Sunday Morning Thoughts

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.

17 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Thoughts

  1. Evan isn’t Greek, so why not make it Evangelos. And why do you insist on spelling Jonathan Jonathon. This is what we call a perceptual block.

  2. This was truly a lovely thing to wake up and read on my Sunday afternoon… great perspective and a wonderful outlook.

    Early congrats on the little addition to the family… best of luck to everyone in all that you do ^_^

  3. You pompous schmuck!

    The Las Vegas restaurant revolution is nothing more than an over priced imitation of the real eateries around the world.

  4. Anthony Bourdain is a guy who has run kitchens and accumulated first hand knowledge, stories, experiences. He’s interesting and well-spoken and walks the talk.

    How many kitchens have you run? How many menus have you created? How many restaurants have you put together?

    You write a blog and brag on the big-name industry people with whom you get to hobnob, then criticize a guy who deserves way more to be what you want to be so badly… famous.

    exploiting the internet? Uhm…. you’re criticizing Anthony Bourdain via your blogsite.

    exploiting reality tv? Who just returned from “judging” iron chef, a fake reality tv game show, bloated with pride in his goofy white suit? (The chefs on the show know the ingredients ahead of time. I have first hand knowledge of this fact.)

    lowbrow world of opinion over fact? Uhhhhhmmmmm… yeah…. you’re a friggin local wannabe-famous food critic and blogger.

    I know Tony Bourdain. I’ve worked with Tony Bourdain. You, sir, are no Tony Bourdain.

  5. Plus you ripped off your 3rd person writing style and “food gal” from Bill Simmons.

  6. Im going to have to agree with blahblahblahblah;

    Thats why ELV is perfect for Las Vegas. He does good for this town, sometimes. Truthfully when I first read this today, I was like WTF, someone spilling their guts and getting emotional on the internet. Why, so we know your human?

    Yeah, the fucking white suit, what a masquerade.

  7. Get it straight, guys, the white suit came from Tom Wolfe. And then, get over it. It has nothing to do with food (except being very dangerous to eat in).

    Bourdain is big enough (and macho enough) to take some digs.

    I’m in an interesting position to compare cities now that I’m covering food in both. While I agree, John that LA’s top tier can’t compare to a city with Robuchon, Savoy, Ducasse and Gagnaire-supervised restaurants, the second tier in LA is quite strong (I’m talking about Josie, Jar, Fig, Susanne Goin, Sue Feniger, Mark Peel…) whereas Vegas’ second tier is inconsistent or worse–dull. Then again, with the exception of Puck and Mina’s XIV, Vegas has the stronger starchef showing, though that’s largely the product of casino economics (we Will build it, they Will come).

    However, LA is so full of inspired gastro-pubs it’s practically silly, while I wish *somebody* in Vegas would get the guts to try it (enough with the “gourmet” PB&Js, please!). Then there’s the gourmet food trucks. Then there’s the street food and immigrant fare–Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Monterey Park, and so on. Then there’s Langer’s.

    However, on the subject of wine, while I know there must be a few smart Soms in LA, I have yet to meet one who compares to Vegas’ best. You guys (and gals) know who you are.

    Lastly I think you ought to check your history, JC. LA County was once absolutely a fertile farming area, and it isn’t now only because land values are too great. Many of the producers at LA’s plentiful farmers markets will tell you they come from 50 miles or less, and did you know Malibu has a quickly maturing wine country? Just facts.

    Bottom line: win some, lose some. They both beat Indianapolis. Just ask Wolfgang.

    Vegas is a city of sycophants, and so it is extremely lucky to have such a knowledgeable, fearless, tough-love cheerleader as Curtas.

    But don’t let it go to your head, John. Or your belly.

  8. I got the Thomas Wolfe allusion. Made my point that he puts on airs and uses costume gimmickry to aspire to be exactly what he is attacking.

    Anthony Bourdain is not the guy to attack. I’m guessing Bourdain dissesd him at a dinner and he’s still carrying some petty grudge.

  9. Children. Children. Your invective and animus far exceeds the import of your subject matter.

    For the record: ELV harbors no personal animosity towards AB and has never met the man. But we have read his books, and with each one (and with each step up on the foodie fame ladder) his prose becomes increasingly (and in-art-fully) insulting, juvenile, and offensive. He reminds us of the class clown in Fourth Grade who goes around shouting dirty words just to get people tittering — and titter his sycophants do. Anyone with a brain, or with any level of reflective thought, doesn’t take him seriously anymore. How a dignified, smart guy like Ruhlman can hang with him is something we care not to contemplate.

    Gladstone’s spirited and well-written defense of the SoCal dining scene are points much better taken — although ELV still finds many of the places he raves about to be overblown and boring (with much worse, although much cheaper wine lists than Vegas). We have to admit, though, once any Angeleno plays the “Langer’s” card, we usually sulk away in defeat.

    And who’s Bill Simmons?

  10. Wonderful and insightful Sunday reflections ELV, and, if your dear Mother tells us anything, it is that her son will live many more years and share many more stories about food, dining and the pleasures of the table.

    Las Vegas is fortunate to have a Food Writer of merit who has promoted, encouraged and opened the discussion of the Las Vegas dining scene. Discussion, by its definition, isn’t meant to be one-sided, but it is meant to promote and further encourage an interest in cusine. ELV has done that for Las Vegas and I for one am thankful for that. Las Vegas is richer for ELV’s efforts. Chew on that cud friends.

  11. Several of the places I pointed out (pointed out, mind you John, not “raves”), I’ll admit, haven’t done much lately. But there are others (Hatfield’s for example). LA is less dead than it’s been in a long time, is my only point.

    I agree wholeheartedly on the wine front. In fact, I plan on drinking a lot of it in LV this weekend!

  12. “Anyone with a brain, or with any level of reflective thought, doesn’t take him seriously anymore.”

    Gee, I didn’t know I didn’t have a brain. I still enjoy Bourdain’s books and TV show. I’m glad he’s successful without losing sight of what brought him his fame. He’s still thought-provoking, witty, and articulate, while also retaining enough of a snarky edge to not become a total sell-out. His latest book is a nice combination of the old, angry author of “Kitchen Confidential” and the current happy, rich family man. He continues to inspire me, whether he’s dining at a mega-expensive Manhattan restaurant, finding down-home joy at a cheap Hong Kong food stand, or ripping the pseudo-cooks on Food Network a new one.

    I’m just sorry he’s not a Vegas fan. He’s overdue for a return and a book signing.

  13. Anthony Bourdain can cook. Anthony Bourdain can write. Anthony Bourdain can talk. Problem is, when he attempts the latter two, he is extremely boring. I would rather read Mr. Curtas’ missives or see his white-suited shenanigans on the tube than be stuck with another long shot of a pastoral setting while AB waxes philosophic about the passage of time and tradition in a distant land.

    Keep it up JC, but if you slip up, I’ll be here to take up the reigns.

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