The Travel Channel
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | 11:56 p.m.
Hot off the grill!
Las Vegas chef Sammy DeMarco has landed a new, original Travel Channel series, “Chow Masters,” that debuts this month and seeks America’s best comfort foods. He’s filming 13 half-hour episodes on a cross-country trek seeking food classics with innovative and delicious twists.
Sammy partners with longtime friend Hollywood director Frank Coraci as they travel from city to city, sample and judge the entries and determine who wins a $10,000 prize or a Golden Skillet award.
Sammy, who has restaurant operations in New York, Atlantic City, Japan and Australia, used to run First Food and Bar and Rattlecan here at the Venetian/Palazzo.
Back-to-back episodes kick off the series April 22, with “Breakfast in the Big Apple” and then onto Nashville for “Music City BBQ.” Each episode features three creative dishes.
ON THE MOVE: Culinary consultant and restaurant owner Elizabeth Blau and chef hubby Kim Canteenwalla are rumored to be taking over the former Bradley Ogden space in Tivoli Village for a new locals restaurant pub concept.
There also are rumors that the tattoo space in the Mirage opposite 1 OAK will become a New York TV celebrity chef hotspot.
“Hell’s Kitchen” Season 10 winner Christina Wilson has jumped from her chef position at Gordon Ramsay Steakhouse at Paris to become executive chef at Gordon Ramsay BurGR in Planet Hollywood just two years after winning the TV series. The promotion makes Christina one of only three female executive chefs working in his U.S. kitchens.
Incidentally, rumors that Gordon’s favorite Scottish beer Innis & Gunn will now only be available after next Feb. 29 in wooden bottles instead of glass are an April Fools’ Day joke!
FOUNDERS TASTING: After 40 years, the two creators of the annual UNLVino events will be honored for their pioneering vision.
Dean Emeritus Dr. Jerry Vallen of UNLV’s Hotel College and Southern Wine and Spirits chief Larry Ruvo will get the well-deserved salute at the April 12 new-look, reimagined Grand Tasting, wrapping the now four-night UNLVino extravaganza that raises millions in scholarships for our William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.
More than 20 local restaurants, including Oscar Goodman’s steakhouse at the Plaza and Angelo Sosa’s Poppy Den in Tivoli Village, 80 beverage stations, two entertainment stages, a beer garden and a sake village will be set up in and around the downtown Keep Memory Alive Event Center at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and spill out onto the breezeways and parking lots with food trucks.
Additionally, artist Romero Britto will set up his own pop-up art gallery; he executes the vibrant posters for UNLVino and the Power of Love gala every year.
BUDDY V KEEPS PROMISE: When television’s “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro opened his Buddy V’s Ristorante in the Grand Canal Shoppes of the Venetian/Palazzo, he promised that his famous Carlo’s Bake Shop from Hoboken, N.J., would be open by spring. He kept his promise, and now customers can have their cannoli and eat it, too.
The original setting of his TLC programs “Cake Boss” and “The Next Great Baker” opened “Carlo’s Bakery,” its first store west of the Mississippi River, on Monday night, and it’s a double of the original design that lets customers watch close up his bakery team in action.
“I can’t think of a better place to open our first West Coast location,” said Buddy. “We’ve been working for a long time to make this happen. Las Vegas is a great town, and I can’t wait to get everybody in here. To reach my fans across the country is very important to me.”
Buddy’s favorite desserts, including the awesome lobster tail pastry, cannolis and cookies, are all available for purchase, plus those delicious, extravagant and often outrageous custom cakes for weddings and birthdays.
NEW RESTAURANTS: The former Onda at the Mirage has been given a new feel and name, Portofino, with chef Michael LaPlaca from Due Forni, and he’s changed the menu to promote the flavors of Italian coastal cuisine.
My verdict: It’s a winner with an easy to understand and appreciate solid 21 items. He serves three mini-apps on a three-sectioned dish — calamari, caprese and Caesars salads — so you don’t feel as if you missed out. A delicious, light and healthy way to start a memorable meal.
For the next all-important course, he served five pasta dishes so that there was a taste of each one. All fresh-made in house daily. The main course, snapper baked in a parchment bag, was perfection, and the chicken rollatino also is recommended. Service was great from a very attentive staff.
Portofino is named in honor of the Italian fishing village that became a high-roller’s playground. Michael’s hand-rolled meatballs are made with fried squash blossoms, and make sure you taste his lemon-saffron risotto and crab meat patties (arancini) and the burrata agnolotti, handcrafted pasta served with lobster, chanterelle mushrooms and roasted corn butter.
Arizona restaurateurs Carlotta and Ray Flores and their family have moved to Las Vegas for their first outlet here with Hecho en Vegas at MGM Grand. The grand opening was celebrated with a traditional Sonoran menu including ceviche and chimichangas, plus a build-your-own taco station and a multi-tiered dessert station with flan, tres leches cake and chocolate mousse. Ray and MGM Grand President Scott Sibella broke a pinata filled with Mexican candy to mark the celebration.
Food Network chef Guy Fieri officially opens Guy’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar in late April, but this Friday he will be on site at the Quad to sample the menu and host a sneak peek of the new restaurant. The UNLV graduate has gone on to become a restaurateur, bestselling author and Emmy Award-winning TV host.
TASTE OF LAS VEGAS: Tickets have gone on sale for the second-annual Taste of Las Vegas poolside at the Mirage on Sept. 27 with celebrated chefs Saipin Chutima (Lotus of Siam), Eric Klein (Spago), Francois Payard, Laurent Tourondel and Christian Schmidt. The exclusive reception, dining event and after-party benefits the James Beard Foundation.
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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MGM Grand, a AAA Four Diamond resort, offers 5,044 rooms and suites.
MGM Grand features KÀ by Cirque du Soleil; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club; and world-class entertainment at the Grand Garden Arena and Hollywood Theatre.
The resort offers signature restaurants by celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill and Michelin three star and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Joël Robuchon.
As part of its ongoing “Grand Renovation,” MGM Grand has remodeled all rooms and suites in its main tower and is adding several new experiences to its lineup including Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, a new upscale dining/nightlife concept (coming in April 2013).
MGM Grand also features a state-of-the-art, non-smoking conference center, the Grand Spa, Cristophe Salon, "CSI: The Experience" and an inviting pool complex featuring the tantalizing daylife of Wet Republic.
Upscale accommodations include The Mansion, an exclusive hotel within the hotel; the luxurious two-story SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand; and The Signature at MGM Grand, a luxury all-suite, non-gaming hotel located adjacent to the main resort.