Archive for the ‘Zines’

Sipping and Savoring Santa Barbara (County)

May 11, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Travel, Wine, Zines 5 Comments →

This article first appeared in John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet a few weeks ago. Click here to read it in the original format, or continue as you wish with the text below.

Solvang, California used to be a paragon of kitsch, corny architecture and lots and lots of butter cookies. When last we visited a little over ten years ago, it was at the tail end of its “outlet store phase” (as one local put it to us), and the Danish bakeries barely outnumbered the vacant storefronts – which is really saying something. These days, a great ableskiver, cheese Danish, or thin, Danish pancake accosts your waistline on almost every corner, but the real reason to come here is that this (formerly) sleepy little hamlet – known affectionately for decades as “Little Denmark” – has quietly become the wine capital of central California.

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PIZZA AGONISTES by John Mariani

March 31, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Food, Zines 7 Comments →

ELV note: This article is from the current edition of John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet and originally appeared on Esquire.com. We re-publish it here on the slim chance that a few of our loyal readers do not already subscribe to Mariani’s essential Web publication. Read away in either format and prepare to get hungry.

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It’s been a bad month for bad pizza. First, Sbarro announced the closing of 155 of its 400 U.S. stores, then declared bankruptcy. Again.  Then, in one of the few conservative judicial decisions I actually applaud, Justice Antonin Scalia, born in Trenton, NJ, declared that Chicago-style deep-dish pizza “shouldn’t be called pizza. It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza.”

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This Just In: ELV Spreading Rumors, Settling Scores and Set to Salaciously Sip

March 12, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Rant, Travel, Zines 12 Comments →

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships and clippers at sea….

Item: Honey Salt Expanding Empire.

As predicted on these pages over a year ago, the entrepreneurs behind Summerlin’s Honey Salt are set to open two new stores in northwest Las Vegas. If our sources are correct, one will be called Honey Q and will be taking over the old Hops & Harvest space. (Good luck with that.) The other, we hear, will be called Honey Salt Steak and will be located in the new Red Rock Mall. (Another steakhouse in Vegas? What an original idea?)

Here’s hoping all this brand-expansion doesn’t result in another episode of  “Honey, I Shrunk the Profits.”

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The Beatings Shall Continue Until Morale Improves

October 08, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Celebrity Chef Hell, Chefs, Critics, Food, Zines 13 Comments →

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There’s a reason we’re leading off with a picture of the crave-able curry at Zen Japanese Curry, but before we get to that, let’s take stock of the continuing moribund state of the Vegas dining scene, shall we?

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Why We Dine by John Mariani

April 22, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, KNPR, Zines 3 Comments →

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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.

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Michael Pollan’s New Rule

April 19, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Adam Platt, Food, Interviews, Michael Pollan, Zines 12 Comments →

Photo: Ken Light

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.

Exhibit #4:

http://media.fooducate.com/blog/posts/cheetos-girl-in-bath.jpg

(Feel free to add to the list in your comments below.)

The prosecution rests.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today….Wolfgang Puck Taught Gourmets to Play

December 10, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Events, Food, Zines 7 Comments →

The chef who started it all

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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.

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Ottavia Bourdain Has a Beef with Someone’s Meat

July 17, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Celebrity Chef Hell, Chefs, Critics, Food, Zines 46 Comments →

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!

Anthony Bourdain and Ottavia Busia - 8th Annual Can-Do Awards Dinner

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…)

Plus Ca Change, Plus C’est La Meme Chose

July 14, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Zines 6 Comments →

In the beginning there was James Beard* and there was curry and that was it. – Nora Ephron

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Are you one of those who think America’s food revolution started in the 1980s…or later?

If you read David Chang’s “Lucky Peach” you might have the impression it started a decade ago.

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Holy Publicity Batman! ELV is in the New York Times!

June 28, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Zines 5 Comments →

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…

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….to the photo they ran, you may henceforth refer to ELV as “Foodie Jesus.”

That is all.