Chef Series #4 Chef’s Pot Luck at Niu Gu, Las Vegas NV

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Chef Series #4: Pre-Memorial Day Chef’s Pot Luck at Niu Gu

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Jimmy Li – Niu Gu Signature Short Rib

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Jimmy Li – Hong Kong Style Black Cod

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Jimmy Li – Tea Jelly with Almond

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Antonio Nunez – 36-hour cured Whole Hog Roast with Roasted Garlic Puree, Chipotle Adobo, Brown Sugar, Fresh Bay Leaves, Black Peppercorns and Jalapeno Bacon

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Marty Red DeLeon Lopez- Pork Belly Adobo Roulades with Garlic Rice and Pork Fat

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Jon VanHusen – Skillet Cornbread

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Jon VanHusen – Mushroom Meatloaf

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Chris Decker – Sausage & Calabrian Peppers, Italian bread Platter

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John Courtney – Green Tripe Salad, Fresh Garbanzo Beans, Bird’s Beak Chili, Preserved Buddha Vinaigrette

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Hemant Kishore – Malabar Chicken Biriyani with Basmati Rice, Fried Onion, Cashew, Raisins

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Christopher Palmeri – Potato Gnocchi with Farmer’s Market Caponata

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Sandra Palomo – Beef Kelaguen and Mango Cucumber Garnish

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Dan Krohmer – Homemade Kim Chi Fried Rice

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Josh Smith – Frisee Aux Lardons, Pate Campagne, Cornichons, Country Bread

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Carlos Buscaglia – French Toast Bread Pudding, House Smoked Maple Syrup, Tres Leches Gelato from Gelatology

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Hemant Kishore – Gulab Jamun

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Jonathan Pluvinet – Tarte Tatin, Chocolate Almond Croissants

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Jaret Blinn – Stone Fruit Pop Tarts and Sea Salt Spiced Caramel Pots de Creme

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Tiffany Sheree Jones – Lemon Meringue Cake, Banana Caramel Cake

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Matthew Piekarski and Carol Garcia -HeXx Single Origin Petit Four Selection of Brownies, Chocolate Tarts, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Cheesecake with Caramel Corn

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Tammy Alana – Blueberry and Lemon Verbena Tartlets

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David Cooper – Ketel One, Sage infused Simple Syrup, Cucumber, Fresh Lemon Juice, Touch of Mint with a float of Sparkling Water and Cucumber Peel garnish

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David Cooper – Don Julio Reposado, Montinegro Amaro, Grapefruit infused Simple Syrup , Fresh Orange Juice, Fresh Grapefruit, Sprinkle of Sea Salt and Tajin with a float of Grapefruit Soda garnished by a Grapefruit Peel dipped in Sea Salt-Tajin Rub

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Opting for an all-in communal dining experience common to the start of Summer, Chef Series #4 took on the concept of a Pot Luck lunch and with Joe Muscaglione offering to host at Chinatown’s Niu Gu on South Jones thirty-plus guests were treated to a spread from twenty of Las Vegas’ best Chefs, Bakers and Bartenders for a mere $20 each.

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Truly a feast for the ages, each Chef donating a plate of their choice and invited to join diners at the table if they could find the time, it was through a combined effort that plates were collected to set the scene for buffet-style service and with spots like Bardot actually sending their a Sous Chef to compose their dish in the kitchen the sights and smells were enough to get appetites going, a truly multi-cultural event with everything served in portions that could have fed double the number of attendees.

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Always impressed by not only the talent in the local kitchens, but by the general sense of community amongst Chefs and diners alike, it would truly be impossible to pick out one dish that “stood out” amongst such an outlandish collection of foods that most diners would never dare attempt for a simple family outing, though there is little doubt that everything presented received a thorough tasting from several well-versed locals, the Pork Belly Adobo Roulades from Marty Red DeLeon Lopez of 35 Steaks + Martinis particularly receiving compliments from Chef Li of Niu Gu while several could not get enough of Jon VanHusen’s Skillet Cornbread from Elements.

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No doubt a skilled group, some opting to up the ante as others announced their dishes in the Chef Series group on Facebook, it would be hard to say any dish was more “eye-catching” than Antonio Nunuez Whole Hog offering and having tasted some of the Chef’s Roast Pork at Kitchen Table the meat here was every bit as impressive, if not more so, Chris Palmeri’s Gnocchi continuing to show why Naked City is as Essential to Las Vegas diners as any while Chris Decker’s Bread, Sausage and Peppers provided a good reminder of how much beauty can be found in the simplest old-world pairings.

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With Other Mama’s Dan Krohmer sending Homemade Kim Chi Fried Rice that effortlessly rewarmed in one of Niu Gu’s Woks, JD from Bardot found himself wok-frying Lardons to top off Josh Smith’s Frisee Salad surrounded by golden Eggs, the Pate and Bread furthering the embarrassment of riches as did John Courtney’s vibrant Tripe Salad and Sandra Sandra Palomo’s Beef Kelaguen that will never be seen at Yardbird, but may just be worth begging her to make for you by special request.

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Obviously not expecting everyone to play by the rules, Chefs of this caliber always going above the call of duty, both VanHusen and HKLife’s Hemant Kishore could not help but double down and send two plates, the former pastry chef from PublicUS showing he still hasn’t lost his fastball for sweetness with orbs of Gulab Jamun alongside fragrant Malabar Chicken Biriyani while Chef Jon’s Mushroom Meatloaf may not have been much to look at, but was downright delicious just the same.

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Admitting that the turnout was greater than anticipated, every Chef asked gladly agreeing to chip in at no cost, host Jimmy Li sent out his signature Shortrib in several rounds along with shell-on spicy shrimp and freshly delivered Black Cod all plated elegantly while the dessert spread unfolded like a who’s who of local talents from Henderson to the Strip to Summerlin and Spring Valley.

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Joined by Coop, a man oft considered the best Bartender in Las Vegas, who got up at 3am to begin preparation and stayed the whole event mixing cocktails every bit as creative as those served at Carnevino, dessert tasting began with two cakes from aspiring city councilwoman Tiffany Sheree Jones of Peridot Sweets and with both the frosted Banana Bread and Lemon Mascarpone equally elegant so too were the meringue tartlets from Alize and Andres’ Tammy Alana, the fruit theme continued by Jaret Blinn’s CRAFTKitchen Pop-Tarts and a Tarte Tatin as good as many found in Europe from Rosallie’s Jonathan Pluvinet.

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An excessive display to say the least, several bags, boxes and clamshells packed with still more left to feed the Niu Gu team a very fine Staff Meal, special thanks go out to Carlos Buscaglia of Due Forni for getting up early to fire the ovens *and* deliver his outstanding Bread Pudding with Gelato from Desyree despite limited staffing at his restaurant, and also to Chefs Matt and Carol at HeXx for continuing to do everything they do to offer something completely unique at Paris’ 24/7 eatery, the individually portioned Petit Fours each made from Single Origin Chocolate, while more cocoa provided the filling to Pluvinet’s flaky Croissants and the creamy base of Pots de Crème topped with caramel from Chef Blinn.

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Special Thanks to the Chefs, attendees and hosts: As many of you may know, the last month has been incredibly fast paced and stressful, though things are finally starting to calm down. Without each of you there is no way this event would have been possible and despite many moving parts the whole thing came together beautifully without a hitch. You all are what makes dining in this city special and with continued effort I really do think we can continue to grow a community that supports collaboration and honest, great food across Las Vegas. I look forward to many more of these events and many more meals at tables throughout this truly unique city.

TIP: Chef Series #5 will feature Metro Pizza and LuLu’s Bread and Breakfast Chef Chris Decker with Dan Krohmer at Other Mama. 6/18/16 at 4:00pm. Save the Date. Details to Follow.

Posted in #chefseries, 35 Steaks + Martinis, 35 Steaks and Martinis, Alize, Andre's, Bardot, Bardot Brasserie, Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Carson Kitchen, Chef Series, Chef Series #4, Cornbread, CRAFTkitchen, Croissant, Croissants, Dessert, Due Forni, Elements, Elements Fine Casual Dining & Cocktails, Elements Fine Casual Dining and Cocktails, Food, French Toast, Gelatology, Gnocchi, Hexx, Hexx Kitchen + Bar, Ice Cream, Italian, Kitchen Table, Las Vegas, Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast, Metro Pizza, Naked City Pizza, Naked City Pizza on Arville, Naked City Pizza on Paradise, Nevada, Niu Gu, Other Mama, Peridot Sweets, Pork, Rosallie, Rosallie 'Le French Cafe', Tasting Menu, The6packChef, The6packChef Catering by Hemant Kishore, TheHKLife, Yardbird

Art of Flavors [new ownership,] Las Vegas NV

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Art of Flavors

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Samples – Sassafras Root Bark, 70% Chocolate, Cookie Milk, Toasted Peanut Coconut Brittle, Juliette the Goose Egg and Sage Flowers, Ripe Banana Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, Jalapeno Chili Cocoa Sorbet

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Caramel and Roasted Honey Carrots, Cornbread Irish Whiskey Milk Jam on a Vanilla Waffle Cone

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Caramel Filled Churro

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Chocolate Brownie Cookie

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Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie

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Quite literally made famous by Desyree Alberganti, one of the most beloved faces in Las Vegas’ culinary community later taking her talents south to Gelatology for reasons that remain unconfirmed rumors to this day, it took some time to consider a return visit to Art of Flavors on South Las Vegas Boulevard, mixed opinions from trusted sources paired with dinner at SLO-Boy finally providing impetus to stop in for a taste.

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Now owned and operated by Douglas Taylor, himself a veteran of the local frozen treats scene after stints with Mario Batali at the Venetian and Palazzo, Art of Flavors opted to keep its name while significantly changing up the décor as well as the offerings and although the gelato case remains front and center the in-house baking program features everything from cookies and cones to biscotti and churros, the prices actually a bargain when considering the nearby competition, especially those casino-based.

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Visiting around seven o’clock, Taylor only briefly passing through as bites were being enjoyed at stylish wood tables located next to the freezer case and a collection of cookbooks on shelves, it was with several samples offered on long metal spoons that initial opinions were formed of a product compromised by a freezer not performing adequately, many of the flavors downright brilliant though several contained ice crystals created through cycles of thawing and refreezing while others were slightly firmer than cold soup.

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Eventually settling on a $4.99 two-flavored “small” atop a $1 Vanilla Waffle Cone, the gelato dripping through the bottom before the bill was paid, suffice it to say that Chef Taylor’s cones set a new local standard as the texture is crisp yet slightly flexible and although a few licks were no doubt lost on the floor, shirt and napkin the flavor of both Caramel and Roasted Honey Carrots as well as Cornbread Irish Whiskey Milk Jam were as rich and complex as the names are cumbersome, the former particularly special by way of the vegetal sweetness while the samples such as “Juliette the Goose Egg and Sage Flowers” and “Ripe Banana Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Dough” were simply too clever for their own good, the latter gritty and the former just short of “bathroom floral.”

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Turning attention to the bakery stock, cookies and biscotti stacked behind glass while hot oil awaits churro dough, both the $1.50 Chocolate Brownie Cookie and its Oatmeal Cranberry counterpart were of the thin variety with crisp rims and soft centers, the same actually applicable to the $2 yardstick of a doughnut piped full of salty caramel, most certainly not your run-of-the-mill Churro but instead something best sat down with to enjoy slowly with a knife and a fork.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Massively affected by storage temperatures far warmer than would seem logical, the result a product that fails texturally no matter how good the flavor or intent, one wonders if this is a choice or an effect of machinery, because taking into account the rest of the offerings and prices it seems a few simple tweaks could see a former favorite shine again.

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RECOMMENDED: Caramel Churro, Waffle Cones.

AVOID: Gelato, unless sampling shows texture to meet personal tastes.

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TIP: Parking in the small lot seems worse than ever and vagrants seem to have free reign to use the AoF Restrooms, then pester patrons for “A Little Help” with no interference from Staff.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-of-Flavors

Posted in Art of Flavors, Art of Flavors [New Ownership], Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada

SLO-Boy Food, Las Vegas NV

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SLO-Boy Food

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Hen Gone Wild – Half Chicken Coated in Wild Rice Flour, Pressed on the Griddle, Fried Artichoke Salad, Charred Lemon

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Coq Au (Bahn-Mi) – Red Wine Braised Chicken Leg, Country Spread, Pickled Veggies, Red Pepper Mayo, Fresh Herbs on Haogie Roll

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Highway 46 – Avocado gently Mashed with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Pea Tendrils, Toasted Baguette

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John S. Park – Braised Beef Cheek, Elote Salad, Roasted Pepper, Cilantro Crème, Goat-ija Cheese, Tomatillo Sauce

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Cigar City – Pulled Pork, Thick Cut Bacon, Swiss Cheese, Mustard, House-Made Pickles, Toasted Roll

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PB&L – Griddle Seared Pork Belly Steak, Legume Salad, Pickled Ramp, Ramp Aioli

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Cauliflower Steak – Charred Cauliflower Steak, Green Olive Salsa Verde, Preserved Tomatoes, Poached Fennel

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Lamb For Logan – Marsala Lamb, Gnocchi, Roasted Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Petite Sorrel

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Grass Fed Tri-Tip – SLO-Rubbed Slow Cooked Beef Tri-Tip, Wookey Jack BBQ, Kingsley’s Sauce, Chiled Harissa Carrot Salad with Mint, Toasted Sunflower Seads and Coriander Cream

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Baby Steak Fries – Confit Baby Potatoes, Herb Seasoning, Tajin Aioli

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Bucky Duck – Duck Confit in Buckwheat Crepe, Brie Cheese, Farm Fresh Sunny Side Up Egg, Parsley Chive Pesto

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Griddle Bread Pudding – Thick Cut Whiskey Bread Pudding, Pressed then Seared on the Flat Top with Butter, Salted Caramel Sauce

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Shortly after Joshua Clark’s The Goodwich decided to go full Brick n’ Mortar in DTLV it was announced that the small stall out front of Dino’s Lounge would be turned into The Goodwich: TBD “culinary incubator,” and although several scheduling issues prevented a visit to premier tenant Justin Kingsley Hall’s “SLO-Boy Food” during its first three months a meal on Friday proved what several Chefs have been saying for awhile – Chef Hall has a whole lot of talent.

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Named after the Chef’s home of San Luis Obispo, but equally applicable as relates to the Slowfoods movement with a focus on technique, product and sustainability, SLO-Boy presents a concise menu of roasted meats and local produce cooked with precision that far outperforms the humble environs and although “take-out” only, with a few outdoor seats plus the option for those 21+ to eat at Dino’s, these limitations seem minor in comparison to the food’s overall execution.

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Reaching out to Chef Justin in advance, a coursed meal of SLO-Boy’s current menu served by brown-paper-bag and Economical packaging with plastic forks, knives and spoons plus paper “share plates” brought from home, it was inside Dino’s under *that* famous photograph of Johnny Cash that the four-course/dozen-item tasting was undertaken and with vivid descriptions as well as clever naming each item that arrived showed the work of a Chef willing to go the extra mile, no-doubt something honed through years of travel and time working at Comme Ca alongside Brian Howard.

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Starting off with a trio, the new menu not exactly “light” eating despite low prices with sides $5-7 and entrees topping-out at $14, it seems only appropriate that a California native would offer Avocado Toast, but upping the ante on “Highway 46” with Pea Tendrils and blistered Tomatoes for acidity Hall’s ability to coax flavor from fresh produce is immediately thrust front-and-center, the crispy Half Chicken far lighter than the usual fried stuff atop a vibrant salad while the “Coq Au” Sandwich is funky yet fresh by way of pate juxtaposing house-pickled vegetables – charcuterie as a condiment, by way of a sandwich.

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Certainly not “fine dining,” patrons of the Dive-Bar occasionally belting out sounds as the soundtrack ranged from Miley Cyrus to Pantera, course two saw the team send out John S. Park, PB&L, Cauliflower Steak and Cigar City, the proteins each cooked as well as some seen at Michelin-Starred establishments with the Pork Belly particularly noteworthy as Hall achieves the perfect balance of crisp-but-still-fatty, and yet as good as each of these items were there is little doubt that the Charred Cauliflower Steak is the surprise hit of menu as a result of light smoke dancing beneath pureed Green Olives plus the concentrated flavor of Tomatoes and gently poached Fennel.

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Some at the table already full, an all-in bill below $120 essentially a complete look at SLO-Boy’s current offerings but undoubtedly a lot of food, round three saw weekly special “Lamb for Logan” served alongside Hall’s raved Grass Fed Tri-Tip, Baby Steak Fries and Bucky Duck, the pasta unfortunately a bit overdone though the Lamb and Mushroom ragout was outstanding while the lean Beef and confit Duck Leg again spoke of superior ingredients treated with the respect they deserve, the Harissa Carrots as good as rumor would have it while the melting Brie Crepe was textbook.

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Rounding out the evening with Whiskey Bread Pudding – those fancying more subtle desserts well advised to abstain – there may be no finer example of the dish outside of Herringbone in the city at this moment and at just $5 per “Thick Cut” the custard soaked slice offers a perfect sear atop layers of creaminess, the base itself already impressive before a bath in luxurious Caramel sauce.

FOUR STARS: Taking into account the limitations of its kitchen and setting Justin Kingsley Hall’s SLO-Boy Food will be a tough act for any The Goodwich: TBD concept to follow, the up-coming months promising to be big ones for the young Chef with whatever comes next hopefully building on these concepts and an even bigger audience soon to see his considerable skills.

RECOMMENDED: Bucky Duck, Cauliflower Steak, PB&L, Hen Gone Wild, Whiskey Bread Pudding.

AVOID: Gnocchi was a bit tough, though certainly edible thanks to the lamb, while Baby Steak Fries were a bit oily and not crisp enough for my taste.

TIP: SLO-Boy ends its run at the corner of East Wyoming Avenue and South Las Vegas Boulevard on May 28th, get there while you can.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://www.sloboyfood.com

Posted in Bread Pudding, Dessert, Food, Gnocchi, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, SLO-Boy, SLO-Boy Food, Tasting Menu

Mykonos Greek Cuisine, Las Vegas NV

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Mykonos Greek Cuisine

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Iced Tea

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Melitzanosalata – Fire Roasted Eggplant Puree, Fresh Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Greek Yogurt served with Pita

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Hummus – Garbanzo Bean and Tahini Spread with Lemon Juice served with Pita

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Sweet Beet – Sliced Sweet Beets Drizzled with Red Wine Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, garnished with Greek Garlic Mashed Potato Dip and Greek Yogurt with Pita

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Beef Tips – Braised in Red Wine and Tomatoes, served with Rich Tomato Sauce over Rice with Pita

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Chef’s Shrimp Heaven for Helen – Grilled Shrimp served with Sauteed Fruit and Citrus Sauce over a bed of Arugula, Greek Style Potatoes with Oregano

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Mousaka – Baked Eggplant, Potatoes, Zucchini, Ground Beef, Tomato Sauce, Greek Feta Cheese, Cream Cheese, Parsley with Pita and Rice

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Rice Pudding – Cinnamon

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Karidopita – Walnut Cake with Cinnamon and Syrup

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Baklava – Toasted Walnuts Baked in Phyllo Dough and finished with Orange Cinnamon Honey, Served with Sweet Grape Sauce

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Kourabiedes – Greek Butter Cookies with Powdered Sugar

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Located in Sun City Summerlin, the location in a small Strip Mall really no different than much of the dining in an age restricted community, Mykonos Greek Cuisine has received its fair share of praise from area residents since a recent change in ownership and dining as a trio in the dimly lit room this past Saturday the experience generally proved quite pleasant, though prices seem a bit precious even as portions trend big.

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Admittedly unfamiliar with the area, reasons for anyone in their twenties or thirties to venture into this part of the valley few and far between, Mykonos ‘strives to bring the culture and elegance of the Mykonos Islands here through Authentic Greek Foods and Service” and with a menu highly focused on Lamb, Beef, Mezze and Salads it seems odd that Guy Fieri is featured prominently on overhanging flatscreens while service is efficient if not a little overwhelming, an ever-present hand failing to clear extraneous dishes while at the same time incessantly trying to top-off Iced Tea.

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At times showing its authenticity by way of subtleties of spelling, recipes or descriptions while at the same time featuring Early Bird Specials and several plates that seem “Americanized” for their typical clientele, those sitting down at Mykonos are well advised to investigate the collection of housemade spreads offered individually or by way of combination, the creamy Hummus and Melitzanosalata each priced at $7 with accompanying warm Pita while the $10.50 Sweet Beet Salad is an interesting presentation with sliced rounds encircling Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Olive Oil, the Red Wine Vinegar not particularly perceptible while the menu-described Greek Yogurt was nowhere to be found.

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Really going all-out with the Pita, in many ways a good thing as the warm housemade rounds are lightly tinged with herbs and near-perfect for scooping up any sort of sauce or spread, entrees arrived perhaps fifteen minutes after starters were presented and although the Mousaka was as authentic as any experienced it was actually the fall-apart Beef Tips in Red Sauce that were truly outstanding, the “Heaven for Helen” apparently a relic of prior ownership that was all-over-the-place in terms of its flavors, the handful of tail on shrimp largely forgettable while the admixture of warmed fruit over bitter greens was actually quite great.

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Acknowledging that the $23.50 Shrimp would likely be *too* sweet for some, those familiar with Greek Desserts will be happy to know that Mykonos cuts no corners as relates to either of their three options and whether one fancies something as traditional as Rice Pudding or as dense as Karidopita the smart money is in a truly exemplary slice of housemade Baklava served in the cosmopolitan “island” style, bathed in sautéed Grape Sauce.

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THREE STARS: Totaling over $120 after tax & tip, nearly a Strip-priced meal compared to other Greek Restaurants in Town, Mykonos Greek Cuisine takes a unique look at Mediterranean food in one of the city’s least likely dining spaces, perhaps not worth “going out of the way for,” but good for a change of pace.

RECOMMENDED: Hummus, Beef Tips, Pita, Baklava.

AVOID: Sweet Beet Salad and Chef’s Shrimp Heaven for Helen offer low value on the dollar.

TIP: Frequently offering coupons, $10 off bills over $50 given with the check, those looking to check out Mykonos on a budget are encouraged to visit at lunch of before 6:00, a limited breakfast spread also offered beginning at 8am.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

www.mykonosgreekcuisine.com/

Mykonos Greek Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Mykonos, Mykonos Greek, Mykonos Greek Cuisine, Nevada

Big B’s Texas BBQ, Henderson NV

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Big B’s Texas BBQ

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Brisket

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Chicken

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Cornbread, Cream Corn, BBQ Beans, Coleslaw

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Pulled Pork and Baby Back Ribs

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Mac & Cheese

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Beef Rib

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Hot Link

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Peach Cobbler

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Banana Pudding

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Opened three months ago by a husband and wife team hailing from San Antonio and Estonia, respectively, Big B’s Texas BBQ took over the former Jason’s Deli at 3019 St. Rose Parkway and completely reinventing the inside brick-by-brick and board-for-board over the course of just three months the phrase “work of passion” proves thoroughly appropriate, a Saturday afternoon visit showing the ‘cue to be superior in its simplicity with no lack of down home flare.

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Designed as a boot-scootin’ indoor picnic where the big board details a wide range of meats, sides, salads, sandwiches and combo plates, Big B’s brings the concept of true Texas Barbeque to Las Vegas by way of low n’ slow smoking using imported Oak from the Lone Star State with little more than a salt and pepper rub, the resultant crust on items like Beef and Baby Back Ribs a bit robust for flimsy plastic utensils while the smoke is deep to penetrate with a good ring on the brisket and chicken where crisp skin gives way to flesh that is moist and lean.

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Speaking to co-owner Natalia throughout the course of lunch, the duo consulting with an outside Chef for sides while the rub and sauces are a result of years of outdoor cooking back home, it is at handmade picnic tables that patrons of Big B’s are encouraged to select seating and with Nellis Airforce base as well as the local Fire Department dining amongst families of all races and ages there is no doubt of The Valley’s love of a cuisine as yet looking for a champion, though the quality has no doubt improved in recent weeks and months.

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Explaining the reasons for importing Oak, as well as the use of North Las Vegas’ Nicholas Meats to acquire Beef in place of US Foods, first bites of ‘cue from Big B’s smoker included both Chicken aswell as two cuts of Brisket, the lean stuff not particularly flavorful no matter the rub or techniques while the fattier cuts were melt-in-the-mouth tender, actually better on its own than with either style of housemade sauce.

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In general trending a bit tomato heavy in terms of sauces as well as BBQ Beans, the first side tasted made by slow-simmering of Brisket from the day before, Creamed Corn and Coleslaw both also need a little work in terms of seasoning while the cornbread and Mac n’ Cheese are as good as any found at a similar operation, the former served as little muffins that are moist and dense without a need for any additional butter at all.

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Continuing its ‘naked’ smoking with pork products, the smoky pulled pork featuring a deep sapor completely devoid of sweetness or sauce, Ribs are without doubt a *must* at Big B’s and with the aforementioned issues of cutlery already discussed the decision of whether to order Baby Backs or Beef Ribs is entirely one of personal preference, both presenting competition for best in the city and something to look out for when festival season begins.

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Truly going *hot* with Links, each snappy Sausage tinged in Jalapenos with one version also featuring cheese, those with low spice tolerance will be glad to quench their thirst with beer, tea or beverages from a Coke Remix machine, though considering the quality of desserts those with room left over would be well advised to squelch the fire with peach cobbler atop all butter pastry and a crown of ice cream or a plastic clamshell of Banana Pudding with not just ‘Nilla Wafers but also Bruleed fruit dialing up the texture.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Offering what may just be the most “authentic” Texas Style ‘cue in a hundred miles, the choice to import Oak a testament to spending a little extra to do things right, Big B’s Texas BBQ still needs a little time to dial in the recipes for sides and sauces, but if and when they do there is real potential to elevate the restaurant from good to great.

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RECOMMENDED: Baby Back Ribs, Beef Ribs, Chicken, Banana Pudding, Peach Cobbler.

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AVOID: Creamed Corn, Cole Slaw, Lean Brisket.

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TIP: Those who don’t fancy Country Western may wish to consider noise-cancelling Headphones or Take-Out because Big B’s is playing it loud n’ Proud.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

www.bigbztexasbbq.com/

Big B's Texas BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Barbeque, Big B’s, Big B’s Texas BBQ, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Donut Mania, Henderson NV

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Donut Mania

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Key Lime with Graham Cracker

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Frosted Lemon Cream

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Oreo Cheesecake

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Red Velvet

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Cinnamon Swirl

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Italian Rum

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Nevadan – Coconut, Caramel, Bavarian Cream

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Strawberries and Cream

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Originally visiting the original Donut Mania shortly after opening, owner Wayne accosting patrons snapping photos as “spies” for a local competitor, suffice it to say that first impressions were not particularly welcoming, but having again tasted long-time donut maker’s goods by way of Pawn Donuts and Coffee in the Reality TV plaza one could not help wonder if time and success had helped improved the experience at the family-run operation’s second location in Henderson.

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Again setting up shop in a small Strip-Mall, this one on South Green Valley Parkway not far from Green Valley Ranch, PinkBox or CRAFTkitchen, Donut Mania #2 currently sees Wayne’s wife running the operation and with big smiles combined with an obvious passion for customer service the sailing is much smoother than the prior visit would dictate, a young woman in the kitchen even going out of her way to make a PB+J Longjohn for a customer who arrived when one was not yet in the showcase.

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Never for lack of choices, the brioche-style base seen at PinkBox as well as Glazier’s reportedly Wayne’s handiwork according to a conversation in the past, Donut Mania continues to offer pricing far more reasonable than similar doughnutteries both local and nationally, cheaper-by-the-dozen or half-dozen discounts available with a $0.99 base and additional cost accrued as selections become more fancy.

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Opting for a half-dozen plus two more, the majority piped with unique fillings running the gamut from citrus to cookies & cream, it was unfortunately with a dry and disappointing Cinnamon Swirl that the tasting got started and following that up with a “Strawberries and Cream” that featured only one of the former and far too much of the later one could not help but wonder whether quality had gone downhill across the valley, the next six varieties thankfully providing a reassuring answer.

Enjoying the majority of the goods with coffee elsewhere, Donut Mania’s seating limited yet more than most local shops, bites were next taken of Frosted Lemon followed by Key Lime with Graham Crackers and having recently returned from a brief trip to Florida the latter was good anything seen across the country at a higher pricepoint, the Italian Rum another delicious option with the dampened dough and two styles of cream plus almonds reminiscing of a Rhum Babas’ flavor, if not texture.

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Moving from lighter flavors to those more rich or complex it was in follow-up to a supple Red Velvet Ring that bites were taken of the “Nevadan,” and although the name remains a mystery as relates to Bavarian Cream with Caramel and Toasted Coconut there is no doubting that the flavors work beautifully, the same to be said of “Oreo Cheesecake” that eats as heavy as might be expected but at the same time manages to avoid being ‘too rich’ by way of light sourness that balances the finely pureed cookie.

FOUR STARS: Still offering many of the same options as last time, though several novelties have entered the line-up since their opening days, Donut Mania stands side-by-side with PinkBox as the city’s best spot for unique fried pastry and at less than half the price of DTLV’s import Donut Bar the impetus to support locals is more than enough reason to cheer these folks onward as Henderson continues to rapidly develop as the hottest location for breakfast in Sin City.

RECOMMENDED: Nevadan, Key Lime, Italian Rum.

AVOID: Cinnamon Swirl, Strawberries and Cream.

TIP: 10% off for Social Media Check-Ins.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

www.donutmanialv.com

Donut Mania Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Donut Mania, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Nevada

Solorzano Bros. Pizza, Sarasota FL

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Solorzano Bros. Pizza

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Half Dozen Garlic Knots with Marinara

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Red Sauce and Sausage Slice

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Sinatra Slice with Tomatoes and Basil

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Sicilian Slice

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Cannoli with Strawberry Puree

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Always intrigued by the idea of “best local pizza,” a dish offered from coast-to-coast and at the smallest cities in between, Solorzano Bros. appeared to be the most commonly cited place for a good slice in the city of Sarasota, the small operation’s Webber Street location visited just past 4:30 on Tuesday for some pre-dinner bites.

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No doubt a mom n’pop operation, the far corner of a rundown shopping plaza featuring the restaurant’s name and a sign suggestin “Eat Real Pizza,” the #eatrealpizza hashtag also used in reference to Solorzano Bros. social media feed, entry to the shop brings diners face-to-face with several slices and a full overhead menu, the smiling staff likely putting together take-out orders with shirts bearing the slogan “Legalize Magarita,” bumper stickers reading the same given out for free.

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Not wanting to invest in a whole pie, and thankfully finding out that fresh slices were due “in about 10 minutes” the decision was made to wait while munching on golden Garlic Knots served six-for-five-dollars, not quite enough sauce provided for dipping though the light acidity and restrained sweetness were good enough to justify purchasing more for just fifty cents.

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Moving next to two fresh New York slices, plus a pillowy Sicilian whose texture was unfortunately compromised by reheating as edges were rendered a bit dry, the first thing to note about Solorzano’s crust is that the light char imparted by the oven does a marvelous job of expanding small air-pockets to impart maximum chew beneath the crunchy exterior, the toppings of a good quality as sausage features a bold spice profile while rounds of tomato are thin enough to dry slightly without losing flavor beneath fresh-cut basil leaves.

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Well priced for the quality offered, the dining area sizable yet homey with signs and photos all around, music predictably moved to Old Blue Eyes just moments before dessert was presented, the subcaptions of Sportscenter showing Stephan Curry accept the League’s MVP award as teeth shattered the shell of a fresh-filled Cannoli filled with housemade Strawberry puree.

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www.solorzanobros.com

Solorzano Bros. Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Florida, Food, Italian, Pizza, Pork, Sarasota, Solorzano Bros. Pizza, Solorzano Brothers Pizza, Tampa

Croissant & Co., Venice FL

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Croissant & Co.

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Almond Croissant

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Chocolate Twist

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Paris Brest

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Pear Frangipane Tart

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Apple Pastry

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Located along the same stretch of pavement as Upper Crust and Venice Avenue Creamery it was during the busy lunch hour that a stop was made at local favorite Croissant & Co., the homespun space filled with Francophile specialties plus several additional options catering to the local crowd’s age-based proclivities.

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More brightly lit than Upper Crust, the fresh pastries and bread laid out fancifully behind glass as opposed to being tucked inside a retro metal case, those entering Croissant & Co are likely to be met by big smiles and rich accents from servers, owners or bakers and whether opting for a table or take-out the wait can vary depending on timing, as can the daily menu’s variety.

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Not particularly keen on a long queue, the quoted time at 12:05 approximately “20-30 minutes” for two, it was with little lost that an order turned to take out baked-goods and although the Alligator shaped loaf was admittedly quite amusing, the items chosen took a far more traditional approach with many of them quite good.

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Unpacking pastries an hour later, the quintet fetching although an almond croissant that felt hefty yet flaccid turned out to be just so with a dense pocket of Frangipane at the base, first bites of a Paris Brest showed the choux somewhat compromised by way of humidity despite the light hazelnut filling, the Pear Tart also featuring almond paste far more appropriately textured than its predecessors largely as a result of the crisp butter shell beneath.

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Hoping for better use of lamination technique in later bites, the powder-sugar stenciled Apple Tart easily the best of the group with a rim that shattered to the tooth, final bites of the Chocolate Twist would have been benefited by use of darker type of cocoa, the flavor perceptible though certainly not robust.

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https://www.facebook.com/croissantandco

Croissant & Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Croissant, Croissant & Co., Croissant & Company, Croissant and Co., Croissant and Company, Dessert, Florida, Food, Tampa, Vacation, Venice

La Dona Donuts, Sarasota FL

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La Dona Donuts

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Praline Coffee

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Plain Jane – Vanilla Glaze

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Banana Split – Chocolate Glaze, Bananas, Whipped Cream, Sprinkles, Cherry

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Fluffer Nutter – Peanut Butter Glaze, Marshmallows

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Chocolate Potato Stix

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Told that Sarasota had recently opened its first Artisan Donut Shop, the storefront tucked in a Strip Mall on Bee Ridge Road next to a beauty salon, it was just past ten o’clock that a stop was made at La Dona Donuts, the selection surprisingly a bit picked over despite the early hour, though each of the remaining Vanilla Cake rings was actually pretty good.

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Named a “Best of SRO” winner for 2016, the competition not really anything to mention but La Dona’s “small batch” daily approach not to be overlooked, those entering the small shop are likely to be greeted by owner Chelsea Elliott and with décor that trends cutesy without trying ‘too hard’ the goods are laid out with tags bearing brief descriptions, a coffee cart along the back wall featuring three brews available for self-pour.

Not a doughnut maker by trade, the young owner only starting her journey a year and a half prior after finding inspiration out-of-state, La Dona Donuts features a handmade base with notes of vanilla perfuming a light crumbly texture, each ring subsequently treated to a wide range of elaborate toppings or glaze.

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Using a Social Media Check-In to score free coffee, the “praline” flavor a bit cloying while a locally sourced regular brew was better paired to sweet treats to come, it was with bites of the simple “Plain Jane” that tasting got started, the aforementioned texture pleasant in an old-school fashion while the glaze trends natural with restrained sweetness, certainly not the sugar-bombs found at Krispy Cream, Dunkin’ or the local convenience store.

Sharing with another, she opting to taste the “Chocolate Potato Stix” next for a sweet meets savory twist, those fancying such novelty will be pleased to know that the combination actually works well as a result of the darkness of the cocoa while the Banana Split offers all the expected flavors with frosting, fruit and sprinkles inducing smiles beneath a chocolate drizzle, the smoothness of a Fluffer Nutter ring making one wonder why the flavor has never been seen at any Doughnuttery before.

http://www.ladonadonuts.com/

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Florida, Food, La Dona, La Dona Donuts, Sarasota, Tampa, Vacation

Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, Sarasota FL

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Yoder’s Amish Restaurant and Village

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Sweet Bun

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Fried Corn Mush

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Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

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Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit

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Buttermilk Biscuit with Apple Butter

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Yoder’s Style Key Lime Pie

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Butterscotch Pie

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Pecan Pie Bar

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Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pie / Oatmeal Raisin Whoopie Pie

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Declined breakfast at 11:02am on Monday, the hard and fast dogma of “the chefs change at eleven o’clock” apparently as strict as some of the laws guarding Mennonite traditions, it was just past eight AM that a party of two was sat in the same section that was walked out on one day prior, the waitress no doubt remembering the incident but a perfect picture of graciousness with an ever present smile.

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Opened in 1975, an Amish family moving south from Indiana at first serving their own needs, as well as those of the community, by way of a restaurant and grocery that has grown to the fame it sees today, Yoder’s Amish Village comprises three buildings stretching along Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota and although known best for their pies and fried chicken there is little doubt that ramped production has diminished some aspects of scratch cooking, packets from Smucker’s standing in for housemade preserves while “Table Syrup” is pure garbage for those unwilling to pay for the real Maple supplement.

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Still baking breads, pies and confections each day, the market oddly selling Strawberries from California as opposed to those locally grown, it was with medium roast coffee made specifically for Yoder’s that the meal got started, the refills so rapid that one could have easily drank a gallon if not paying attention while water glasses were also kept brimming at each and every table.

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Decorated quaintly, dresses and stitchery with a few knick-knacks here and there, it was after perusing the pie case as well as the menu that decisions were made and with a sizable order to follow the only question was where to get started, the suggestion of a Sweet Bun popular for good reason given the pronounced yeastiness while liberally applied cream cheese frosting slowly melted and slid to the plate below.

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Unabashedly fond of baked goods, though the other person at the table was craving something less sweet, entrees consisted of Amish Country staple “Fried Mush” with a crisp sear overlying a toothsome center lightly kissed in salt and butter, the biscuits fluffy but in some cases undermixed with small pockets of raw baking powder while the sandwich-style French Toast was golden, buttery and perfect as a result of the custard-infused egg bread regardless of the Strawberries’ providence.

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At this point approaching the main event, some two dozen pies offered by the slice as early as 6am, it was in showing some restraint that only three were selected and although the “Yoder’s Style” Key Lime Pie was a bit unexpected with light citrus whipped directly into cream there is no doubt that the Butterscotch Pudding and Strawberry Rhubarb lived up to the legends, a trio of take-home treats including Whoopie Pies and Crusted Pecan Bars no less delicious and available for purchase in the next door deli/market.

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http://www.yodersrestaurant.com/

Yoder's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Florida, Food, French Toast, Pork, Sarasota, Tampa, Vacation, Yoder's, Yoder's Amish Restaurant, Yoder's Restaurant

Owen’s Fish Camp, Sarasota FL

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Owen’s Fish Camp

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Boiled Hot Roadside Peanuts

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Smoked Fish Spread, Saltine Crackers

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Fried Green Tomato Salad, Goat Cheese, Country Ham

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Pan Seared Kitty Mitchell, Garlic Hollandaise, My Way or The Highway Cheesy Grits, Smashed Parsley Potatoes

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Bourbon Pecan Pie, Fresh Cream

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Fried Black Cherry Pie, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Key Lime Bar, Fresh Whipped Cream

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Having spent a fair amount of time in Florida as a child, trips to Disneyworld or visiting family often filling the week of Spring Break, it was finally with a mature palate that a return was made to one of the State’s many Fish “Camps” or “Houses,” Owen’s of Sarasota proving more than worthy its region-wide acclaim.

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Set a few miles from the ocean, an old home and shed overgrown in palms as well as mangroves converted to a restaurant some several years ago, Owen’s Fish Camp has made its way to the top of several local dining lists by way of its strong ties with local fishermen plus a focus on sustainability, not everything on the menu hauled in from Florida waters but the daily selection of “Naked Fish” offering a bounty of options that were still swimming that morning, the decision of how to cook them left for those lucky enough to land a seat to explore.

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Undoubtedly sort of a “big deal,” the 4pm opening often sporting a small line while those arriving past 5:30pm are likely to be greeted by a wait, seating as well as service inside of one of four dining areas is cozy with plenty of Southern Hospitality, the staff appearing to be all female and dressed in torn-off shorts with tight T-shirts that seem to target the male audience, though the majority of the diners are old enough to be their Granddads.

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Tucked into a small two-top along a center wall with a window open to the patio outdoors, it was after a brief review of the placemat menu along with a few specials that an order was decided and beginning with two “jars” also offered for those out-back waiting for a table while listening to Bluegrass the Roadside Peanuts were as irresistible as memory had suggested, the smoked fish spread as creamy as it was well balanced and one of the very few situations in which Saltine Crackers should ever be served in a dining establishment.

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A bit underwhelmed by Fried Green Tomatoes, the flavorless breading too loosely adherent while the typical acidity of each round was lost somewhere in the cheese and country ham, a $30 entrée of Pan Seared Kitty Mitchell was undoubtedly a far more memorable investment as the “Calico Grouper” came across clean with a buttery finish, the garlic hollandaise not particularly useful as a condiment while Cheesy Grits and Crispy smashed Potatoes were each well conceived side dishes.

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Perhaps not a place many might think of for dessert, a damned shame since the pastry Chefs are actually turning out some Southern Classics that compare favorably with the best between Miami and Tampa Bay, those looking to end on a sweet note are encouraged to check out the reference standard Key Lime Pie that can be eaten with or without housemade whipped cream depending on the diner’s idea of “tradition,” an equally impressive flavor found in the Fried Pie with outsourced Vanilla Ice Cream while the Bourbon Pecan Pie might just be the best thing on the whole menu as boozy notes are balanced by Fresh Cream and sweetness atop an all butter crust with plenty of toasted nuts on top.

 

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Owen's Fish Camp Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Dessert, Florida, Food, Ice Cream, Owen's Fish Camp, Pork, Sarasota, Tampa, Vacation

Venice Avenue Creamery, Venice FL

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Venice Avenue Creamery

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Samples: Georgia Peach, Rum Raisin, Dulce De Leche, Pralines and Cream

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Key Lime Sorbet and Salty Caramel Double Scoop on a Waffle Cone

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Serving Venice since 1967 but still flying banners for the Buckeyes, Browns, Cavs, Indians and more, Venice Avenue Creamery is the very definition of an old-school scoop shop and with prominent placement alongside several touristy stores and boutiques there is little doubt the store has earned its accolades, the prices a bit more spendy than many but the product itself also high grade.

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House-churned, hand packed, but resisting the urge to expand or go retail like so many others in their place, Venice Avenue Creamery started as a family operation and continues as such to this day with waffle-cones made each morning by Grandpa Urban while children and in-laws oversee day-to-day operations, the flavors running a gamut including ice creams, sorbets and frozen yogurt while confections such as shakes, caramel corn and frozen chocolate-dipped bananas also join the fray.

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Friendly as can be expected, employees always smiling as scoops and samples are served to fans of all ranges in age, prices range $4.20 for a single to $6.30 for a double and although the flavors trend a bit more typical than Artisans like Humphry Slocombe, Salt & Straw or Jeni’s the base comes through clear and creamy with flavors like Pralines and Cream or Rum Raisin the result of years perfecting technique, the sorbets little more than fruit and a touch of sugar with the freshness of local fruit apparent in each bite.

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Sampling through a few favorites before ordering, the smell of vanilla and sugar lingering in the air from waffle irons still warm, it was without question that a big scoop of Key Lime Sorbet was ordered and with bits of graham cracker crust folded into the creamy concoction the pairing with Salty Caramel with occasional notes of burnt sugar could not have been well crafted, each flavor delicious on its own but the combination touching on all parts the tongue with sweet, salty, sour and bitter all accounted for.

www.veniceavenuecreamery.com

Venice Avenue Creamery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Dessert, Florida, Food, Ice Cream, Tampa, Vacation, Venice, Venice Ave. Creamery, Venice Avenue Creamery

Upper Crust Café & Bakery, Venice FL

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Upper Crust Café & Bakery

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Key Lime Bar

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Seven Layer Bar

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Plant City Strawberry and Devonshire Cream Shortcake

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Banana Bread French Toast

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Strawberry Crepes

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Making way from TPA Tampa International Airport to Venice, the majority of a short stay to be spent on meetings and paperwork, it was with my mother that lunch was enjoyed at Upper Crust Café & Bakery, my 36 years bringing the average age of patrons down by at least a couple but the food and service actually far better than might have been expected.

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Located on West Venice Avenue, and on Mondays one of the only games in town, Upper Crust features both parts of its name in separate sections and although the pastry case up front may seem to lack compared to many modern eateries the majority of the goods are as well priced as they are constructed, the scones something of a signature in six flavors, and with good reason.

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Offering breakfast till noon, a one hour overlap with the lunch menu that kicks off at eleven o’clock and runs to three, it was with a trio of pastries plus two breakfast plates that the order was placed at 11:57 and delivered hot from the kitchen with minimum delay the quintet drew looks from salad-eating septuagenarians, the fact that pictures were taken spurring on the chatter.

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Starting first with hot items, the French Toast sliced from a housemade loaf of Banana Bread before a quick Custard bath and light pan-sear, those fancying something sweet but not *sugary* are encouraged to investigate this as an option – particularly with pure maple syrup available for a $1 upgrade – while those looking for something lighter may be better served by paper-thin crepes filled with Strawberry Cream Cheese beneath a topping of compote mixed with Devonshire Cream.

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Never shy to trend entirely sweet for a meal, the bacon included with French Toast mostly an afterthought, it was with intermittent bites between entrees that pastry-case treats were investigated and although neither the Seven Layer Bar nor Key Lime Square are likely to ignite any fires by way of their inspiration the Strawberry Shortcake is perhaps the best way to spend $6 in Venice as a hemisected Scone is served amidst a mound of imported Devonshire Cream and Strawberries from Florida’s own Plant City.

www.uppercrustvenice.com/

Upper Crust Cafe & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Florida, Food, French Toast, Pork, Tampa, Upper Crust, Upper Crust Café, Upper Crust Café & Bakery, Vacation, Venice

Piquant, Tampa FL

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Piquant

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Key Lime Coconut Éclair

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Blackberry Cream Tart

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Almond Croissant

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Hazelnut Creampuff

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Nutella Croissant Donut

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Almond Sugar Cookie

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Told by trusted sources that East Florida’s best French Pastry was offered in an upscale outdoor mall suffice it to say that suspicion was aroused, but learning with time that every so often the best surprises are those that are least suspected it was with GPS fooled thrice by construction that way was eventually made to Piquant at Hyde Park, the service as excellent as the décor is eye catching while the pastries run the gamut from classics to things far more interesting.

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Presenting the concept of “putting a French touch on American Breakfast Standards, using Farm Fresh ingredients,” with brews, vegetables, citrus, seafood and milk all source from in-state, Puerto Rican Chefs Rosana Rivera and Ricardo Castro launched Piquant in 2013 and as the duo has continued to evolve the menu seasonally, if not daily, since opening the scope of the three-meal eatery and bakery is almost overwhelming, the actual menu not even explored on this visit as the glass cases and bread alone proved quite compelling.

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Not “faking French,” the servers all twenty-something Floridian Females that show a good grasp of the cuisine and techniques involved, it was after discussing favorites with a young Barista that a nine-piece order was assembled and taking a “some for now, the rest for later” approach any attempt at restraint was unfortunately soon rendered fruitless, first bites of the still-warm Almond Sugar Cookie showing restrained sweetness and great texture that immediately made one wonder what was next.

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Quickly diving the rounded drop-style cookies in half, all of them good but the chewy Oatmeal cluster with dark chocolate studding particularly on-point, it was next the “don’t-call-me-a-Cronut” croissant donut that commanded attention, the layers well laminated around oozing Nutella while the Hazelnut Creampuff unfortunately had become a bit flaccid with cream and spread beginning to permeate the choux.

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Righting the ship with a green glazed éclair, mellow coconut-key lime filling not compromising the pastry at all, fruit flavors were further exemplified in the Blackberry Cream Tart atop an all-butter base, the Almond “Croissant” without a doubt heavy handed considering the pureed nut filling, yet at the same time same time as delicious as it was dense with the better part of valor a commitment to sharing.

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http://piquanthydepark.com/

Piquant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Croissant, Dessert, Florida, Food, Piquant, Piquant Hyde Park, Tampa, Vacation

LOCALE Market Farm Table Kitchen, St. Petersburg FL

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LOCALE Market Farm Table Kitchen

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Genie’s Wish – St. Petersburg Distillery Royal Mead, Cocchi Torino Vanilla Bean Cream, Egg White, Chai Lavender Syrup

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Michael’s Mothers Falafel – Chickpea Hummus, Tahini, Oven Dried Tomatoes

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Market Chop Chop – Shaved Crudite, Toasted Walnuts, Lemon Poppyseed Vinaigrette

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White Asparagus Soup – Lobster, Grilled Asparagus, Chive

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Two Dock Clams – LOCALE Italian Sausage, Grilled Garlic Sourdough

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Shrimp Scampi Toast – Romesco, Saffron Aioli, Fennel Salad

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60-day LOCALE Dry-Aged Niman Ranch Tomahawk Ribeye – Sea Salt, Bodelaise

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Warm Wilted Kale – Candied Pecan, Dried Fruit

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Tempura Maitake Mushrooms – Spring Garlic Aioli

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Lardo Crushed Jones Farm Potatoes

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(Not So) Sleeping Beauty – LOCALE Cold Brew Coffee, Carpano Antica Vanilla Bean Cream, Egg White

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Pistachio Cake – Vanilla Meringue, Plant City Strawberries

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S’mores Tart – Graham Crumble, Cocoa Nibs, Brulee Marshmallow

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Located steps from several of the restaurants recently referenced in a scathing article about Tampa Bay’s *fake* Farm-to-Table movement, LOCALE Market from Chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona was selected for dinner largely based on the concept of locally sourced cuisine served in the setting of an upscale shopping environment, the second floor Farm Table Kitchen presenting an experience not unlike that offered in at New York City’s Eataly but with an even higher degree of refinement.

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Generally a fan of Mina, only one bad experience out of dozens from coast-to-coast, LOCALE Market sees the Chef once again exploring new avenues with a full service space featuring aged meats and upscale ingredients alongside made-to-order as well as grab n’ go options, the staff as friendly as they are competent and ready to greet patrons of all kinds without ever feeling elitist at all.

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Unfortunately visiting on a day when the ten-person “Chef’s Table” is not available, a tasting menu instead arranged by MINA GROUP Vice President Gary LaMorte, it was just prior to seven o’clock that the party was checked in, and swiftly led to a sizable four-top in the restaurant’s back corner it was not long before the evening got started, the meal in good hands with greetings by the server, GM and newly appointed Chef.

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Dining adjacent one of the restaurant’s kitchen crew, they celebrating Mother’s Day while most other tables were duos sipping cocktails while indulging in charcuterie and cheese, it was with local beers and non-spirit-based beverages that the meal was complimented and although Florida Liquor Laws have not yet granted LOCALE full-license there is little doubt the bartenders have made the most of an opportunity as both the local Mead-based Genie’s Wish and “(Not So) Sleeping Beauty” were each the very picture of elegance, the former’s sweetness reined in by herbs while the later was appropriately described as Espresso-spiked Yoohoo by the waitstaff.

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Moving at a good pace, the tasting menu presented in five courses plus a pair of additions, round one showed LOCALE’s commitment to local farmers by way of thinly shaved vegetables atop greens, walnuts and housemade dressing while the requested addition of “Michael’s Mothers Falafel” served up tender green croquettes that paired beautifully with dehydrated tomatoes and a pair of Mediterranean spreads.

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Truly exploring Spring with course two, the smooth white soup poured tableside more like gazpacho in texture than anything cream-based, suffice it to say that anytime someone from Michael Mina’s group is working with lobster the results are likely to be noteworthy, the same to be said of most forms of sea-life or shellfish and further exemplified in course three’s duo of garlicky clams “from under the Sunshine Skyway” and customer-favorite Shrimp Scampi Toast.

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Working with Niman Ranch for their grass fed steaks, the market downstairs offering both wet and dry-aged cuts at a range of prices to cook at home, it was instead in the Chef Alex that the fate of a 60-day Tomahawk was entrusted, the flavors robust with only a hint of flame having kissed the exterior while the sauces were each well conceived so as not to overwhelm the protein, the Tempura Mushrooms and Salty Potatoes each amongst the best Steakhouse sides recently tasted while much of colorful Kale Salad unfortunately went to waste.

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Not particularly enthralled by grapefruit, though nearby tables seemed enthralled by a Panna Cotta’s bracing taste, it was instead in a different duo of sweets that the evening at LOCALE Market Farm Table Kitchen ended, the S’mores Tart nearly liquid at its core with all the signature flavors while the Pistachio Cake ate much like a cream-layered French Financier with a nod to Childhood memories of stopping at Plant City en route from Ohio to the beach.

FarmTable Kitchen

Locale Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Farm Table Kitchen, Florida, Food, Locale, LOCALE Market, LOCALE Market Farm Table Kitchen, Michael Mina, Pork, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Tasting Menu, Vacation

Noble Crust, St. Petersburg FL

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Noble Crust

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Ricotta Gnocchi – house-made pancetta, pecorino

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Southern Fried Chicken – Sweet tea brined. Tabasco-honey, black pepper gravy, cucumber-watermelon salad and buttermilk cauliflower mash

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Noble Pig Pizza – sweet fennel sausage, mortadella, spicy soppressata, pickled cherry peppers, caramelized onions, tomato sauce, fontina, parm

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Lemon Buttermilk Pie – Fresh Berries

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Embracing the new trend of Southern meets Italian, a concept popularized by Memphis’ Hog & Hominy and seen as far off as Okra in Phoenix, Noble Crust burst onto the Tampa Bay / St. Petersburg scene in early 2015 and delivered by the guys who made Bonefish Grill a household name the sizable space espouses an immediate feel of commercial sensibility, the menu a clever collection of comfort foods with flavors that aim to please.

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A rare stand-alone restaurant in Strip-Mall-centric St. Pete, two parking lots available for a space that looks boxy from the outside but more casually cluttered with several seating options including a Chef’s counter once inside, it was just past four o’clock at the beginning of dinner service that our party of two approached the hostess podium and requesting seats with a good vantage of the lone television showing the Lightning vs. Islanders a communal hightop was suggested, the stools constructed of steel and thoroughly uncomfortable without seatbacks.

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Severely for lack in terms of air conditioning, the open patio letting damp heat in from one side while flames from the open kitchen further warmed the air, it was with a thorough “dining-for-dummies” explanation that a spunky young server presented the menu and eventually deciding to just give in rather than stop her the flow of superlatives lasted almost three full minutes, the result a lone cocktail while other recommendations were ignored.

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Admittedly a “pre-dinner” stop, the main event to occur later at LOCALE, it was nonetheless in a total of four plates that appetites were entrusted and beginning with tender ricotta dumplings in thick sauce with briny bacon the meal started off strongly, the following plates arriving no more than five minutes later and undoubtedly a whole lot of food.

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Sticking largely to signatures for this visit, the idea being to see how Nobel Crust executes on items from both ends of its chosen scope, entrees consisted of “Sweet Tea Brined” Fried Chicken with Watermelon Salad and the restaurant’s eponymous Pizza, the former a half-bird with good breading but juiciness that falls short compared to the long-brined Mary’s Organic version offered at Yardbird while the Pie was a far better showing of the Chef’s talents with a crisp-yet-pliable crust heavily topped in three meats, pickled peppers, sweet onions and tomato sauce.

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At this point a little sick to my stomach as a result of the early morning, heavy eating and indoor temperatures eclipsing eighty, it was in forgoing softserve or the waitress-pushed Rhubarb Parfait that the meal came to its ending, the choice between Budino and a daily special eventually yielding one hefty slice of Chess Pie elegantly topped with rich Whipped Cream and thoroughly imbued with the flavors of Lemon and Buttermilk.

Home

Noble Crust Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Dessert, Florida, Food, Gnocchi, Italian, Noble Crust, Pizza, Pork, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Tampa Bay, Vacation

Roux, Tampa FL

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Roux

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HOT CRAB DIP – Lump crab meat, pepperjack cheese, fontina cheese, sliced French bread crostini

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ROUX IRON SKILLET CORNBREAD – Sweet corn, streusel topping, jalapeños, Steen’s Cane Syrup butter

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ABITA BEER-BATTERED CRAB BEIGNETS – House-made remoulade trio of saffron, cayenne, chives

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BANANA FOSTER PANCAKES – Bananas, praline pecans, house-made caramel rum sauce, whipped Cream

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ALLIGATOR HASH – Crispy Cajun-beer-battered alligator bites, garlic brabant potatoes, sunny-side up egg and tasso hollandaise

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CHICKEN & WAFFLES BENEDICT – Poached eggs, spice marinated fried chicken breast, hollandaise, and house-made waffles. Served with a side of hashbrown casserole

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BREAD PUDDING – Baguette, pecans, poppy seeds, and Buffalo Trace bourbon butterscotch sauce

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GATEAU SIROP – Steen’s cane syrup spice cake and Chaos Creamery vanilla ice cream

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Designating its concept as “Creole Nouvelle” with offerings that look to offer a taste of New Orleans with their own Florida twist, Roux Restaurant on South MacDill was selected for brunch during a single day in Tampa Bay in part due to personal interest but also as a result of the full a la carte offerings on Mother’s Day, the French Quarter ambiance an added bonus with no lack of rustic elegance.

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Oddly told that it would be impossible to adjust a 10:15am reservation to later, the dining room at least 3/4 empty during the course of a ninety minute meal, it was at a cozy two-top in the first of two adjoining rooms that seating was offered and with waters filled but cocktails deferred a three course meal composed of eight plates was soon to follow, the service friendly yet perfunctory with “everything is delicious” and “great choice” sentiments abound.

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Adhering to Florida liquor laws, but still offering “Happy Hour” half-priced appetizers from opening until four o’clock, it was in a trio of sharables that the meal got started and although the skillet cornbread came across dry around the edges and still in need of more butter the Hot Crab Dip and Beer-Battered Beignets were entirely crave worthy in terms of taste as well as texture, the flavors similar but not redundant thanks to the sauce-trio served with the latter.

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Progressing to entrees, everything from salads and sandwiches to pancakes or eggs offered with sides or a la carte, it was again in a sizable trio that the second course was presented and again presenting a “two good, one not” experience both the fluffy Fosters’ Pancakes and garlicky Gator Hash were noteworthy riffs on classic flavors, the “Chicken and Waffles” Benni unfortunately too complicated for its own good with weak breading and a flavorless waffle completely getting lost in the sticky, intense sauce.

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Not shortchanging patrons in terms of portions, some food avoided due to taste while more was left over in order to save room for dessert, the final round entailed the restaurant’s signature bread pudding as well as the Chef’s gingerbread Gateau Sirop, both “for two” options served in cast iron with the former unfortunately dehydrated much like the cornbread while Spice Cake was presented beneath a scoop of quickly-melting ice cream, each moist bite little different than the last and delicious down to the very last spoonful of sweet, sumptuous sauce.

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http://www.rouxtampa.com/

Roux Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Cornbread, Crab, Dessert, Florida, Food, Ice Cream, Pancakes, Roux, Roux Tampa, Tampa, Tampa Bay, Vacation, Waffle, Waffles

SOHO Donut Company, Tampa FL

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Soho Donut Company

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Goldilocks – Vanilla Glazed topped with Golden Oreos

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Half Baked – Chocolate Glazed with Brownie Pieces and Caramel

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5 Second Rule – Vanilla Glazed topped with Crushed Candy, Cereal, Bacon

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Sweet Cuban – Slow Roasted Pulled Pork, Ham, Salami, Mustard, Tomato, Mayo, Pickle, Swiss Cheese, Grilled Longboard Donut Bun

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Taking an “old-school / new-school” approach to the first day in Tampa Bay, it was directly to newly opened Soho Donuts in Downtown that I proceeded from Nicola’s Donuts near Busch Gardens, the recently opened Doughnuttery presenting with some clever ideas to be sure, but execution and a lack of preparedness that speak to problems that should quickly be corrected.

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Closed on Mondays with a late-ish opening hour of nine on Weekends, or eight o’clock Tuesday to Friday, Soho Donuts occupies a stretch of pavement along South Hyde Park Avenue and with owner and one baker present in the small kitchen a 9:10am arrival found Open sign not-yet-lighted, the options exceedingly limited in comparison to the online menu with only Raised options available, though the base is in a way almost cake-like, somewhat akin to a rich Challah or Brioche.

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Surprised by the lack of readiness on a Holiday, the crowd a slow trickle that entailed perhaps fifteen patrons during a half-hour stay, it was with little delay that the counter was approached on entry and opting for three uniquely topped rings plus one made-to-order sandwich a total bill of just under $15 was levied, a seat taken followed by a ten minute wait.

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Having read the online menu, both it and the listed hours somewhat inaccurate while the Social Media stream fails to update in any useful way, it was with bites of the “Goldilocks” that tasting got started and with a rich base that comes across ever-so-slightly yeasty the topping of Vanilla and Golden Oreos offered all the expected flavors, the same to be said of the “Half-Baked” with Brownies and Caramel while the clever “5 Second Rule” was a fun taste that helped to offset sweetness with occasional notes of salinity.

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Admittedly lured in by the Donut Breakfast Sandwiches and Grilled Cheese, the object of desire a Sweet Cuban described as being served on “Longboard” Donuts not-yet-made on Sunday, it was instead on two split Glazed Rings that the pile of meat, cheese, vegetables and condiments was presented, the presence of Tomato (not part of a true Cuban, nor listed on the menu) brushed away by the owner without explanation while the rest of the composition was actually quite pleasant, the Slow Roasted Pork of particularly good quality while the mustard was just a smear and thankfully quite restrained.

Best Donuts Tampa

SOHO Donut Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Florida, Food, Pork, SOHO Donut Company, SOHO Donuts, Tampa, Tampa Bay, Vacation

Nicola’s Donut Shop, Tampa FL

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Nicola’s Donut Shop

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Apple Fritter

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Pineapple Fritter

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Red Velvet

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Raised and Vanilla Glazed

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Blueberry

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Reese’s Raised

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Sour Cream Old Fashioned

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Located near Busch Gardens and a staple of Tampa Bay since 1982, there is a good chance that many on Florida’s East Coast have experienced Nicola’s Donuts by way of local convenience stores throughout the course of decades, but opting to go straight to the source for a Mother’s Day selection the thirty minute drive proved entirely worth the effort from the charming customer service to the delicious fried dough.

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Family owned and operated, open seven days a week from 5:30 till noon (or “sold out” per the door,) Nicola’s Donuts occupies a small space in a shabby Strip Mall and manned by just the baker, a middle aged woman and a young teen the selection is substantial with more than two-dozen options ranging from textbook Old Fashioned Rings and Fritters to Candy Bar toppings and Croissant-style versions.

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Offering Check-In Discounts, the prices variable by style with Cheaper-by-the-Dozen values described by the young man, it was with a Half-Dozen plus one free that an order was compiled and opting to indulge as a steady flow of traffic trickled through the doors it was not long before teeth were sunk into a still-warm Blueberry Cake selection, the base no doubt straight from a box though the texture was nonetheless perfect beneath a lightly sweet glaze.

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Moving onward to Fritters, unfortunately a mixed bag as the Apple item was mostly just Cinnamon while the same base was far better with the crunchy exterior juxtaposing juicy bites of Pineapple, the aforementioned Sour Cream Old Fashioned was a textbook piece of breakfast pastry, as too was the cocoa-rich Red Velvet – both an equally great deal at less than a dollar.

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Generally fancying cake to Yeasted, Raised or Leavened it still seemed pertinent to taste Nicola’s Holiday themed Vanilla Glazed Donut and with a surprisingly light frosting overlying wispy dough both the flavor and texture were far better than average, the same to be said of a hoop simply labeled as “Reese’s,” the base every bit as pillow-soft while the combination of Peanut Butter, Chocolate Shell and partially melted morsels was decidedly more decadent.

http://www.nicolasdonuts.com/

Nicola's Donut Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Florida, Food, Nicola's, Nicola's Donut Shop, Nicola's Donuts, Tampa, Tampa Bay, Vacation

Jean Georges Steakhouse [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Jean Georges Steakhouse

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Orange Elderflower Cocktail – Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Vodka, Cranberry, Pineapple

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Lavash, Pretzel, Baguette, Walnut Cranberry Bread, Butter

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Sushi – Chipotle, Mayonnaise, Crispy Rice

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Bacon Wrapped Shrimp – Snap Peas, Spring Onion Mustard

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BBQ Pork Ribs – Sea Salt, Lime

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Foie Gras – Cherries, Pistachio, Brioche

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Pea Soup – Parmesan Cream, Croutons

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Three Grain Salad – Beets, Goat Cheese, Herbs

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Hearts of Palm – Tomatoes, Coconut

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Skuna Bay Salmon – Mushroom Crust, Lemon Emulsion

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Sea Bass – Miso-Yuzu Glaze, Maitake Mushroom

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Chateaubriand on the Bone – Steak Sauce, Beanaise, Hot Sauce, Miso-Soy

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American Wagyu

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Bone Marrow – Brioche, Parsley Gremolata

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Peas & Tendrils – Onion Butter, Chili-Lime Crumbs

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Trumpet Mushrooms – Garlic, Jalapeno, Lemon

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Crispy Mashed Potato – Spring Garlic Miso

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Rhubarb Pie – Buttermilk and Candied Ginger Ice Cream

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Basil Panna Cotta – Market Berries, Blueberry Sorbet

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Salted Caramel Sundae – Fudge, Candied Peanuts, Caramel Popcorn

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Strawberry Linzer – Strawberry Sorbet, Ice Cream

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Cheesecake – Sour Cherry Sorbet

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Overlooked by many local writers and guides for unknown reasons, the menu far more innovative and prone to seasonal change than that of CUT, PRIME, SW or STRIPSTEAK, a repeat visit was planned to Jean Georges Steakhouse largely on account of Chef Sean Griffin’s Instagram feed of new items, the resultant six course tasting comprised of no less than twenty plates showing the restaurant to have further improved on an already strong foundation with nothing less than outstanding results.

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Less celebrated than its luxurious older sister at Bellagio, though both PRIME and the eponymous space at Aria are fronted by New York based Vongerichten, Jean George Steakhouse is itself now somewhat “Old School” when taking into account rebranded nearby competition and still sporting a swanky vibe that feels trendy without “trying” it was in the early evening that our duo was welcomed by hostesses and the General Manager, the same table as last time bathed in spotlighting.

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Seated, situated and treated to an Orange Elderflower Cocktail that proved every bit as fresh as a Yuzu Lemondrop from the first meal, it was with greetings from Chef Griffin that the night’s Carte Blanche degustation was presented, the well-adorned bread basket soon to arrive featuring four options including a newly-launched housemade baguette.

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Using ambient music to drive the tempo, light sourcing giving each table an individual halo of intimacy despite the sizable room, dining began just fifteen minutes after seating and with three appetizers sent to whet the palate the only questions were where to begin and which was better, the Ribs tender and well spiced while Sliced Fish atop rice cakes were a picture of simple elegance, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp given a seasonal spin with Peas as well as Onions and all the better for it.

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Sending forth a “work in progress” before Pea Soup that overcomes connotations of dreariness by way of a velvety veloute poured into creamy Parmesan Foam, plate four featured a generous slice of Foie Gras still dripping juices atop buttery brioche with drunken Cherries, a field of green created by way of pistachios compressed into a terrine and subsequently shaved from above.

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A favorite of Kerry Clasby’s Markets, the Intuitive Forager having recently dined on an organic vegan menu that Sean proudly created a la minute, course three featured a Hearts of Palm salad featuring both raw and cooked sections dancing amidst young coconut while the “Three Grain Salad” featured an equal number of colored Beets with Goat Cheese and a tangle of Herbs, the gently cooked White Italian Beets from Brian’s Ranch Family Farm in Hollister California a revelatory sort of flavor with florals atop the typical earthiness, quite unlike anything seen in a tuber or taproot before.

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With Sean continuing to insist on Salmon, the truffle crust from Fall replaced by wild mushrooms given levity by a bright emulsion of citrus for Spring, an alternative plate featuring Nobu-esque Miso-Yuzu Sea Bass was absolutely sensational set next to a whole grilled Maitake Mushroom, the flavors robust yet light on the stomach which would prove fortuitous considering the finales yet to come.

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Recalling a video of Chef Griffin repeatedly basting beef in early Winter, that Chateaubriand an occasional special readily made available by advanced notice, it was with the thick tenderloin served medium-rare on the bone that course five got started and offering the meat simply with salt and roasted garlic the sides were allowed to further dictate the extent of the grandeur as a hemisected whole cow’s femur and strip of American Wagyu presented brazen opulence, the Mushrooms and Potatoes each well composed while “Peas & Tendrils” was truly special, the picture of seasonality with Onion Butter and toasted crumbs with Tajin-like spicing.

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Knowing that dessert is a priority, the Pastry Chef introduced tableside to describe flavors presented in two rounds, suffice it to say that both Cheesecake and a Salted Caramel Sundae offered exactly what was expected while Basil Panna Cotta and Rhubarb Pie boldly presented flavors less typical but equally delicious, a Strawberry Linzer taking the Austrian pastry to unprecedented heights through the combination of housemade jam, sorbet, sliced fruit and ice cream.

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FIVE STARS: Continuing to up the ante on traditional Steakhouses with a Spring Menu that sees Chef Griffin and his team coax unparalleled ingredients to the utmost of their flavor there is little doubt that Jean Georges Steakhouse remains one of The Strip’s most under-regarded properties, a rare surviving member from Aria’s Grand Opening whose best days are perhaps yet to come.

RECOMMENDED: Foie Gras, Three Grain Salad, Sea Bass, Chateaubriand on the Bone, Peas & Tendrils, Rhubarb Pie, Strawberry Linzer.

AVOID: The bone marrow is best ordered by groups of three (or more) because no matter how much you may *want * to eat every bite, doing so will preclude exploring other delicious things.

TIP: Offering both a pre-theater and Signature Tasting Menu this is the rare Steakhouse where even solos with a modest appetite can really get a sense of the kitchen’s skill and variety without overspending on wasted food or becoming far too full.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.

http://www.aria.com/dining/restaurants/jean-georges-steakhouse

Jean Georges Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Foie Gras, Food, Ice Cream, Jean Georges, Jean Georges Steakhouse, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Sushi, Tasting Menu