Archive for the ‘Zines’
ELV note: In the wake of the horrors of last week, our friend John Mariani re-posted an article he wrote after 9/11 about why dining is so important to the human condition. We thought it bore re-visiting, along with a commentary we did on KNPR-Nevada Public Radio at the time, to remind all of the regenerative and soul-enriching effects of a good meal. For, as our other award-winning-restaurant-writing friend Alan Richman is fond of saying: “Food is life itself; the rest is parsley.” L’chaim!
After watching the horrors the people of Boston and the marathoners suffered this week at the hands of terrorists and reading that dozens of Boston restaurants closed up for security reasons, I was reminded of what I wrote (originally in The Financial Times) about the days following the agonies of 911. I thought it appropriate to reiterate my sentiments as applicable to the current tragedy in Boston.
It’s simple really:
“Don’t buy any foods you’ve seen marketed on television.”
In an interview this week with New York Magazine’s Adam Platt, food guru (he hates the term, btw) Michael Pollan has this to say about Big Food:
…it’s very hard to stay ahead of the food industry. When I first published Food Rules, I said, “Don’t buy any processed foods with more than five ingredients.” Within a year, there was a Häagen-Dazs ice cream called Five. There was a Tostitos commercial on TV where this woman is buying chips for a party. She picks up a bag and says, “There are more ingredients here than I have guests coming to my party.” And then she reaches for Tostitos, which only has three ingredients. None of them particularly healthy, but only three ingredients. So I added a new rule: Don’t buy any foods you’ve seen marketed on television.
ELV loves this rule, obviously, and thinks it is a perfect companion to:
ELV’s Immutable Axiom (#137): The more a food is advertised on television, the more worthless it is.
Exhibit #1: Coca Cola.
Exhibit #2: Any and all diet foods.
Exhibit #3: American mega-brewed beer.
(Feel free to add to the list in your comments below.)
The prosecution rests.
ELV note: Spago Las Vegas turns 20 tomorrow.* In celebration of our most iconic restaurant (and the one that literally started the gourmet stampede to our humble burg), I thought not onre but TWO articles are in order. To read our paean to this auspicious event in this format, continue below, or pick up this month’s issue of VEGAS magazine — where it’s free and accompanied by lots of pretty pictures….including one of Jack Nicholson! And since our lamestream media has been typically negligent in commemorating this extraordinary event, we at ELV thought we’d publish an article from 6 years ago noting how seminal and sensational this restaurant has been for so many years. To read it, continue after the jump.
THE RESTAURANT THAT STARTED IT ALL
“I never knew where to eat when I came here to watch the fights,” is how Wolfgang Puck describes why he decided to open a branch of Spago in Caesars Forum Shops, and thus boldly go where no great chef had gone before. The year was 1992. Puck had spent the previous dozen years taking California by storm and, in the process, redefining America’s notion of what a great restaurant could be. Still, the move was a bold one. The success of the brand new mall was considered a long shot, and many a naysayer – including Puck himself – thought Las Vegas hardly ready to embrace his world-class, cutting-edge cooking, even in a restaurant as casual as his. “It was all steakhouses and “Continental” restaurants and it wasn’t that good,” is how he remembers our dining scene twenty years ago. “People would tell me how the casinos give away all these comp meals and how it wouldn’t work, but (Forum Shops developer) Sheldon Gordon told me, ‘Just you wait, thousands of people will come.’” Gordon may have been a prophet, but neither he nor Puck had the slightest inkling of the seismic shift they were about to cause. Because within two months of its opening, the rumblings of Spago Las Vegas’ success shook the gastronomic ground in the High Mojave Desert, and the whole world felt the shudder.
Spago Las Vegas officially opened on December 11, 1992, but at first, things were far from earth shaking. The first three weeks were very depressing,” Puck recalls. “The Review-Journal wrote a nice article (about our opening), and I thought we’d be turning people away, but that night only sixty people showed up.” Little did he know that the cavalry was about to show up in the guise of a rodeo. National Finals Rodeo cowboys to be precise, who jumped straight from their bucking broncs to the one restaurant in town with a national reputation. As grateful as he was to see all of those ten gallon hats, Puck quickly discovered that Las Vegas still had a ways to go in appreciating first class restaurants. He still chuckles remembering: “When they saw the open kitchen, they all thought it was a buffet and lined up and started ordering burgers and ribs.”
Within two months, everyone started breathing easier. By the end of 1993, locals had adopted it as the place to see and be scene, and A-list Hollywood celebrities (like Puck friend and fellow fight fan Jack Nicholson) started treating it as their home away from home. One Spago fan who didn’t have far to travel was Steve Wynn. “He used to come in all the time,” says Puck with a smile, “because apparently he didn’t have any place to eat (at the Mirage).”
What Wynn couldn’t get enough of was Puck’s (at the time) groundbreaking Cal-Ital-French cooking – that was as creative as it was toothsome. Twenty years on, the food is better than ever, and still true to Wolfgang’s vision. These days, top toque Eric Klein keeps the flame burning (and the standards as high) as any high volume gastronomic restaurant on earth. (On a busy weekend, Spago Las Vegas can serve 900 customers in a day.) Besides turning out the signature smoked salmon pizza and an array of seasonal specialties, Klein will feature an entire week of Spago’s original menu from twenty years ago (at 1992 prices!), including a glistening roast Cantonese duck, “Chinois Style” Colorado lamb chops, and a superior wild mushroom risotto. Pastry chef Crystal Whitford joins the fun with a gorgeous Kaiserschmarm – sort of a light-as-air soufflé pancake — and a melting chocolate cake that was de rigueur on dessert menus way back when.
Puck and Spago literally changed the way all of us think about restaurants. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a non-traditional pizza or wondered why proteins are no longer smothered in sauces owes him a debt of gratitude. Every famous Las Vegas restaurant does as well. But for this gregarious Austrian, our hotels would never have seen that there’s gold in them thar gourmet hills – leading them to jump on the celebrity chef bandwagon that Vegas culture practically invented. Just ask Steve Wynn.
ELV update: Well the mystery meat mystery has been solved folks! Susan Stapleton reported earlier today that Charlie Palmer, he of Charlie Palmer Steak fessed up and issued a public apology to Anthony and Ottavia Bourdain for the steak he served them 12 days ago. And Bourdain graciously accepted. For the record ELV regrets his mistake in identifying the hotel the Bourdains were staying in. Had he been a more diligent reporter, he would’ve sought confirmation of the information he received.
Geez Louise! What a tempest in a teapot!
Ottavia Bourdain, whom Grub Street New York describes as “foodie royalty” was in Las Vegas two weeks ago to take in a UFC match, shoot machine guns and drink a lot of Amaretto with her husband Tony. (more…)
Issac Brekken for the New York Times
Yes, it’s true: ELV, the man, the myth, the book, the website and even his pesky, irritating co-authors were featured yesterday in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times.
As the Times pretty much represents the Holy Grail of food publicity America, wethinks this represents the pinnacle of our restaurant writing career, and will, accordingly, become more insufferable, imperious, infuriating, elitist and condescending than ever.
But we ask our loyal readers not to fret, as we promise to remember all the little people as we bask in the glow of our new-found fame.
And, as there is a certain da Vinci-esque look…
….to the photo they ran, you may henceforth refer to ELV as “Foodie Jesus.”
That is all.
ELV note: As you may know, we write the “So Many Dinners” column for VEGAS magazine — a column that highlights noteworthy restaurants from around our valley. This month’s feature explores the origins of Vintner Grill, and since the ‘zine isn’t running it on its website, we at ELV thought you’d might like to peruse the gustatory gusto with which we gratifyingly gallivanted to (and gushed over) this galvanizing grill.
It’s safe to say that when Vintner Grill opened on December 6, 2006, no one associated with the project had the slightest idea it would become Las Vegas’ most prominent neighborhood restaurant. Who could have predicted that its sleek interior and swanky bar were destined to become the hotspot for everyone from serious oenophiles to socialites to celebrity chefs? These days, it all feels like a forgone conclusion, and five years on, you are as likely to run into Nicolas Cage as you are a power broker on the gorgeous outdoor patio. And if you think you see Andre Agassi and Stephie Graf , Bette Midler, or Steve Wynn sitting in a corner booth, you probably do.
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?
ELV note: The following story appears (albeit in highly truncated form) in the current issue of VEGAS magazine. Since they haven’t posted it yet on their website, we thought you might like to take a tour of this iconic eatery, as seen through the eyes of the owner, waiters and celebs who have populated it since 1958.
The Ghosts of the GOLDEN STEER
There are ghosts in the booths at the Golden Steer. Lots of them. Sit in any of them on a busy evening and they will work their charms on you.
Not at first, mind you, but soon enough. At first you won’t see them, or hear them (that will come later). Initially, all you will notice is a plaque or picture named after a very famous (and long dead) person. “Wow,” you’ll say to yourself, “this booth is named after Frank Sinatra.” Then you will look around and see another one with a picture of Marilyn Monroe above it, or John Wayne, or Joe DiMaggio, and you will start to wonder if these are more than mere decorations. “Oh yes, a waiter will tell you. “This is where they sat, and many of them had these booths named for them when they were still alive and coming here all the time.”