Audrey Dempsey/Infinity Photography
Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 | 9:27 a.m.
Culinary Clash Round 2
Culinary Clash Round 2
Hot off the grill! Chef Mario Batali was chief judge at Round 2 of the Venetian’s Culinary Clash that I MC’d last week. Las Vegas personalities Denise Valdez, Susan Stapleton, Sebastien Silvestri and Larry Ruvo also served as judges.
Chefs were given 45 minutes with a picnic basket of unknown foods and had to create a winning entree in a food truck. Video crews sent the action onto the huge clock tower marquee as Strip tourists stopped to watch. Mario even entertained juggling lemons and eggs!
The four meals -- with escargot, frogs legs, vegetables and curveball sauces and spices -- were won by two of Mario’s chefs, Nicole Brisson of Carnevino and Matt Harubin of B&B (Mario abstained from voting for them). The two other winners were Herb Wilson of Sushi Samba and Steve Aguglia of Aquaknox.
Those four go head-to-head tonight in Round 3 with First Food & Bar chef Sammy DeMarco judging with yours truly back as MC. Then next Friday, chef Daniel Boulud and “Sex and the City” hunk Gilles Marini join me for the finals.
The winner receives the Golden Spoon Award and a trip for two to Italy. Chefs from 30 Venetian and Palazzo restaurants have been competing since Round 1 on Nov. 29 with head judge Emeril Lagasse.
CHEFS’ $100,000 GIFT: “Start Spreadin’ the News,” the culinary event on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York last Sunday, raised $100,000 for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Nearly 700 guests, volunteers and supporters, including two “Mayor Goodmans,” Southern Wine and Spirits head honcho Larry Ruvo and celebrity chefs attended the 22 restaurant samplings all with ties to Las Vegas and NYC.
“It was an amazing day where the Las Vegas community came out in support of those impacted and still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. The goal was $50,000, but when donations hit that mark, Larry said that Carolyn called Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York to share the news, he would match it to make the total $100,000. She readily agreed, and the moment she hung up her cell phone, he wrote the check!
It all began with a bagpipe procession of Las Vegas and Henderson firefighters and American Red Cross service workers, many who had been deployed to relief efforts in New York and New Jersey. For $100, guests tasted cuisine from 22 restaurants, including chefs Francois Payard of Payard Patisserie & Bistro in Caesars Palace and Scott Conant of Scarpetta and D.O.C.G. Enoteca at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (their NYC restaurants and staff were impacted by the storm’s damage.)
“It is an amazing situation to see the outpouring of love and concern and compassion from everyone,” Scott said. Francois added: “It is great Las Vegas is doing something to help, a great event with the donations going to the right people.” Guests took home a commemorative chip adorned with patriotic artwork by Romero Britto that read, “When the chips were down, Las Vegas stepped up to help those who were dealt a bad hand by Hurricane Sandy.”
TERRIFIC TRUFFLES: It’s the height of white truffle season, and Valentino chef Luciano Pellegrini has created a one-night-only, sublime, seven-course menu of the Italian delicacy at his Venetian restaurant tonight. The $250-per-person menu starts with waffle cones and Wagyu tartare truffled veal robiola fondue tarts.
It’s followed by burrata cheese and roasted gold beets, quail sausage over braised cabbage flan, raviolo with roasted veal sweetbreads and scrambled eggs, ostrich tagliata with porcini mushroom and cheese polenta, 24-month-old parmesan chunks with truffle honey and a dessert sampling. The truffles are on and in everything!
PAYARD’S 5TH ANNIVERSARY: Pastry prince Francois Payard celebrated the fifth anniversary of his 40-seat Patisserie & Bistro in Caesars in tandem with National Pastry Day. He gave pastry demonstrations with step-by-step prep of the delicious creations from his two bestselling cookbooks. Francois took four pastries from his menu categories in the first year to add them to his fifth-anniversary menu, plus, a cocktail of champagne, ice cream and roasted pear in maple syrup. Fabulous!
In January, he’s adding four casual black truffle dishes including salmon and porcini mushrooms as informal dining and gastropubs take precedence here. “Change is good so long as you believe in what you are doing. You have to keep it fresh or you die. But I promise: No hamburgers! We are still here after five years, and business with 280 people a day is going very well.”
BACK IN TOWN: Chef Joseph Elevado returns to town now that Steve Wynn has selected him to run the hip Asian offerings at wife Andrea Wynn’s new dining concept Andrea’s opening at the Encore on Dec. 28. Joe, who returned from L.A., served a nine-year stint here with Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel and then Social House in Treasure Island and Crystals at CityCenter.
I told you earlier in the week that food critics John Curtas and Al Mancini’s new Travel Channel series will be titled “All Forked Up.” Now I can advise that it will premiere in the spring and was originally to be titled “Go Fork Yourself” -- that proved a little too close to what John always says to Al!
MGM chefs Tom Colicchio and Michael Mina and Cosmopolitan’s Jose Andres have been named advisers to Greenbriar chefs Richard Rosendale and Corey Siegel, who will represent America in Bocuse D’Or in France next month. The USA has never won a medal
Incidentally while in San Francisco with Michael on a restaurant crawl, he told me that his Seablue at MGM Grand will be transformed into a 1842 gastropub early next year.
The Light Group’s new-look Red Square at Mandalay Bay has opened for test-run dinners.
And congratulations to Comme Ca at the Cosmopolitan’s Brian Howard on his wedding this week in Hawaii!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Catering to the young and modern crowd, Planet Hollywood is a one-stop shop for entertainment with its massive shopping mall, slew of restaurants, spacious casino and clubs.
The ambiance of the casino is retro-chic meets high-tech with black granite floors throughout and colorful LED lights throughout the space. The theme carries into the 100,000 square-foot casino with 250 flat screens topping off slot machines. The casino is also home to 87 tables, a sports book and a poker room.
There's also the Miracle Mile Shops, one Vegas' largest malls, with 140 stores including BCBG Max Azaria, bebe, Urban Outfitters and The Discovery Channel Store.
Following an afternoon of shopping, guests can satisfy their appetites at one of the gourmet restaurants in Planet Hollywood, like the non-traditional approach to steakhouses at Strip House or check out the exotic Far East motif at KOI restaurant and lounge. And if guests are still looking for more, they can spend the after hours at Privé, Triq or Krave nightclubs.
Perhaps one of the resorts biggest attractions came in March with the addition of "Peepshow." The naughty twist on the story of Little Bo Peep is modern-day spin on the run-of-the-mill Vegas topless review. The "Peepshow" stage has seen visiting celebs like Scary Spice Mel B, "Dancing with the Stars" Kelly Monaco and Playboy's Holly Madison.
In the spirit of Venice, The Venetian is a little piece of romantic Italy right here in Las Vegas. The Venetian is an "all-suite" hotel, with rooms accented with plush linens and Italian marble. The 4,027 suites are divided into two towers: The 36-story Venetian Tower that offers guests a taste of luxurious Las Vegas and the Venezia suites, which guarantee 12 floors of high-end elegance. The top five floors are the hotel's highest level of luxury with its private access, concierge lounge, upgraded features and even a dedicated staff.
The flagship of Venetian nightlife is TAO, an ultra-hip nightclub located inside of TAO Asian Bistro. V Bar is The Venetian's super smooth ultra lounge, made by the owners of New York City's club Lotus and Los Angeles' super swank Sunset Room.
The Venetian features 19 restaurants including Thomas Keller's award-winning French restaurant Bouchon, Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante, Aquaknox for fresh seafood and the 42,000 square foot TAO Asian Bistro. There's also the food court inside the Canal Shoppes for those looking for a quick bite.
Guests can float along The Grand Canal Shops in an authentic Italian gondola ride and pass stores like Burberry and Kenneth Cole along the way. And if you haven't caught a real celeb, on the street in Vegas, you can head over to Madame Tussauds to check out a wax version.