Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vegas Day 3

While at the Bellagio enjoying its food, drinks and dogs, I walk over to the Bellagio Cafe to inquire when a good time would be to go for breakfast there. I had read online that they have a lobster omelet. I've never had a lobster omelet. It sounds like a really good food idea, though I've never had lobster for breakfast and wonder if it is indeed a breakfast food. My bus pass expires at 8:00 so I'm out of the Excalibur shortly after 7 to walk over to the bus stop. It is Vancouver cold at that time of the morning. It is a long windy walk around a cold lake but the wind creates some exquisite waves. And then I am back in warmth, in the cocoon of the Bellagio. After saluting my dog friends, I am at the Cafe, earlier than I was told was a good time but it is large and largely empty. I sit down. A woman with a small baby is beside me. I order some tea. It's chamomile, and vastly better than Bouchon's vaguely adulterated hot water yesterday morning, but that isn't hard to do. I order the omelet and it arrives. It is a serious meal, not where I'm at in the morning. The lobster lives again in my appreciation. The red peppers, the tomatoes, and most of all, the asparagus are aligned into the sort of meal one would recommend. Lobster has always been (very rare) dinner food, and the number of times I've had lobster for lunch can be counted on the fingers of one hand, if that, but breakfast lobster? You're kidding. No, it's really good. Unlike the Venetian, the Bellagio doesn't pound you with art. It's airier, and its beauty invites your powers of discovery. Unlike Bouchon's plastic-like crepes, the omelet at the Bellagio Cafe breathes, and invites breath. The neighbouring baby shows interest in my involvement with the exemplary omelet, and the great tea matched (as Bouchon USED TO DO) with exquisite honey. I try and smile at the baby as often as I can, which, considering what I'm eating, is very often indeed.
Everyone leaves. Me too. I get a new room at the Excalibur and with some difficulty, am re-connected with its tricky Wifi. After some more reading, I wander back over to the Paris and ask about my missing shades. “We were waiting for you to come back for them,” says the lady at the entrance desk, which is where I had left them on Tuesday. She promises someone upstairs will deliver them to me, and I ascend the scenic elevator to the Eiffel Tower restaurant. It ain't in the same aesthetic galaxy as the Real Eiffel Tower, but it ain't bad at all. I am ebullient.
My favourite crepes are gone. When I inquire, I'm told they vanished from the menu 2 years ago, obviously shortly after I was last here, lapping up their savoury wonder. Well, missing crepes (and thus, crepes of memory) are Slightly less disappointing than Keller's plastic-trophic sloppiness yesterday. I order the shrimp cocktail and a real cocktail, the Hollywood Margarita. I figure the lime would amplify the shrimp. Point it in a useful direction. These trips are all about what I can learn from them. Where to go with a vegetable, a prawn, a mushroom, the most delectable piece of fruit? The knowledge of that is pouring into this city. Let it pour into me.
1960. Summer. Saskatchewan. Outside of Regina, somewhere, my family stops for dinner. I notice someone eating something pale in voluminous red sauce on ice cubes. It was summer and those ice fantasies reached out to me. My parents allowed me to order it, or more accurately, it was shared by us all. It was a shrimp cocktail. It was the first animal I'd ever eaten in my life. When we discovered we were actually eating animals, the wondrous taste of the shrimp with the seductive cocktail sauce, so alien to our bland diets- we suddenly looked upon our feast with horror. Or at least I did. As far I knew, the family never consumed any more animals until the Cuban Missile Crisis a couple of years later.
This wasn't that shrimp cocktail. 
It was a lotta shrimp, for noon. The Hollywood Margarita did not help. It's lime did not add the dose of limeness to the shrimp I was expecting initially, but that changed as the beverage warmed up into a friendlier state. Offered 2 sauces, American and French. The French tasted like mayonnaise, and was undoubtedly related. I experiment with the sauces, the limey margarita and the lemon. I have my shades back. Everything is just fine.
Behind me, some people are discussing Alexxa, from the perspective of ownership. I once again own my shades. Reading The Dispossessed, and its critique of ownership is as relevant to my hourly life as it would be to the characters of the novel's anarchist society. Could an anarchist society have created either the Paris, France or the Vegas Paris hotel's Eiffel Tower? I doubt it. What a waste of material that should be used for greater societal benefit.
The cocktail is abandoned. The shrimp is wrangled. On my way back to the Excalibur, I buy a can of Angry Orchard Easy, a brand we don't have in Vancouver, and a Mike's Black Cherry lemonade. Traveling some productive paths with blackberries and black cherries and fruit of that proclivity on this trip. Let's see what Mike can do for me. The Easy angry is really good. I drift back into 50s LA in Ossman's novel.
My reservation at Twist is at 6. The Mandarin Hotel has to be the mellowest place in Vegas. It is always a joy to come here. The corns that were making walking painful have been easily eased back into comfort by some corn pads from the drugstore on my way between hotels. A hotel person ushers me into the elevator as I enter the hotel, and, sitting on a delightful little bench, I ascend. In the lobby, a wee robot addresses me. I think we will see a lot more of their kin in days to come. I ask the robot, Pepper, if Twist is yet open? Always try to be early. Pepper does not understand, or have that information. I ask a “human” at the desk, and am told Twist will open in a couple of minutes. My belief in a future full of fun robots momentarily disabled, I am at least in a wonderful hallway of black stone, maybe the best bathroom in the western world, and finally Twist itself. Other suited men are being seated. The folks who knew of my patronage had come and gone. I'm just another guest. Unlike yesterday's seating in probably the best seat in the restaurant at Le Cirque, I am given a slightly less spectacular seat. I'm here for Gagnaire's food, not his view though that too... Twist wouldn't know a Twist cocktail if it bit their arm off, so I offer them a print out of their house cocktail from the distant days (wow, 7 years ago) I first dined here. They scramble about to acquire the ingredients.
Gagnaire is about as playful a chef as you can get without being thrown out of the sand box and his amuses have always been a serious challenge to how far we can let our palates play. 
Parmesan sable
Limoncello soufflé
Black rice tartelette/parsley puree/parsley sponge
Nori chip/masago/broccoli
Grapefruit gazpacho
Twisted cocktail/orange powder
Casteveltrano olive/gin/lime
Battonet of celery

Lindenwood Gelée, Baby Vegetables
Served With Lemon Sorbet, and Fromage Blanc Snow
Yeah, it's really pretty but I don't eat with my eyes. It's basically a bunch of random words masquerading as a sentence.Raw vegetables? Uh, no. When I eat a raw carrot, I know I'm eating a carrot. It had looked like a carrot before entering my mouth,. It tastes like a carrot. Numerous receptors look forward to the healthful benefits it will soon provide. When I eat the idea of a carrot in the cuisine I expect of a great chef, that carrot has become a rocket ship taking me to the limits of pleasure. It ain't no carrot no more. Pierre served me a raw carrot. 
Endive, Green Apple, Celery Salad, Roasted Spiced Apple
It was OK. Apple was good.

Spinach Velouté, Gorgonzola and Pine Nut Croquette, Tomato Concassé,
Arugula Salad, Brioche
I hate poached eggs as much as anyone hates anything. Attempting to eat this reminded me of the Battle of Borodino, as described in War and Peace.

Artichoke Cream, Cremini Mushrooms, Sweet Onions Marmalade,
Mix Wild Mushrooms
Up there with the best things I've ever eaten. Considering the vileness of some of the previous dishes, I wondered if Gagnaire can still cook. Yep. 

Raisins/Aloe Vera with Licorice/Kaffir Lime Vodka Coulis/Basil Lime Sherbet
Coconut Panna Cotta/Elderflower Cream/Frozen Heering Pineapple
Apple Tatin/Calvados Caramel Sauce/Vanilla Ice Cream

The best apple pie I have ever eaten. Texting Fumiyo this (and she makes some exquisite apple pastries) she wonders what makes it so good. The crust, the apples, what is done to them, it is a miraculous desert.

Manjari Parfait/Almond Nougatine/Bitter Chocolate Foam
Grand Marnier Hibiscus Gelée/Saffron Cake/White Almond Paste

I'm being gelleed to death (thankfully not by Bill Cosby).
Some dishes are better than others. They are all really pretty. The lights outside are pretty too and they're free. If it weren't for the world-altering mushroom dish, I'd probably rate this meal a B- after the rare A meal at last night's Le Cirque. But nothing ever consumed at Le Cirque has been as ridiculously good as Gagnaire's mushroomy thing. Good work, Gagnaire.
After dinner, I meet a friend at Aria, Marisol, who taught me what great service could be in my appearances at Fleur in Vegas visitations past. Now she has a job which provides her with similar levels of enjoyment. I am elated to hear her family is all well and happy. Rarely have I met anyone who lives in Vegas who isn't happy about that fact. Considering the tragedy that befell this city last year, the spirit of resilience from the people I know here is an inspiration to us all. Marisol shows me pix of her grand kids. I tell tales of mine. She complains of having to pay for parking downtown now and scurries back to her car to take advantage of a brief window of free parking.

One is always reluctant to leave great hotels (Unlike the Excalibur, which I flee with glee and only reluctantly return to) but there are sangrias to consume and rate. Fortified still by evening chamomile with my blizzard of desserts at Twist, I am back to Alexxa. The last three 4 oz, mostly ice, sangrias. The Blanco sucks. Sampling the bartender's special: he is surprised that I detect aloe. And cucumber. That doesn't mean I want to taste them in a sangria. Only the Pinky works. Again with the blackberries. Boss man shows up and notices I've been a regular, maybe the only one the last 3 days, and offers me a free dessert. One of his pumpkin dishes looks like something I'd love to compare with the pumpkin puree I just had at Twist, but I no longer have the capacity. I consume a small quantity of the sangrias, just enough to form an opinion of them and then leave them to their watery dreams of sun-soaked Spain to return to my hotel. I am not awakened by invading strangers. I sleep well.  


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