Friday, February 18, 2011

Vegas 6: Say It Ain't So, Jose

I was really looking forward to eating at Jaleo. Although one for 3, the scallop lime thing, isnt much of an average for China Polano, that was new territory. Jaleo is where Andres comes from. I remembered his red pepper stuffed with cheese and further back, I remembered feasting on tapas in Spain in November 2002. Coming out of Caesar's Palace after the great meal at Guy Savoy earlier on Wednesday evening, I thought I saw what looked like Chef Andres entering the hotel with a bunch of other men. I was going to say hello, and if I had a second of his time, I'd ask if he has sampled the Basque tapas I discovered in Milford Connecticut recently. I'm also interested in eating at Bazaar, Andres's newish place in LA, a city I've had a lot of good food in over the years. When I finally get to Jaleo about 3 hours after leaving Guy Savoy, I find it large and full of apparently happy people. I'm delighted the place is so successful. When Fumiyo and I were on a bus from Avignon to Barcelona, as soon as we had crossed into Spain, the bus stopped for us all to eat and we discovered cooked white asparagus in the truck stop menu. Our bodies were craving vegetables we couldn't get enough of while traveling through Italy and France. Wonderfully soft and tasty. So when I saw asparagus on Jaleo's menu, I was sure this was the same dish I had on the road in Spain. And it was served in a tin can, like the great canned sea food from Espinaler. I was so looking forward to that first melting soft bite of asparagus and good Spanish cheese. But the asparagus spears were as hard as the penises of aroused robots.

The main item on the menu that brought me to Jaleo was the deep fried dates wrapped in bacon. After the fantastic bacon ice cream with figs at Le Bernardin recently, I had an idea what this would taste like. Just like I had that memory from the Spanish truckstop, not a useful preparation for Chef's Andres' asparagus mistake. I had first had dates in Mexico in 1953. I liked them. I first had bacon in 1963, I liked it too. They should go together. At least in this restaurant, they did not. It was like eating sad sand.

This is the red peppers stuffed with crab. I make a version of this at home. I melt some cream Havarti cheese and add an equal amount of crab. I put a few green olives at the bottom of a red pepper (orange is even better) pour in the crab/cheese, then top the pepper with a big tomato wedge and bake till the the pepper skin is soft. Cheese stuffed pepper is pretty standard Mexican food. I'd had Jose's cheese filled peppers at his DC Jaleo so I decided to try the crabby peppers here. Compared to the previous two tapas, it was highly edible. Of course, by this time I was quite hungry. Before I could "enjoy" these peppers, a plate was dropped a couple of meters from me. Glass went flying. As it was being swept up, I found a large piece near my stool. "You have good eyesight,"I was told. If only. I took my shoe off to see if it had any glass in it. My thumb and fingers were invaded by broken glass just picking up my shoe. My server Michelle thankfully didn't charge me for the two tapas I didn't like, and offered me another order. The sangria was really good. I was offered a book in which to write my comments to the chef, but glass-injured fingers were not easy to use. I wonder if Andres, and Spain in general is still that appealing. I was planning to go to Spain, particularly the Basque region and Barcelona again, as my next culinary destination, but maybe not.


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