Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Vegas 2013: last 2 days

The next day I waste  $62 on Joe's Tasteless Crabs. They use another adjective, but it implies how intoxicated one would
                    
have to be to hallucinate flavour for these crabs. Squeezing a lemon wedge on them saved them from nothingness. They came with a mustard sauce which obliterated the crab's lack of taste. Unlike this taste violation, their baked tomatoes with spinach puree and cheddar is a wonder to behold, and worth the long walk. The violence of this crab's sauce and RMs murderous ailoli for its tasteless crab atrocity combined to make me wonder if anyone here cared about food any more? The trip goes up and down like an earth quake. First its flat, then it flutters



The Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel has to be one of the mellowest spaces in Vegas. I'm there for an exotic tea cocktail called a Maple Tree Bird. Thankfully lacking in maple flavour, instead it is steeped in tea goodness and assorted good spirits. Described in the menu as a complex sidecar with allspice and brown sugared rim. Hennessy Black, Daron 5-yr. Calvados, Quantro apple juice, maple black tea syrup, Peychaud's bitters, garnished with star anise. The magically disappearing crab thing of the hour before is washed away by intellectually challenging and palate delighting liquid.
  I'd heard great things about Lobster Thermidore and Andre's brags about theirs. Must be good, eh? A cocktail called a Willly Nilly:Vanilla infused vodka, cranberry juice and peach liquor pulls the lobster into something resembling taste, as well as mighty efforts by sauced asparagus and mashed potatoes, but the meal seems an insult to the noble lobster. 
 


Next, it's off to Twist. I am no longer remembered here, or is it just a new staff? When I order my favourite drink in the world, Twist's passion fruit sour, it has vanished from their consciousness (But not from their website cocktail menu, where you can still see the ingredients: Stolichnaya, green Chartreuse, passion fruit puree, fresh basil simple syrup, fresh lime, slash egg whites).  They attempt something and it's not poisonous although too heavy on the pineapple.
The absence of the Passion Fruit Sour reminds me a scene from Hemingway's novel The Torrents of Spring. Apparently based on a real episode, a young woman and her mother check into a Paris hotel during the World's Fair (the one that gave Paris the Eiffel Tower and maybe better crepes) The next morning, the young woman awakens to find her mother gone. She goes downstairs to ask about her and is told she had checked in alone, there was no mother. Only much later, we learn that the mother had gotten up in the middle of the night feeling ill, was found to have a highly contagious disease, and promptly disappeared to keep people from avoiding the world's fair. That seems to be what happened to my passion fruit drink, probably the main reason I came to Vegas- the possibility of that level of palate pleasure. Now not only gone, but divorced from memory.
 
 It's sea bass with veggies. The fish being a transportation vehicle for the zucchini. The green thing is a Parmesan crumble that takes the fish into a comfort food zone. You can probably cook this yourself, It's really good compared to the "lobster" at  Andre's, but then, what isn't?

I begin the next day with a cab ride to Bouchon. It's spinach quiche is as melty as before, but its' formidable grapefruit has vanished down the same memory hole as the passion fruit drink at Twist. 

My server seems to think I'd ordered a grapefruit juice. Horrors! Should have gone to Mon Ami Gabi, far more reliable about grapefruit, but it's too late now. For drinks it's back to Vesper.
Ever since checking into my hotel, the default channel on the TV relentlessly features Carrot Top previewing cocktails named after acts in town, his and others, including The One for the Michael Jackson show of the same name, which seems to be available only at the bar of his theatre and then only during the show. The M Magazine in my hotel room also promotes it and gives its ingredients as Funkin Passion Fruit puree, Grey Goose L'Orange vodka, Grand Marnier and orange juice. My bartender TJ makes me a similar drink, without the Funkin but with passion fruit liqueur instead. It tastes light and healthy and makes me want to go back to my hotel exercise room and lift weights, which I do later. I try and order a pear cocktail from the menu, but TJ insists on making me something new, which contains Zirbenz pine liqueur, Chandon ginger liqueur, Hangar 1 spiced pear with Thai chili syrup, lemon juice topped with ginger beer and garnished with a basil leaf and a ginger candy. Wow! Best drink I've had on this trip.


 Ginger has been a taste theme this trip.

Then, back to the Tea Lounge for their Royal Tea cocktail: more refreshing tea at the Tea Lounge. Absolut Mandarin, homemade simple syrup, chilled Osmanthus Oolong tea, splash of fresh lemon juice. The server asks how I like it and I tell her it's refreshing, better for the weather which is a few degrees warmer today.



After lifting weights back at the Excalibur,  I'm off to Le Cirque. It was pretty good the last time I visited, 2 years ago, but it is vastly better now.  I sip a fine rasberry cocktail and peruse a book about the restaurant called A Table at Le Cirque. From the introduction by Alain Ducasse,  "...in other words, he (Le Cirque founder Sirio Maccioni) introduced the very important notion that dining is all about experiencing a moment of happiness."
 Things I would normally refuse to eat, such as liquid eggs, actually become edible with the addition of salmon and caviar. Never before have I been able to eat soft eggery. Grant Achatz once served me  an oyster dish that didn't make me puke. Takes a wizard to do that.

An orange widow remarries. A truffle and a scallop enjoy each others company.

 And prosciutto, not a favourite ham form, wraps itself around a monkfish and the result is better than the monkfish I'd eaten at Le Bernardin 3 years ago. Better fish than Le B? Can it be? A wondrous final meal in food town.

The whole trip would have ended splendidly if had ended there. 
I'm as happy as Scrooge on Christmas morning. Instead, I go back RX Boiler Room to see if the pear cocktail is still as good as a few days ago. This time, in the absence of local food critics, the drink tastes like a bag of dirty laundry smells. I complain and the bar tender tries again. Another failure. I'm appalled. Thankfully, I spend my last minutes of the last night of the trip at Fleur. It's great server Marisol even gives me a Christmas present and the bartender makes me a cocktail strong enough to remove the dirty laundry taste.
  Last cup of tea at the Excalibur before departure, the woman in the store asks how long I've been in Vegas. Seven days. "Oh, that's a long time," she tells me. I don't disagree.
  A very tasty tomato, ham and olive bruschetta at the airport and I'm on my way back to Vancouver. Two tomato dishes I can make myself and Schlotsky's great tomato soup make me call it The Tomato Tour. Despite the  wounding loss of Twist's Passion Fruit Sour, I had more tasty beverages this trip than any other. Would have been more successful if the weather wasn't freezing most of the trip. Ice belongs in a glass, not on my glasses.


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