ELV was thinking about things this morning (and no, it didn’t hurt).
He was thinking about how lucky he is to have had a front row seat at the biggest restaurant revolution a city has ever seen.
He was thinking about how jerks like Anthony Bourdain make a living (and become famous) exploiting the internet/reality TV/American Idol/lowbrow world of opinions taking precedent over facts.
Of how more thoughtful food writers like Michael Ruhlman don’t like Las Vegas for being a top-down incarnation of a world restaurant city, and this clashes with their insular, cosseted, back to the land sensibilities — which, in its own bizarre way, means Vegas is a reflection back to them of all they hate about middle America. Las Vegas is nothing more than the American dream writ large on the High Mojave Desert — a city built upon money for nothing, greed and stupidity — three things every p.r. person, advertising executive, and anyone who has ever bought a magazine in a supermarket check-out line should understand.
What people who diss Vegas don’t understand is how essential it is to America — a country built on dreams of a better life, on a resolute commitment to divorcing its citizens from their past and allowing them a fresh start (as quickly as they can make it happen) in their quest to start over.
That’s what chefs like Rick Moonen, Paul Bartolotta, Alex Stratta and others have done here — with delicious results for all of us — including the food snobs of the world when they deign to visit. And it ain’t exactly different from what happened in Los Angeles (not exactly located in the most fertile region in the country) — except its chefs had a twenty year head start on ours. The only difference between the freshness and authenticity of what Los Angelenos and Las Vegans eat is the produce trucks have to travel about a 150 miles farther to make it up here. If someone knows of a booming agricultural community in Los Angeles County, please inform Eating Las Vegas.
Interesting thing about those SoCal chefs and restaurants: With the exception of a plethora of funky and authentic Asian/South/Central American food (see Gold, Jonathon), Los Angeles’ restaurants, at the top end, despite all the money and hype that resides there, can’t hold a candle to ours. The hottest chef down there right now is that Ludo dude — The Stealthy Chef — who underwhelmed here, and can’t or won’t commit to an actual, open to the public on a regular basis, restaurant. Angelenos, if they want to eat well, go to a handful of spots — Spago, CUT, Patina or Providence — and then get their ass on I-15 north for the good stuff.
Besides the paltry L.A. restaurant scene, and how lucky he is to live in the midst of a better one, ELV is giving thanks this Sunday morning for all that food writing has given him. He has met, interviewed and chewed the fat with many of the world’s greatest chefs, he made one of his best, lifelong friends that way (Laurent Tourondel), and can walk into restaurants from Napa to Naples and be treated like a big shot by people who have no idea who he is.
Like everyone, ELV has had wishes and dreams that have not come true. He wishes he was taller, thinner, richer, had a working kitchen and was better hung. The brain-addled, skirt-chasing nights have been too many, and the kind, gentle moments with those he loves too few. The recession has made a serious dent in his travel plans to Europe and Asia over the past two years, and the slow, steady denigration of the legal profession by those within it, is a constant source of sadness.
But his first grandchild is being born in less than a month (the not-very-Greek-ly-named Evan James Curtas), Marcella Ruth Schroader Curtas (The Official Mother of ELV) celebrates her 86th birthday in two days, and there’s none of these walking around his house this morning, so he’s a purty happy fella.
In other words, it’s been quite a ride, and we’re glad we’re still on the roller-coaster.