thai French Toast with reduced tangerine juice and ginger syrup and house-made lean chicken sausage. I usually opt for their perfectly made egg white omelet with mushrooms, spinach, organic white cheddar and fresh herbs — yes it is good!
Vegas is a great place to visit – you can dine at nationally acclaimed restaurants, see shows, do a little gambling and have a LOT of fun all in just one little/big city. We can’t wait to go back.