CULINARY CONVERSATIONS – FARM-TO-TABLE
Observation: As with The French Connection discussion of the day before, a large audience showed up to hear Edmund Wong, Bradley Ogden, Rick (Fishboy) Moonen and Paul Bartolotta debate the changes in the American diet and restaurant cooking brought about by the rise of organic farming, sustainable fisheries, and the farm-to-table movement. Wong held his own with the superstars on the panel, as everything from the plague of Chilean Sea Bass to efforts of Las Vegas chefs to source local herbs and produce was discussed.
Criticism: Americans have the worst eating habits on earth.
ELV Highlight: Being able to get a word in edgewise between Paul B. and Rick M.
Click here to read this week’s NYTimes article on the same subject.
INTERACTIVE CHEF LUNCHEON @ WYNN/ENCORE
Observation: What’s ELV’s favorite phrase these days? This thing had more moving parts than a Mexican soap opera. Five celebrity chefs — Stratta, Bartolotta, Poivdevin, Boulud and Robert (a murderer’s row if ever there was one) — five courses, two hundred diners, and interactive cooking lessons on a course by course basis with everyone at the table both cooking and being instructed by a Wynn sous chef as the master was on stage preparing the dish for all to see and learn from. Whew!!
Alan Richman remarked the place looked like the staging area for the invasion of Normandy with all of the tables, implements, food and video equipment. But somehow the Wynn/Encore chefs (and their amazing staffs) pulled off a gourmet luncheon fit for a king — with some highly entertaining cooking instruction to boot.
Criticism: Probably should’ve been one less course and a half-hour shorter — but no one was complaining.
ELV Highlight(s): Watching Daniel Boulud teach two young girls how to make an emulsion was charming and unforgettable; catching Max Jacobson’s critique of The Food Gal®’s efforts (ably assisted by Bartolotta sous chef Corcoran O’Connor), and seeing Eric Gladstone in an apron.
CULINARY CHALLENGES VEGAS STYLE (Hotel v. Hotel)
Observation: Indoors (unlike last year) these battle royals were sold out (also unlike last year) and an up close and personal look at how an actual Iron Chef competition works. Twenty minutes for two chefs to create two unique dishes highlighting a single ingredient is crucible cooking at its best.
Criticism: Whenever the other two judges disagreed with anything ELV said, they were, of course, wrong.
ELV Highlight(s): The first contest (red spot prawns) was somewhat quiet with the Caesars Palace team (Todd Williams and Ryan Ososky) getting the nod over Mandalay Bay (Mary Sue “Two Hot Tamale” Milliken and Carlos Buscaglia). In the second battle (squid), won by “Fishboy” Moonen and Adam Sobel over David “Meatman” Walzog and Carlos Guia — the whirlwind of activities of all four chefs was heart-pumpingly exciting as both squads raced to beat the clock. Walzog and Guia however, won the award for having the cutest kids. And Cat Cora — pregnant or not — is a little dynamo.
GALA DINNER @ BELLAGIO
Observation: The food was wonderful across the board with Julian Serrano’s scallops and the A-5 Japanese Kobe blowing away the crowd. (We at ELV don’t know how he does it, but Serrano gets the best freakin’ scallops on earth.)
Criticism: This event needs a shot in the arm. The music by Happy Kyne And His Mirth Makers didn’t help, and the whole showgirl thing (all the chefs got escorted on and off the stage by sets of them) is about as au courant as an Elvis impersonator.
ELV Highlight(s): Listening to Fairchild and Richman spar over whose chef went to the greatest effort to bring this farm-to-table meal to the Gala. Best line by Richman: “Michael Mina sacrificed the family pet pig for that succulent pork belly on your plate.” Also: seeing Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse (two of the three greatest French chefs in the world) at the same table. Guy Savoy (the third) should’ve been there and it was a shame he wasn’t. And Jean-Philippe Maury’s pastry/dessert spread was awesome.
DAVID FOSTER AND FRIENDS AFTER PARTY AT RM SEAFOOD
Observation: Some guy named David Foster and someone named Clay Aiken sang a bunch of songs for a few hundred people who seemed to care about such things.
Criticism: Who in the hell are David Foster and Clay Aiken?
ELV Highlight: Two hotties with beer goggles on…… were under the impression ELV was someone important and flirted with him shamelessly all night long. In keeping with the Casanovian reputation for which he is known, ELV did little to disabuse them of their perceptions.
PRIVATE SCREENING OF JULIE AND JULIA
Observation: This Nora Ephron chick flick will be a must see for all foodies when it’s released in August. ELV laughed. ELV cried. ELV bought the cookbook (in 1979 and in 2009).
Meryl Streep as Julia Child is a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination — you heard it here first — and Amy Adams ain’t bad in it either. The scenes contrasting Child’s attempts to get published in the 1950’s and Julie Powell’s blogging her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking (while also trying to get published in 2002) provide many a delectable and humorous vignette. Francophiles will lap up the scenes of Paris in the 50’s.
Criticism: Were Julia and Paul Child really so randy? And why are the men in Nora Ephron films as one dimensional as sitcom characters. (soooo uniformly sweet, oversexed and supportive — but only to their one and only). ELV thinks Ephron is still smarting from her adultery-packed marriage to this guy.
ELV Highlight(s): Watching even a fake Julia Child pretend to be living in Paris in the ’50’s is something we could do for hours. It’s also fun to see how they shoot the scenes to make the 5’6″ Streep appear to be 6’2″ (Julia’s actual height). Jane Lynch as Julia’s equally tall sister Dorothy steals the show in her scenes with Streep (obviously something very few actresses are capable of).
Th…th…th….that’s all folks! BON APPETIT to all, and be there next year or be THREE SQUARE!