Saturday, May 14, 2011

May Vegas 4: The Chefs

One reason I wanted to attend Uncork'd was to meet the chefs and have whatever conversations possible. The night before the event began, dining with an interweb pillar at Twist brought forth the chef, or some other reason. He hovered over us, momentarily, not speaking English that I heard. I pointed to the Zezette dish and said, "c'est magnifique" which he acknowledged and moved on. Later, at the grand tasting (in the sense that "grand" is a word in the dictionary, and not a description of anything) I observed Chef Gagnaire conversing with professional celebrity Gordon Ramsay. They didn't appear to be speaking French. So when the chef was alone, I came up to him and said I loved his food, and also his novel/cookbook. I bet he never hears that. Then I described my reaction to eating his John Dory dish in February. He looked at me as if I'd just escaped from a mental institution. And hopefully, would be recaptured REAL soon. He went off to acclaim and nourishment and I then met Martin from the Chef Cook off thing I visited for lunch. He was so delightful, no matter what else had happened that day, if it were only relentless badness it would be cancelled by Martin's enthusiasm for ingredients that interest me. I have to go to his restaurant.
Earlier in the throngs of Tasting folks, I met chef Akira. I told him we shared a common Japanese moniker, most unusual for non-Japanese.. He asked if my mom were Japanese and I said no, my last name is from my wife. But I wanted to talk to him about his mushroom dish, and how the pickled mushroom set everything off so elegantly, yet thirst quenching on a hot day. His restaurant is called Yellow Tail and I would like to ask him how sustainable is his yellowtail supply? It is on the Avoid list from the aquarium. I want to be on Akira's side. So I trust that he is on the side of his sustenance.
The Grand Tasting gave me the opportunity to meet Jose Andres. I told the ebullient chef that I'd dined superbly at Jaleo in DC. He told me I had to dine at his places in Vegas. I didn't tell him of my adventures there, and regret saying all the negative things I posted in my two blog posts about them but told him I'd like to eat at his new mini-place E. I mentioned that my wife and I had spent a month feasting on tapas throughout Spain in 02 and he hugged me and told me I was his man. Does that mean I'll get a seat at E? We'll see. I would have liked to have asked him what he thinks of the proliferation of tapas places in the US, and specifically ask if he'd had the Basque Tapas that so enchanted me in Milford Connecticut during my recent trip to the East. Maybe I'll ask him some other time. It was great to see the Andres Vegas empire represented by the little scallops and limes I had enjoyed in my singular visit to that restaurant. Always lead with your best dish.
Actually the only dish I found memorable (not counting stuff I'd had before like Guy Savoy's truffle soup) was a little crab tidbit at the American Fish booth. I had introduced myself at the Savoy booth and mentioned I'd had the soup when I dined at Savoy in February. The woman working there called me by name and said they'd all read my blog review of Savoy. Made my week. The only thing I found truly vile was a tiny pineapple stuffed with fiery hot things. More of a bomb than dish, from Bobby Flay. It truly flayed my tongue. Thankfully one booth was serving Proseco. For a while, some good cocktails were also available but they ran out. One other chef I wanted to meet and had the opportunity was Jean Joho. I told him how much I enjoyed the vegetarian crepes at his Eiffel Tower restaurant in Feb. I also told the chef that it was my last meal in the Feb. trip and would be the last meal of this trip, on Sunday evening. He introduced me to his sous chef and assured me I'd eat well on Sunday. This was Friday, and on Saturday morning, I'm enjoying the great grapefruit at Mon Ami Gabi and see Chef Joho walking by. I discover he's an owner of Gabi as well. I tell him how much I enjoyed the apple crepe when I had previously breakfasted at Gabi. "They're completely different kinds of crepe" he instructs. Thankfully he's in charge of both of them.
I had wanted to meet Alain Ducasse since eating the amazing prawns at his restaurant Mix in Feb. The day after the Grand Tasting, with the Bocuse dinner cancelled, there was something called Better by the Bay at the artificial beach at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. There were only a few chefs compared to the Grand Tasting the previous night. I noticed Rick Moonen, famous for sea food, seemed to be serving hot dogs at both events. I got a tray full of Ducasse food including lobster and a fine bouillabaisse while Ducasse walked around like a scientist in a horror movie who has to deliver the bad news to the president. Waiting in line for half an hour for the food while being inundated with BBQ flames and loud music was not a lot of fun so I decided to leave without bothering Ducasse. On my way to the exit, I bumped into Hubert Keller, whose cuisine I've vastly enjoyed at Fleur and whose music I'd video'd at the grand tasting the previous night (see next blog post). Hubert invited me to the after party at Fleur at 11. Probably would have been more fun than the beach event He seemed full of joie de vivre. I would have liked to ask him about the hamachi (yellowtail) on the menu at Fleur, yet around the corner, in the same building, at the Shark Reef Aquarium in the sustainable seafood guide 2010, we are told to avoid yellowtail (imported, farmed). But he was having a good time and I didn't want to bother him.


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