Summer 2016 is over. It officially ends at midnight tonight, but for all practical purposes in Vegas, it ends when temperatures stop hitting 100+ degrees.
Are we sad to see it go? Not really. 100 straight days of brutal heat will wither even the staunchest of souls. And if you walk everywhere, like I do, it takes the starch out that staunch soul on a daily basis.
Amazingly, it even kills your appetite. Sometimes.
Sometimes, you just want a bright greens, maybe a slice of protein, and some fruit to get you through the evening.
Which was our mindset a couple of weeks ago when we walked into Andiron Steak & Sea. Steak and salad. The Atkins diet. No carbs. Clean living. Healthy liver.
That resolve lasted about 3 minutes, or about the time it took them to place those diabolical loaves of sweet cornbread in front of us. Still warm from the oven, they were the goddamned devil in carbohydrate form. Butter-slathered Lucifers of craven food lust. Beelzebubs of busted diets.
Yeah, they were that good.
You couldn’t eat just one. It was hard to keep from eating a dozen. Especially when the ever-ready waitron-enablers kept refilling the basket. They were as corn-y and moist and sweet as a bread can be, and would be right at home in Charleston or Atlanta. Not since Bradley Ogden left town have we tasted something so sweet.
As bad (good) as they were, what came at the end of the meal was even worse (better):
Like the prow of a great chocolate ship, it was, plowing into the feeble, fractured iceberg of resolve that was my willpower.
And plow it did. Or rather, plow through it I did.
Was it the greatest chocolate cake I’ve ever had? Hard to say, but it was damn close. So dense, so moist, so friggin’ riven with bittersweet chocolate that it could bring a grown man to his knees. The fudge layers may have been a tad sweet for us, and chocolate frosting and sauce might be accused of coming from the belt-with-suspenders school of baking, but why argue with something so unctuously decadent?
It is not a cake to be argued with. It is a cake to be demolished…preferably by 2-4 people.
So, with this post we say a fond farewell to Summer 2016. Goodbye to 110 degree days, laps in our pool and working on our killer tan. Goodbye to sweating through our clothes every morning, and torturing our air conditioning every night.
But most of all, with these dishes, we say goodbye, au revoir, adieu and adios to our hopes of ever again having a 38″ waistline.
ANDIRON STEAK & SEA
This isn’t the first pasta to tangle itself up in a pretty pile.
Nor is putting a bacon crisp (or an egg) on top of something the height of originality.
Lightly binding those noodles with cream and some sharp parm ain’t nuthin’ ingenious, either.
But put it all together in this beauteous bundle and you have a starch you can’t resist.
Show stopping in appearance; fork-dropping in deliciousness.
And one of many dishes at La Cave this summer that had me re-thinking my opinion of the place.
Every small plate that came out of this tiny kitchen:
….seemed to be more finely tuned and carefully composed than we had seen or tasted before.
It was quite a meal made quite better by Mark Hefter’s extensive (and well-priced, at least for the Wynncore) wine selections. (50+ wines by the glass is nothing to sneeze at, and, if you look for them, plenty of off-the-beaten-track options for well under a hundy.)
Thus has a place I wrote off a couple of years ago seem to have re-booted itself in all the right food + wine ways.
L’chiam, La Cave!
LA CAVE FOOD & WINE HIDEAWAY
A Spaniard loves salt like a Swede loves surströmming.
It’s in their blood. They are the masters of curing things, from hams to fish eggs.
Put the two together and you achieve heavenly levels of sustenance symbiosis.
Does it make the ham taste like fish, as my friend John Mariani says, or does the salty sourness of the ham provide a dense counterpoint to the bracing, tiny explosions of seafood salinity that the sturgeon eggs provide?
We think the latter. We also think that nothing goes better with a savory-saline manzanilla sherry than that little nibble shown above.
Unless its a spot of champagne, or a tickle-your-nose albariño. There’s something about the nutty aromas of these fresh, citrus-toned whites from the Rias Baixas (pronounced “ree-ahs bai-chas”) that marries perfectly with this ham and these eggs.
The ham, of course, was an Jamón ibérico de pata negra de bellota — the world’s greatest ham from the world’s most famous black-footed pig.
It is famous for a reason. Because nothing on earth competes with its density, richness and haunting, nut-like flavor.
That caviar was no slouch, either. It being the biggest, briniest, sweetest fish eggs we’ve eaten since Caspian Sea caviar was banned in 2005.
Was it the best mini-bite of food we had all summer? By a country mile.
Do the Spanish know their salt? You bet your lutefisk they do.