John Curtas is …

ELV Gets Cheesed Off

When a fellow critic says something truly idiotic (in print no less) along the lines of: “The cheeses at Morels are every bit as ripe and well conditioned as anything I’ve had at Robuchon or Savoy,” ELV has two choices: he can either let the stench of such know-nothingness hang in the air like the odor of sun-baked Limburger, or he can set the record straight (and, once again, call out the never-ending cheer-leading that passes for food reporting in our humble burg).

Guess which path we’re taking?

The cheeses above are from Joël Robuchon. The ones below are from Restaurant Guy Savoy.

These ones below this sentence are from Morels:

For the record, ELV went to all three restaurants on the same night last week, and tasted so much cheese he felt his hemoglobin curdling.

But duty called, and no one else around these parts has the passion or the palate for such things, so a cheesy night it was for ELV (who, btw, had tasted the cheese selections at all three restaurants multiple times — so he knew going in how ridiculous equating one to the other two was).

Plus, we were pretty angry. Because as we’ve said many times before, a critics’ job is to enlighten and educate — not pander to the lowest common denominator. So for pride, duty and veracity’s sake, we immediately felt compelled to expose how stupid such a comparison was.

You might say we were pretty cheesed off.

We tried many of the same cheeses (Pont L’Eveque, Tomme de Savoie, Fourme D’Ambert) at the different places to compare aroma, pâte and relative ripeness. Service and presentation were also considered, but more on that in a minute.

His conclusion: a certain critic’s calling Morels’ cheeses the equivalent of Robuchon or Savoy is like comparing Rachel Ray to Julia Child. Or Morton’s to Carnevino. Or ELV to Alan Richman.

You get the point.

But if you don’t, the point is this: SEVEN magazine’s food coverage is devoted to sucking up to advertisers. (ELV is still awaiting the first, even slightly negative sentence or phrase to appear in any review or article about a restaurant.) The puff piece on Morels’ cheese program was p.r. driven right into the magazine’s lap, and like streetwalker it is, the magazine lifted its skirt quickly and productively for all concerned.

There’s nothing wrong with Morels’ cheeses that a having someone on premises who gives a shit couldn’t fix, but they’re obviously just tossing 50 or so cheeses in a fridge, grabbing them when ordered, and plopping down ice cold pieces on your plate for a pretty penny, i.e., five bucks a hunk. There’s no discussion, no explanation, no identifying the fromage, and no flavor either (that ice cold thing again).

Except for one: a Tomme de Savoie that was so past its prime, it should’ve been dancing at Larry’s Villa. Tomme should smell of cellar and a touch of mould, but should also have a softer aspect to it than you might expect. This one stank of ammonia, with all the subtlety (and aroma) of a WWF cage match. It obviously should’ve been taken out of the rotation weeks earlier, but why throw away a chance at another five bucks? (That “doesn’t give a shit” thing again.)

To make a long story short, both Savoy and Robuchon have a much smaller selection of quality cheese, all tended with care and served by professionals who know their Ossau d’Iraty from a Morbier in the ground.

Hmmmm. Knowing your ass from a hole in the ground…something some people ought to figure out before they start publishing undeserved praise.


MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109



In Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino

3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109



In The Palazzo Hotel and Casino

3325 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


23 Responses to ELV Gets Cheesed Off

  • Not sure how many of your readers will get that Larry’s Villa reference, but on behalf of those that do, bravo.

  • So… you’re saying you’re not as big a douchebag as Richman? ;-)

  • Curtas is referring to me, so I’ll respond. No one put me up to dining at Morels-it was my own idea, and I have no idea whether or not they buy advertising at SEVEN. I never check, or get any editorial pressure.

    The cheeses I enjoyed at Morels were excellent, and I reported in kind. It’s not like Curtas dines at Robuchon or Savoy anonymously, or even pays for his meals. So he isn’t an objective source, anyway. So I reiterate. The cheese I had at Morels was first rate, though I concede that I picked the best looking offerings from the tray. MJ.

  • This would be justified if both food critics dined on the same night and had a difference of opinion. After all, it is subjective, no? Great Larry’s Villa reference, though, I must admit ;)

  • ELV responds: ELV will believe SEVEN and Max Jacobson don’t angle their restaurant writing according to whatever a p.r. tout is shilling when he sees a pig fly.

  • So ecgladstone, you must have had some testy personal interactions with Alan to justify calling him a “douchebag?” I suppose once I win 16 James Beard Journalism Awards they can call me a douchebag too.

  • Seven is a shill for their advertisers and anyone in the media business in this town who says otherwise is also a shill.

    They also think the Urban Grill is good and isnt it amazing that they advertise in their book.

  • John is back – with a vengeance! We missed you.

  • Phew! Talk about a tempest in a teapot. Or, better yet, talk about a non-issue. 95% of the media publications in LV are advertorial. By nature, no one dares offend anyone in fear of losing the all-too-precious and always dwindling advertising revenue. NO ONE is exempt from it, including John Curtis, because everyone is in on the game, and everyone knows the rules. I applaud Max for being so forthcoming and I wonder what got John Curtis up on his high horse. I was in Vegas as the editor of LVM, so I’m familiar with the turf — and glad to be out of the fray.

  • It appears that Mr. Curtas is calling me a liar, as is his prerogative. It can’t be resolved thusly, so I will have nothing further to say about it. Other than this. Throwing stones is a messy business. Tread carefully.

  • @maxj: After a life in and around print journalism, I must say I would have *loved* to have had the chance to work for a publication that didn’t apply editorial pressure to its writers. You are blessed, good sir. I must check out this “Seven” magazine for which you scribe. That’s not the one that’s available in all of the rooms in all of the major hotel/casinos, is it?

  • McKinnon-methinks you need remedial English. And Curtas could use an etiquette class. All I said was that no one put me up to reviewing Morels. And no one did. Do they advertise in SEVEN? I have no idea.

  • @maxj: I find it interesting that you believe I need remedial English tutorials, especially considering what I do for a living. All apologies in advance, with what grammatical faux pas did I offend your sensibilities, sir? Was it the “have had”? Guilty as charged, but it has been a secret pleasure of mine to write that since my battles with Mrs. Boysell, my seventh-grade English teacher. I’ve sneaked that through copywriters galore. Kudos to you for catching it.

    Snarky jibes aside, that is not all that you said. You also implied that Mr. Curtas called you a liar. I suppose we’d have to hear from him as to whether that was his intent. The point of *my* comment was simply that I find it laughable that any journalist would make the statement that he or she doesn’t feel editorial pressure, as you declared earlier. Again, if that’s truly the case, I think you have a great job.

  • It’s certainly acceptable for Food Writers to disagree over the food, (and, to a lesser extent, professional and ethical standards are also fair game for discussion).

    For example, Max reported that Vegas Uncork’d 2012 was “astounding” while I found it fell flat in its sixth year. Max and I were both in attendance at the Master Series Dinner at Central, albeit sitting at different tables a few steps apart. Max wrote that Chef Michel Richard “dazzled the minions” with his dish of halibut with fresh carrots and peas. I reported on eGullet that the halibut was pitiful as was the wine service. The basic white wine sauce on the fish lacked any hint of promised lemongrass flavors and the plating was better-suited to a 1960 photo in an ad for Swanson TV Dinners.

    However, I do cede the point that I need remedial training in both the English language and grammatical structure.

  • Why are lawyers such cynical bastards?

    Please post any valid negative critique you have had of Mr. Robuchon or Mr. Savoy. Obviously you have some opinions that I never have seen in print. Do tell.

    I’ve had a fair meal at Atelier. I’m going on the record. I haven’t been back in a while because of it. Times are tough, and I would prefer to spend my cash elsewhere. And I’m too damn busy to eat at Savoy. I also question the quality of restaurants here versus those that have chefs present. A chain is a chain, unfortunately. I’ve had killer meals outside of Vegas recently- and, quite frankly, meals are the Strip by and large are tiresome. And expensive. Entertainment for the belly, not the mind.

    I was at the meal at Morels. It was very good to excellent except the souffle sucked. The drink selection was above average for the strip, and I was fairly happy with everything. Service was very good. Except for dessert. They probably knew they blew it. Comparing wheel cheese cart service to individual service via photography just ain’t fair, however. I also think what Morels is doing is very novel and a hell of a lot of fun for most people who don’t swill wine and eat cheese like you do.

    But opinion is opinion, and evidently all you succeeded in doing is stirring up the muck again. A little more education and a little less ego, please? Unless you are just wasting your readers’ time to just tell the world how you are so much better than Max. Which is like comparing apples to oranges. Both critics, perhaps, but the comparisons end there. You both have different experience, writing quality, intellectual pursuits, and personalities.

    If you want to be a true critic, focus on making your own mark- rather than degrading that of others. Looks like May was a slow month for you.

    I’m friends with both of you. I would appreciate more gentlemanly conduct. Even from a lawyer. It takes a gentleman to wear seersucker. As a Southern boy, I slap you with my riding gloves.

    And, for the record, I’ve never heard Max mention a word about editorial pressure. If the place is lousy I seriously doubt he would waste his time. He has more eating to do elsewhere. He’s had restaurants try to fire his ass for writing critical reviews, incidentally. More than once.

    Have a good summer.

  • Gentlemen Gentlemen, Let’s please focus on more important things like… where are we meeting for drinks when I visit Vegas next Mon & Tue? I need remedial training in hoisting adult beverges!

  • Who cut the cheese in here ? ….lol

  • John calls it like it is, the only true voice in Vegas…all the others, Max, Al and the wanna be’s are shills and quacks. Keep it up Johnny Boy, we lover your attitude.

  • FWIW — If I want great cheese without the cost of Robuchon or Savoy, I go to Vintner Grill

  • if i want great cheese i just read the homo-erotic banter between Max and JC

  • Thanks for being authentic and giving foodies a great read!

  • I managed a very popular restaurant on Australia’s Gold Coast during the 80s. Whether recruiting bikini-clad waitresses straight off the beach at Burleigh Heads or sipping French champagne in Surfers Paradise nightclubs at the shank of the evening after a gruelling hard day’s night, my duties were consistent with any resort area the world over: pander to local media outlets in order to receive the occasional free blurb after ponying up the clams for several advertorials. Give the local councillors, and especially the mayor, anything they want and make sure they are not charged for it. Make certain the developers building the towering monstrosities are regularly overcharged; making any potential conflict of client interest redundant when said counsellors were being lunched/entertained by said developers, who repeatedly reminded staff to give the local government shysters anything they want. At times however counsellor wants merged with counsellor desires. Although to the credit of my aforementioned hand picked staff, such desires remained unfulfilled. I think the three act farce that is resort restaurants and the industry surrounding them is best summed up by a 12X14 B&W framed photo on the wall above my head where I now sit typing that was taken for a free local newspaper all those years ago. There I am in all my snaked hipped glory pouring bubbles into the saucer style glasses of my then employers from a bottle wrapped with a napkin discreetly hiding the label. Why hide the label? Because it was Mountain Maid non-alcoholic apple cider (RRP circa 1984=$1.25). Real classy!

  • …And I misspelled councillors, but anyway.

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