Things Have Changed

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, text

If you’re reading these words, it means that you’re one of our loyal readers — and for that fact alone we are grateful.

A lot has changed in the five months since ELV (the man, the myth, the bloviating blogger) decided to take a sabbatical from “Eating Las Vegas” and eating Las Vegas.

Let’s take stock of a few things that have happened, shall we?

Joël Robuchon died.

Jonathon Gold died.

Paul Bocuse died.

Anthony “Fuck Nuts” Bourdain died (by his own hand).

The Las Vegas we have known for the past thirty years continues to the death of a thousand small, penny-pinching paper cuts by the bean counters who now run things.

Spago re-opened….in the Bellagio.

We now have more good tapas bars in town than I have ex-wives — which is really saying something.

Our off-Strip dining scene is exploding with quality, and has me more excited than Donald Trump in a room full of porn stars.

I’ve lost a couple of pounds — which really isn’t saying much given all the walking I do. (True facts: when you’re young, your metabolism revs like a car engine doing 60-80 mph all the time; when you’re in your forties, it’s more like 40 mph, and by the time you hit the big 6-0, your digestive tract has all the giddy-up of a Model T.)

We endured another failed attempt at a TV/video career. (The next time some smooth-talking producer asks me if I’d like to be in a cool new food show, waste hours of my time interviewing/auditioning, or shoot some pilot, I’m going to politely tell them that I’d rather dine on unlimited bread sticks and a never ending salad bowl.)

ELV’s majestic manse now has a new roof, a new pool, and new deck, and new landscaping. (Pretty exciting, eh?)

Our book — EATING LAS VEGASThe 52 Essential Restaurants — has sold surprisingly well, and plans are in the works for future editions.

Speaking of books, we plowed through four of them this summer: “My Life in France”, “Provence, 1970”, “The Apprentice”, “The Gourmands’ Way” (pictured above), and we’re knee deep in a fifth: “Reflexions by Richard Olney”. Together they gave us a much clearer picture of the culinary titans (James Beard, Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, Jacques Pepin, Richard Olney) who shaped America’s food scene in the post WWII era, and, in the process, turned yours truly into such a Francophile.

We also learned many salient facts that have been swept under the rug in the 21st Century’s quest to keep the iconography of some of these folks alive, to wit: Beard was a huge, sweet tempered man who was also a shameless self-promoter and something of a creepy perv; Julia inherited millions while still in her twenties and never worried about money a day in her life; M.F.K. Fisher was an alcoholic fabulist who only had a passing acquaintance with food; Craig Claiborne died a lonely, bitter drunk; and Olney — the great Richard Olney — well, he was just a bitchy old queen. “Richard can be charming,” Child once said, “as long as you treat him as the genius he knows himself to be.”

I’ve also been seriously working on my tan.

You get the picture.

After a lot of navel gazing, we also decided, with the help of our staff, to re-boot this web site.

Not only re-boot it, but change its look and mission statement.

What you see above is just a rough draft of what our logo and look will eventually be.

It also gives you a hint that this site will no longer be just about Las Vegas restaurants, although it will surely have a huge dose of them on its pages. Mostly, though, it will be about being me — what I’m eating, cooking, drinking, watching or reading. There will also be a heavy dose of travelogue involved since my eating adventures take me far and wide these days.

Sometimes, we may throw in a book review (see above), or ruminations on whatever thoughts that day have captured our fancy.

What it won’t be is restaurant after restaurant after restaurant. What it will be is my thoughts on things that have made me the gastronome (and human being) that I am.

In other words, it will be all about Being John Curtas.

For the time being, this post will serve as a teaser. We’re headed back east soon (New York, Connecticut, Nantucket, Boston), and the next thing we post will probably be my reflections on that trip. Once I get back in the saddle, I’ll try not to sound like a bitchy old queen…even though in some respects (apart from our sex lives), Richard Olney and I had  a lot in common.

(Au revoir et adieu, Chef)

 

The Final Countdown

We’re in the home stretch food fans.

The final innings.

The last quarter.

Time is running out.

Minutes are slipping away.

And the end is almost in sight.

Our loyal readers know what we’re talking about.

Our staff is girding its loins for the final push.

And we at ELV know that the time is nigh.

What we’re talking about is the conclusion. The climax. The finale.

The peroration.

The denouement, if you will, of this web site in its current incarnation.

Come April 1, 2018, on the exact, 10th year anniversary of its birth, EATING LAS VEGAS (www.eatinglv.com) will cease to exist in its present form.

What will succeed it is anyone’s guess.

One thing we do know is that we’re not going away completely.

There will be a re-boot; there will be an outlet for our deathless prose, our incisive wit, our impeccable palate, and our call-it-like-it-is ruminations on Las Vegas: its people, places, and eating parlors.

We have been thinking long and hard about these things over the past few months, and we’ve come to a few conclusions about what we don’t want to do, but the path ahead is still a bit foggy. Therefore, in the spirit of honesty, respect, gratefulness, and camaraderie with you, a follower who has been faithful enough to still be reading our words, it is only right that we share some of these thoughts.

One thing is clear, and has been clear to us for over five years now: the time of the blogs is over. Facebook killed the whole idea of someone blogging some blog that their blog-appreciating fans  submitted their own blogviations to about whatever bloggings were being blogged.

Blogs were once a beautiful thing. From around 2002-2012 they were a way for people with common interests to communicate. Whether your passion was petit fours or Parcheesi, you could set up a blog and people who were interested would google and find it and they’d all create a small community of readers who shared knowledge, comments, arguments, witticisms, about whatever obsession was held dear to their hearts. Back in the day, there were blogs about Mullets Galore, Hot Chicks with Douchebags, and, my personal favorite: MenWhoLookLikeKennyRogers.com.

Small communities would coalesce around politics, quilting, Ryan Gosling Disneyland Cats, Bea Arthur Mountains Pizza, you name it. Now they’re gone. All gone. As gone as Gosling’s acting chops.

As gone as the hope that the interwebs would spawn a new way, highly informed and dexterous way of communicating with each other.

What began so hopefully morphed into trolls, clickbait and cat videos.

What killed this hope was that great bugaboo: advertising. More specifically, the lust of Facebook to aggregate all of its fans into mind-staggering numbers that it could then sell to its advertisers — companies that have paid it a fortune to access all those eyeballs.

If you’re like me (i.e. most grownups) you started with Facebook around 2008-2009. Back then, it seemed like a groovy way to connect with friends and share pictures. Little did anyone suspect that it would become the primary way people would start interacting with each other on the internet. Little did we know that those advertisers would mine all that Facebook data about us and  turn it into a privacy-compromised, marketing juggernaut.

By opting to communicate very loudly and very publicly on Facebook on just about every topic, the public was basically turning its back on those little communities of quilters or sailors or Female Lego Academics and announcing that if it didn’t happen on Facebook, it didn’t really happen.

This phenomenon, along with the improvement of phone cameras and Instagram, effectively killed food blogs.

Of course, the rise of Yelp, TripAdvisor et al had a lot to do with it too. Once you could dial up a crowd-sourced opinion of everything from a hole-in-the-wall taco joint to a haute cuisine palace, there was little reason to endure the bloviations of some gasbag “expert” before deciding where to eat.

In the good old days, those gasbags were the only ones out there telling you where to eat. Today, everyone is telling you.

Back in the day, people had to read to get information. My early restaurant years were soaked with the prose of Seymour Britchky, Craig Claiborne and Jay Jacobs. Decades before everyone was posting pictures of their shrimp salad, you had to wade through hundreds of words describing every dish in detail in order to get a mental picture of a meal.  Those words were dense with descriptors and sometimes the sledding was heavy, but it pulled you in, made you commit. And with that commitment came accomplishment — the sense that you actually knew something after you finished reading a food article or a review.

Epicures no longer have to put in the work to call themselves such. All they have to do is look at pictures and pay attention to whatever Thrillist, or 50 Best list, or award list is in the news this week. In 2018, galloping gourmets simply notch their belts, post photos, and call themselves connoisseurs.

But there’s a big difference between helicoptering to the top of Mount Everest and actually climbing there. Unfortunately, in the food world — and especially in the world of social media as it pertains to food — these distinctions have all been wiped out. No one really gives a shit if the editor of Eater or Thrillist or Travel + Leisure actually knows anything about their topic, or has eaten in the restaurants they write about. All that matters is that they’ve distilled a very little amount of information into an easily digestible form, so it can be swallowed whole by the gullible public.

Like I said: marketing eventually ruins everything.

So, with these things in mind, where is this food blog to go? (BTW and FWIW: we’ve always hated calling this a “blog.”  Blogs are for weird people who love posting pictures of ugly Renaissance babies and hungover owls. To us, Eating Las Vegas always been our website.)

Image may contain: 2 people, food

A few things have become clearer to us in the last year:

Item: We’ve had it with the Strip. The nickel-and-diming of resort fees, paid parking, and such have stuck in our craw, but what has really cinches it for us is the stagnancy of ideas and the milking of old cows going on there. Wynn/Encore spent five years trumpeting its restaurants. Now, with a couple of exceptions, it’s manned by a bunch of itinerant chefs. Perhaps Elaine Wynn can restore its F&B program to some of its former glory. (Hope springs eternal!) As for the rest of the bean-counting casinos: there hasn’t been an original idea in any of them in a decade. I’m not saying I won’t go to the Strip to dine, but I’m through writing about it on this web site. If you want to know what I think about its big hitter eateries, BUY MY BOOK! Given the lack of imagination going on up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, everything I wrote for the 2018 edition should be good for at least the next three years. I’ll still post pictures of my dinners at Guy Savoy, Bazaar Meat or Wing Lei (see above, for example) on social media, but my days of praising them to the heavens on this site are over.

Item: I’ve been traveling a lot in the past two years and intend to keep it up. Expect a lot more stuff about my edible adventures abroad.

Item: I’ve been cooking a lot lately as well. (Little known fact: before I started writing seriously about restaurants in 1995, I had been a serious home cook for twenty years.) Therefore, we may even turn this into a food/cooking/recipe site (occasionally).

Item: Wine is a passion of mine . Wine writing is usually a bore. Expect the occasional post about what I’m drinking and why. I’ll try to make it informative and not boring.

Item: Life in general is a passion of mine. Expect occasional blowhard observations about some obscure thing that interests me.

Item: Cocktails, spirits and whiskeys continue to fascinate me (beer less so), so expect an occasional dissertation about what and where you should be drinking.

Item: I promise you I will never, ever, subject you to my politics. There are more than enough political writers in the world. Not even I am interested in my political views. Politics is a boring little game played by small-minded little people, and the only reason we are inundated with it (in the press) is because it is one of the few human activities that is going on all the time.

Item: The one exception to the above rule will be gun control. I have felt strongly about gun control  all of my adult life– because I believe we all have a moral obligation to prevent murder. If you’re one of those psycho-sexual, barrel-stroking gun-loving, 2nd Amendment freaks, don’t read me. For the rest of you, I will try to keep my outrage to a minimum.

Item: We’ve been reading a lot lately…and may even throw in an occasional book review.

Item: Asian food/Chinatown/Spring Mountain Road: I expect to be eating a lot more Asian food in the coming year and reporting on it more frequently on this site.

Item: My days of searching out cheap taco shops, food trucks and burger bars are over. I still enjoy a good sandwich (and great tacos), but it will have to be pretty awesome to get me to write about some bit of meat slapped between some bread.

Item: Downtown Las Vegas is booming and I’ll continue to be its biggest booster.

Item: The name of this site may be changing. It’s going to be more about other things than just “Eating Las Vegas.” More likely the title will be something along the lines of:

JOHN CURTAS is

Eating Las Vegas

Traveling the World

Drinking More Than He Should

and

Telling It Like It Is

….or something like that.

In the next few weeks (after we return from New Mexico this weekend), we will be highlighting a few of our favorite meals of the this (still young) year, and then shutting things down (on April 1) for a month or so.

When next we re-appear (sometime before Summer), you can expect a stripped down site, composed mainly of our prose, and, as always, a few tasty snaps to accompany the articles.

As always, bon appetit to all.

ELV at the Crossroads

 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ZtWho7S4tzQ/UmB0NB_R56I/AAAAAAAAA1k/2yI6alD9exw/s1600/The_Thinker__by_a_love_unrequited.jpg

What’s that old joke? If you see the fork in the road, take it.

Well, loyal readers, Eating Las Vegas is at a crossroad.

Writing about restaurants seems more than a bit trivial in these troubled times.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of cool new stuff going on.

And a lot of old stuff continues to shine  — like the sides and steak yours truly had at CUT the other night:

One part of me wants to dive in and tell you all about the great meals I’ve had recently at:

Allegro

Chuchote Thai Bistro

Le Cirque

Cafe Breizh

Image may contain: food

7th & Carson

The Black Sheep

Image may contain: food

Hofbräuhaus (yes, the Hofbräuhaus)

Bazaar Meat

Image may contain: food

The aforementioned CUT

Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads (yes, Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads)

Prosecco

Bardot Brasserie

MB Steak

Ferraro’s

Casa Don Juan (yes, that Casa Don Juan)

Chada Street…and…

Morel’s Steakhouse

…just to name a few.

But my heart is heavy, and the blogosphere ain’t what it used to be.

Tens of thousands of people used to want to read these restaurant reviews, now but a few thousand do. Facebook and Instagram turned everyone into a food blogger (this is not a bad thing), and in so doing, created a world where the audience is small for anything but mindless listicles, gossip and food porn.

My personal theory is that once camera phones got better, around 5 years ago, everyone could see decent pictures of what a restaurant’s food looked like. When that happened, reading about it became a chore for all but the most ardent foodies. In other words, blogs like this had a mass appeal right up until the masses could look at purty pictures to hit their low information threshold. Thus did clickbait like “Top 5 Tacos in Town!” and “David Chang’s Favorite Pizzas!” supplant actually learning about food.

Simple-mindedness is the rule these days, no matter the issue, no matter what the topic. The dumbing down of America extends to subjects as diverse as climate change to politics to sports. No one is diving deep; everything is visceral or the Cliff Notes version. Even the President of the United States.

Speaking of mindlessness, people are being murdered wholesale in our country, and not enough people care enough about that, either. Because you know, freedom. If that’s not enough to sober me right out of restaurant writing, nothing is.

No matter how you slice it, there’s nothing deep about food writing. Food writers, critics, journalists, nutritionists, etc., are all doing different forms of the same thing: imparting information (and opinion) to the public to help it eat better, tastier, healthier food. No rocket science in that. Precious little politics, too. But if you want to learn something, you have to pay attention. Just like in elementary school. And just like elementary school, most students would rather be told the right answer than figure it out for themselves.

Loyal readers, I have grown weary of helping you figure it out for yourselves.

About the only thing that keeps me writing these days is contemplating what is left of the Vegas food writing community should I retire. Years ago, I hoped that the free weeklies would morph into a true voice for our food and restaurant scene. All they’ve morphed into is a platform for b-list bars and restaurants, cocktail features, and barely-written “reviews.” I don’t blame the writers, I blame the editors. They know their audience can hardly read (or barely wants to), so on one level, you can’t blame them.

My previous co-author, Al Mancini, professes not to want to write about restaurants anymore, so the worthless rag he works for has him covering hot topics like “What blue cocktails are made without blue curaçao?” and other such drivel. (Memo to Al Mancini: the world isn’t interested in “cocktails of the week,” only the people pushing them are.)

Max Jacobson, god bless him, will never re-join the food writing ranks, and my other former co-authors (Greg Thilmont and Mitchell Wilburn) talented though they are, have neither the coin nor the time to immerse themselves in our foodie scene. Eater Las Vegas is a joke (it’s run by a pathetic woman who, when she’s sober, remembers that she lives in Des Moines, Iowa), and no other local blog is worth a shit. So bleak the landscape is.

And bleak I feel about it. I love writing, and I love going to great restaurants. Combining those two passions in this blog, six books, and 23 years of reviews for radio, TV, guidebooks, ‘zines, and  dozens of periodicals has been a match made in heaven for me. No one has ever covered the restaurants of Las Vegas like I have over the past two decades. No one else is even close. All the food writers in town put together aren’t even close. On average, I eat out more in a week than all of them do in a month.

Am I bragging? Sure I am, but it’s also true, and it’ll be a long time before any food writer comes close to what I’ve done. And I’m proud of it.

But while the body might be willing, the spirit is weak. Sometime next month the sixth edition of EATING LAS VEGAS The 52 Essential Restaurants will be published. Those 52 restaurants (yes, two more this year!) are all mine this time. No co-authors, no dueling reviews. You will get my complete, unvarnished look at the best this town has to offer, plus a snapshot or two about where we fail as a food and restaurant town.

These are the same things I’ve been trying to do on this web site since April 1, 2008, and in various forms since October 15, 1995, when I debuted on Nevada Public Radio. I don’t know if the book will continue after this edition, but I’m fairly certain this web site will post its last toothsome pick, or eviscerating pan, on its tenth anniversary, April 1, 2018.

Until then, bon appétit!

Image may contain: text