Sunday, June 15, 2008

Truffle Night at Fiamma Trattoria and Bar

I've been lax in getting our last night in Vegas posted here. My apologies!

Our final dinner in Vegas was a bit of a surprise. We couldn't decide where to eat. We knew we didn't want to leave the MGM, where we were staying. We just wanted to relax, drops some money in the slot machines, and enjoy the little city that is MGM.

We thought we'd try Emeril's...I've been to his restaurant in New Orleans, which remains on my top ten list of restaurant experiences. But we couldn't get in until 9pm, which was too late for us. Putting the promise of eating at the bar in our back pocket as a fallback, we looked at the other choices:
Shibuya - sushi, which sounded fabulous, but we weren't really in the mood for seafood in a landlocked place.
Seablue - seafood, meditteranean - again, didn't want seafood. We come from the Pacific Northwest. Las Vegas is too far away from the ocean for us to want to eat seafood there. :o)

Several times we walked by Fiamma Trattoria & Bar, thinking, huh...Italian...okay, but how special could it be? Well, we looked at the menu and found several things that sounded tasty. We were lucky enough to get reservations at 6:30...a perfect time for us.

First on the menu for us was an order of beef carpaccio with a salad of chopped mushrooms and black truffle vinegar and shavings of parmegiano reggiano. The beef was so thinly sliced and tender that we couldn't pick the slices up. It was creamy, tangy, salty and earthy. Delicious!

For our entree we decided to have the Fusilli with prosciutto, English peas, and black truffle butter sauce. The flavors were fairly delicate, smoky prosciutto, sweet peas and earthy, luscious truffle butter.
Accompanying our dinner, we drank an effevescent white wine called Conundrum. Aptly named. We puzzled and puzzled till our puzzlers were puzzed. I wanted a red wine. My palate was ready for a dry, tannic, Italian red. But nothing on the by-the-glass list really hit us. So we went with the waiter's recommendation. Then we realized we'd had it before! So we're going to try and find it again here at home.
Nicely fruity, with some hints of pear and a clear finish, it cut through the fat of the butter sauce and highlighted the individual flavors of the pasta dish beautifully.

So it ended up being truffle night at Fiamma for us. And we left satisfied and very pleased with our choice.

Our trip really woke my palate up. I wanted to cook when I got home! Just like a trip to see theatre in New York makes me want to be a better actor and fires my desire to perform, this trip to Las Vegas made me want to be a better cook and baker.

And speaking of being a baker, up next will be a writeup of the cake I made for my friend Maia Strong's book release party.
Thanks for all the comments, y'all!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Colicchio Day - Vegas Day 2

Day two, really our first full day in Vegas, began with a rather predictable trip to Starbucks. We were awake and hungry, but the place where we wanted to eat breakfast wasn’t open until 10am. So coffee and a small snack (I wish they had cheese pockets here in Seattle...they were yummy!) started our day.

Our destination for what ended up as lunch was an establishment called ‘wichcraft, located on the Studio Walk in the MGM Grand, where we stayed. ‘wichcraft is a sandwich place owned by Top Chef judge and James Beard award-winning Chef Tom Colicchio. Again we were checking up on a favorite tv chef. We really enjoy Top Chef (especially this season), but knew little about Chef Colicchio and wanted to see what his food was like.

‘wichcraft had two breakfast sandwiches on their menu that had us salivating. One was a skirt steak, fried egg and oyster mushroom sandwich and the other a fried egg, bacon and frisee sandwich. Both sounded wonderful to us, being great fans of breakfast sandwiches. Nancy got one (steak) and I got the other (bacon) and we shared. The steak was cooked perfectly, the flavors nicely balanced, not too bold for morning, but still very tasty. The fried egg and bacon sandwich was a little piece of breakfast heaven. The bacon was thick cut and sweetly smokey but not salty, the egg perfectly cooked (though I would have preferred the yolk left unbroken) and the frisee dressed with a light vinaigrette, all served on a soft roll. The sandwiches were so large we couldn’t quite finish them, though we made a valiant effort. I did eat all the bacon, which was probably the best bacon I’ve ever had.

I kept the plastic bag they packed our sandwiches in...what a great souvenir! And that afternoon, for a snack, we went back for a homemade whoopie pie, a chocolate cake sandwich filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream. *drool*

The meal that came closest to sex was at Craftsteak that same evening, the steakhouse in the MGM Grand. Also headed by Chef Colicchio, Craftsteak promised simple ingredients cooked well. Where Mesa Grill offered up layers of bold, complex flavors the night before, Craftsteak presented clean, well-executed simplicity.

Knowing we would be sharing so we wouldn’t overstuff ourselves, we were heartened when the server, before we even said anything, mentioned that their menu was set up with sharing in mind. All their sides are served family style.

We ordered a 12 oz. hanger steak after asking the waitress what it was. *g* We’d heard of the cut before, but couldn’t remember anything about it. When she told us it’s often called the butcher’s cut because it’s what the butcher usually keeps for himself, we decided to go for it. It turned out to be the best single decision we made the whole trip.

The steak arrived medium-rare, already sliced, in a cast iron gratin dish, a scattering of thyme on top of the gorgeously seared beef (the only other seasoning was salt and pepper). Our side of fried squash blossoms came with the baby zucchini still attached to use as handles. To drink with our meal, we ordered a Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red blend...a bit of wine from our home state of Washington. Suggested by the waitstaff, it perfectly complemented the steak. Flavorful, yet lean, the steak was exquisite. Quite literally the best steak ever.

As if the incredible meal weren’t enough, the cocktail menu boasted over 100 single malt scotches. If I wasn’t already in love with Tom Colicchio, that cinched the deal. Awed by the sheer depth of choice, I went with a scotch flight of Bowmore, 12 yr, 16 yr and 21 yr. These are the kind of Islay malts I love, smoky without being peaty.

The 12 year (distilled in 1989, Jewels of Scotland, Bottled by Lombard) had a nice deep smoke with some grassy notes that opened up with some added water.
The 16 year (distilled 1988, bottle #221 by Signatory Vintage) looked almost paler than the 12 year, had a surprisingly fruity nose and a sweetly smoky flavor.
The 21 year (distilled 1982, cask strength, Duncan Taylor Collection) nearly singed my nose hairs on first sniff. I’m guessing it was upwards of 55%. *g* Dark honey and smoke on the nose, toasted coconut and caramel to the taste. It was delicious with dessert.

Oh, yeah, dessert! How could I forget the molten chocolate cake crusted with hazelnuts, served a quenelle of espresso ice cream? Yeah, molten chocolate cake was really popular a few years ago. Frankly I was a little surprised to see it on the menu. I didn’t think it was ‘the thing’ anymore. But it was perfectly cooked, dark and richly chocolatey, and the ice cream was smooth and tangy with espresso. The perfect end to a perfect meal.

In case you’re wondering how I remember all this when we’ve been back almost a week now, I took notes. I had a little notebook that fit in my purse and I wrote notes because I knew I wanted to come back and write about it. At the end of the notes for this meal, there’s a small note from Nancy. OMG. What it took me several hundred words to say, she expressed in three letters. That’s my girl. :o)

There was one more evening in Sin City and one more dinner to go with it. Come back in a couple of days for tales from Fiamma Trattoria and Bar.