Friday, Jan. 18, 2002 | 9:38 a.m.
Muriel Stevens' dining column appears Fridays. Her shopping and travel columns appear Wednesday. Reach her at 259-4080 or [email protected]
Members of the Las Vegas Chapter of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international gourmet society, lingered longer than usual after the annual holiday induction dinner on Dec. 19 at Bellagio. It was such a mellow event.
For some months the tasting committee, Reno Armeni, Michael Severino and I had been meeting with Bellagio Director of Catering Tom Cook, Executive Chef Grant MacPherson and Director of Wine Jay James, who would choose the wine for each course.
Chaine inductee Sandy Peltyn would produce the entertainment. And since this was the holiday season, children would participate during the reception. Chaine Bailli Larry Ruvo, whose children attend the Meadows School, had arranged for the school choir to perform during the reception.
First onstage were the costumed Dickens Carolers, who sang holiday songs with great style. Then the Meadows School 36-student choir performed. Their reward for such an endearing turn was hot chocolate and gingerbread men. The kids loved it. There was a bit of drama when Bailli Ruvo's plane was late departing from Reno. He arrived after the reception started, but just in time to see the Meadows School choir. Ruvo's wife Camille, who is also member of the Chaine, was finally able to relax.
Bellagio's staff had created a wonderful setting for the reception. A "homey holiday feel," said Cook, with couch and chair groupings, complete with floor lamps. On the side, a sleigh with a tree in it was the ideal place to have a souvenir photograph taken.
A cup of good cheer was created by master mixologist Francesco Lafranconi, who directs wine and spirits classes for Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada. Francesco's refreshing libation included Mandarin vodka, fresh tangerine juice, champagne and other "special ingredients." It was designed to put everyone in a festive mood. Mission accomplished!
Chef Sean O'Connell (Shintaro) designed the tasty hot and cold hors d'oeuvre presented at a separate station: roulade of marinated eggplant with charred tomato relish, chilled Hawaiian blue shrimp with shaved baby cucumber, braised Taylor Bay scallops with a confit of Vidalia onions and wild mushrooms with stewed tomatoes and blue cornmeal polenta.
Appetites whetted, it was time for the induction and dinner.
The color guard from Nellis AFB opened the event, followed by Heidi Bauer of Nevada Opera, who offered a moving rendition of "God Bless America." The induction service performed by Henry Scheilien, Commandur Bailli Provincial Far West, Echanson, included a retelling of the history of the "geese roasters" who started the Chaine in 1259. I never tire of hearing the story of this historic organization.
Inducted were: Peltyn, Randy Morton, Nancy Weinstein, Larry Close, Barry Fieldman, Michelle Latour, Stuart Mann, Jeff Moore, Daniel Otter and Edwin Prud'homme. Peltyn and Weinstein are among the wives who became members even though their spouses, Roger and Jack, are longtime members.
The dining room was grand with X-shaped tables able to seat approximately 12 people at each of the four legs. Gold damask clothes adorned the tables; aubergine satin napkins were lined with cotton to keep them from slipping. Gold chairs were plump with Burgundy-velvet cushions. Down the center of each X table leg was an abundance of holiday-inspired Old World pretties: candelabras, votive candles, pine boughs, floral pieces, sheer fabrics, pine cones and fruit.
Chef Eric Diamond's consomme of wild mushrooms en croute was so good. The soup casserole was nestled in a festive green napkin. The fragile pastry cap ballooned over the top. When the pastry was broken the lovely mushroom aroma escaped. Wine: Sokol Blosser Evolution No. 9, Williamette Valley, Oregon, 1999.
Steamed filet of flounder with a zesty sorrel parfait with caviar and champagne emulsion was Chef Martin Heierling's savory offering. Wine: Brancott Savignon Blanc, Reserve, Marlbrough, New Zealand, 2001.
Then a masterful, robust entree from MacPherson: a perfect composition of Aberdeen Angus beef and duck confit accompanied with a most satisfying ragout of pumpkin and celery root with a black truffle sauce. Wine: Cote Rotie, Chapoutier, Rhone, 1995.
A combination Chaource cheese and salad course by Chef Ewart Wardhaugh included a wonderful spiced plum compote and a drizzle of herbed oil. Perfect with it was the rich, full flavor of Churchill Late Bottled Vintage Porto, 1994.
Carrying the holiday theme to the nth degree Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Philippe Maury presented a chestnut "overlook" dessert. It was a sweet tribute the Italian chestnut. The chef made the most of the short chestnut season, including chestnuts in each of the four offerings: walnut mandiant, fig creme glacee, a bourbon emulsion and the splendid tower, vanilla bean mousseaux. Among the sweet extras that were part of the dessert's design was a jumbo candied chestnut that was perfection. I confess to a weakness for these difficult to find, pricey sweets. Wine: Bonny Doon Muscat California Vin de Glaciere, 2000.
Two harpists entertained throughout dinner. Brief scenes from the holiday classic, "The Nutcracker," were enacted onstage. The entertainment choice was just right and so was the timing. Wine expert James, whose choices were so ideal, was nestled next to Santa, dreaming not of sugarplums, but of well-paired wines.
The evening ended with gifts from Santa (a new wine gadget) and fond farewells. What a lovely way to end 2001.
Bellagio installs mini-bars: In an unprecedented move, Bellagio, the nation's largest Five Diamond casino hotel, has just completed installation of a customized, automated e-fridge mini-bar system in its guest rooms. Bartech mini-bar systems are not the usual kind. Bellagio's mini-bars have sensors, decor to compliment upscale rooms and are a techies delight. Are mini-bars in Las Vegas' posh hotel rooms the wave of the future? Possibly. Guests like them and these are state-of-the-art and exciting.
China Grill unveils new menu: Add China Grill at Mandalay Bay to the list of restaurants offering late-night fare and an after-hours club. China Grill Chef Greg DeMichiel regularly adds new items to the signature menus. Recently added items are: Chinese beer-braised beef short ribs, ginger and panko-crusted (Japanese bread crumbs) seabass and five-spice blackened pork tenderloin. All of China Grill's dishes are meant to be shared family-style, so portions are generous.
After hours is a new concept in the elegant bar and lounge. Late-night hours are in effect Fridays and Saturdays, from 3 a.m. until ... Reservations are available. There are special guest DJs and trendy signature drinks (no food). Call 632-7404.
Alliance of Black Culinarians celebrate Black History Month: ABC will present its annual Grazer, Feb. 24 at Texas Station, 3-7 p.m. A variety of dishes will be served by some of Las Vegas' finest black hotel and restaurant chefs. Monies raised will support scholarships to needy graduating high school seniors who want to enter the culinary field. For tickets ($25) or information call Chef T.E. Williams at 799-7528 or 896-4318.