pubbelly, Miami FL




Dates Avec Chorizo – Goat Cream, Spicy Tomato, Bacon

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McBelly – Kimchee, Yakiniku BBQ, House Bun

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Duck & Pumpkin Dumplings – Orange, Almonds, Cinnamon, Soy Brown Butter

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Soft Polenta Bramata – Truffle, Short Rib, Poached Hen Egg

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Sea Urchin and Salmon Rillettes – House Pickles, Toast, Bacon Jam

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Duroc Pork Belly Confit – Kabocha Squash, Butterscotch Miso, Corn Powder

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Florida Stone Crab – House Made Fettuccine, Jalapeno, Ginger, Bok Choy, Miso Citrus Butter

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Spiced Milk Tempura – PumpKing French Toast, Squash Milk Tempura, Bruleed Marshmallow Meringue, Roasted Sesame Ice Cream

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Granny Smith’s Bread Pudding – Caramelized Apples, Cinnamon Custard, Streusel, Roasted Sesame Ice Cream

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The Mason Jar – Strawberry Marmalade, Crème Brulee Foam, Caramel Mousse

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Cap’n Corny – Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding, Whipped Popcorn Panna Cotta, Corn Cake, Nutty Caramel Corn, Roasted Sesame Ice Cream


Having celebrated their fourth anniversary with a whimsical brunch earlier that day it was with some surprise that pubbelly was only a quarter full when my family entered the celebrated space at 7pm but with reggae playing overhead as the Dolphins suffered a tough loss to Denver it was perhaps good fortune that saw the space so sparsely populated as both the kitchen and front of house executed beyond reproach, an eleven part order delivered with superlative timing, spot-on descriptions, and flavors that left no part of the palate untouched…or un-wowed.


Considered by some to represent gastropub ‘fusion’ while others would suggest the technique driven Asian cuisine to be Miami’s answer to David Chang it should come as no surprise that Chef Jose Mendin’s daily menu featured no less than thirty items rooted in concepts of local sourcing as well as sustainability with an eye towards umami and starting with a trio of signatures the evening began with a bold slap to the tastebuds as spicy chorizo stuffed inside large dates found levity in foamy fromage, the followup “McBelly” pairing tender pork with a sweet bun and funky kimchee while a quartet of light noodles arrived packed with duck as notes of citrus and cinnamon tickled the palate on a slick of brown butter.


Expanding an empire without compromising quality at the flagship a second flight of plates stared with creamy polenta studded with tender beef beneath topnotes of truffle carried by a soft-poached egg and although the bread served alongside silky rillettes teaming with flavors of smoke and sea could have stood to be cut slightly thinner that most certainly did not stop us from wiping the mason jar clean, each bite almost equal parts uni and fish with bacon jam, crispy strands of nori, and pickled vegetables each adding their own style of nuance in a choose-your-own-adventure experience in which not a single flavor was out of place.


Treated next to the longtime signature of confit porkbelly beneath sweet-meets-savory glaze suffice it to say that those uninterested in fatty cuts of meat should not apply and rounding out savories with seasonal stonecrab tossed with hand-cut pasta the flavors of pickled peppers, ginger, and miso served to further enliven the freshly picked crustacean, a flavor profile far more complicated but every bit as delicious as the simple perfection offered at Joe’s in the following days.


Unable to settle on a ‘reasonable’ number of desserts and as such investing in all but the two sundaes on offer it was with a quartet of sweets that the meal would end and although the pronounced flavors of popcorn unfortunately overwhelmed the butterscotch pudding of Cap ‘n Corny it would be difficult to determine a ‘best of’ amongst the rest, the Mason Jar harkening the flavors of strawberry shortcake carried by a cloud while the tempura and bread pudding both channeled the flavors of fall to great effect, the former intricately spiced with smoke and boozy notes balanced by light sweetness while the later was fruity and aromatic with each piping hot bite a textural exploration of creamy base and crunchy strudel beneath slowly melting soft-serve that added a subtle hint of salt.


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Posted in Bread Pudding, Cornbread, Crab, Dessert, Florida, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Miami, Pork, pubbelly, Truffle, Vacation

Eating House, Miami FL


Eating House


“bk” Hash Browns – Oven Roasted Ketchup, Dry Rub

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Cap n’ Crunch Pancakes – Condensed Milk Syrup, Candied Cap n’ Crunch, Whipped Vanilla Butter


Chicken & Waffles – Fried Chicken Thigh, Foie Gras Waffles, Candied Bacon, Maple, Hot-Ranch

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Cuban Bread Torrejas – Guava/Iron Beer Syrup, Whipped Cream Cheese, Maria Cookie Sugar


Selected as a late-lunch based entirely on positive word of mouth from folks worthy of trust a 2:30 reservation at Eating House found the small, hip space filled to capacity and although the crowd seems to trend towards the post-club “Ali G” sect the food proved well worthy of the substantial praise – the current brunch menu only slightly less innovative than the options offered at dinner, though that certainly did not prevent our four-part order from allowing the rapid-fire kitchen to show its strengths.


Eventually seated at a cozy four-top with a full view of the kitchen as well as televisions displaying the NFL alongside a whimsical bookcase of Miami paraphernalia it was not long before a waiter greeted our trio and with menus distributed it was mere moments before the order was decided, items coming out as they are readied with ‘hash browns’ harkening tater tots soon to arrive, the golden fried exterior intensely crunchy with a bit of spice while the interior was not dissimilar from mashed potatoes, the overall effect truly alluring particularly when paired with smoky tomato puree bright with acid and only minimally sweet.


Unfortunately forced to shout at one another over the mimosa and cocktail energized din it was perhaps twenty minutes before the second round of food appeared tableside and although the waffles were a touch soft with no discernible sapor from the liver to be found nearly every other aspect of both dishes were divine, the well-brined bird intensely juicy and well complimented by both maple and spice while the cereal studded pancakes were an onslaught of sweetness atop fluffy clouds of golden batter, the textural contrasts and flavors both on par with the best flapjacks tasted to date.


Rounding out the afternoon with thick bread lightly soaked in syrup suffice it to say that the crispy exterior was as unexpected as it was delicious and although light hoppiness proved an admirable foil to crumbled sugar cookies and pronounced sweetness from amply drizzled guava it was the airy cream cheese, presumably from an ISI Container, that truly brought the plate to new heights – each bite utterly indulgent yet surprisingly light, a perfect conclusion to an already heavy day of eating leaving plenty of room for more conspicuous consumption later that night.


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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Eating House, Florida, Foie, Food, French Toast, Miami, Pancakes, Vacation, Waffles

Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, Miami FL


Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink

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Cinnamon Sugar Sourdough Toast – pumpkin butter, caramel apples

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Duck Rillette – crostini, cornichon, mustard

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Breakfast Pizza – house smoked bacon, farm egg, Monterey jack, scallions

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Wood Oven Baked 9 Grain Pancake – organic maple syrup

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Wood Oven Roasted Double Yolk Egg – cave aged gruyere, roasted tomato, chives, sourdough crostini

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Warm Banana Bread Pudding – brown butter streusel

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Warm Pecan and Sweet Potato Caramel Bun

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Coconut and Medjool Date Icky Sticky Pudding Cake – wood roasted pears


Never one to shy away from sequential morning meals, particularly in a brunch scene as dynamic as the one of Miami and South Beach, it was just as the doors unlocked at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink that our trio found a seat on the quiet side of the bar and with exquisitely knowledgeable service happy to offer advice an eight part order was crafted, each item coming out as it was readied by the kitchen with only an overcooked egg and undersized pancake holding the experience back from perfection in all ways.


Located in the Design District, with parking at a premium and reservations a must for anyone who does not desire a long wait, MGFD is considered by many to be Miami’s ‘signature’ restaurant and with a Beard Award winning Chef at its helm alongside a repeat semi-finalist for pastry the options range far and wide, the concepts of daily change, local sourcing and sustainability forming a longtime core while several ‘signatures’ also decorate the menu – the later a worthwhile focus of a first-time visitor, though the raw bar, salads, and produce all seemed plenty enticing as well.


Opting to balance sweet with savory it was a simple matter of timing that saw the meal begin with what would turn out to be the best item of the set and as much as the crunchy cinnamon toast found textural balance in the sweet, creamy flavors of autumn a follow-up of finely shredded duck beneath a seal of fat saw the full-on flavors of fowl meet sharp contrast in crispy toast and house-pickled vegetables, the transition to a lackluster pancake only slightly larger than the diameter of a hockey puck proving a disappointing waste of $8, though the pure maple syrup was admittedly quite good.


Rejecting a first attempt at pizza due to an egg that was cooked-through only to be treated to a replacement less than sixty seconds later suffice it to say that Michael’s does not skimp when it comes to cheese, eggs, or herbs and with a lightly blistered crust bolstering the flavor profile of already smoky bacon the only thing that prevented the pizza from shining best of the savories was its tablemate ‘signature’ of two egg yolks baked in a small ramekin beneath a veil of gooey gruyere, each rich bite a new adventure in taste and texture as local tomatoes added a splash of acid serving to accentuate an herbal blend prominent with chives.


Finishing strong with a trio of sweets a humorous glitch in the computer system saw no less than three Caramel Buns arrive at our table at separate times and as much as I’d have been glad to indulge in each as the golden roll was sweet, crispy, and moist the better part of valor was saving room for the rest – a banana bread pudding a tad undersized for sharing despite the intensity of its flavors while the novel take on traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding was enthralling in its subtlety, the shredded coconut and its milk serving to tame an otherwise sugary dish while the roasted pears were smoky and tender beneath a quenelle of light cream.

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Dessert, Florida, Food, French Toast, Miami, Michael’s, Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, Pancakes, Pizza, Pork, Vacation

Zak The Baker, Miami FL


Zak The Baker

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Vegan Pear Upside Down Cake

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Pecan Pie

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Flourless Chocolate Sea Salt Cookie


House Toast – Cashew Butter and Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam / Paradise Toast – Farm Honey and Butter


Located in Wynwood and closed on Saturdays in observation of Shabbat, Zak The Baker was an easy decision for early morning pastries on Sunday and arriving at the sizable bakery to find it almost entirely full a mere thirty minutes after opening the rumors of some of the city’s best pastries were quickly confirmed, the ever changing menu featuring several savories and baked breads alongside the sweets which we ordered – all of them seemingly finding resounding praise from a diverse crowd ranging from secular Jewish families to hipster couples happy to indulge in trendy avocado-topped toast.


Every bit the ‘working bakery’ with teams in the open kitchen readily visible mixing, kneading, arranging, and toasting as the front of house staff amicably answered questions and brought out orders it was with a trio of countertop-ready items that our meal began and with the pecan pie featuring a sort of praline surface overlaying a gooey base and pure butter pastry the flavors immediately wowed, an entirely vegan upside down cake only slightly less impressive due to an overly spongy texture beneath heavily spiced fruits while the flourless chocolate cookie proved to be amongst the best bites in all of Miami, the barely set center dark and rich with just enough salinity added to keep it from being one-note.


Acknowledging the fact that there were several meals to follow it was with some remorse that the table passed on additional baked goods but instead turning attention to a duo of toasted breads the results were again impressive, the nine-grain and sunflower selections topped plentifully with locally sourced and/or house-made accoutrements including intensely creamy butter beneath a drizzle of honey and freshly ground cashews topped with a dollop of housemade jam – the former a significant upgrade on any typical ‘side of toast’ and the later the sort of $5 indulgence that makes one question whether to accept plain ol’ PB&J ever again.


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Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Dessert, Florida, Food, Miami, Vacation, Zak The Baker

Panther Coffee, Miami FL

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Panther Coffee

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Cold Brew

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Nutella Swirl Cookie and Snickers and Potato Chips Cookie

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Butter Croissant


Almond Croissant


Chocolate Caramel Cake

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Pumpkin Spice Pepitas Cake

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Located in Wynwood and considered by many to be Miami’s premier destination for locally roasted beans there is little doubt that the brains behind Panther Coffee have done an excellent job in terms of sourcing, preparing, and branding their product, yet featuring the sort of service clearly intended to make hipsters feel as though their misplaced superiority complexes are justified it proved almost impossible to truly “like” the space during a pair of visits while exploring South Florida.

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Small in size and heavy in wood with a post-modern soundtrack pushing the din towards distracting when the line swells to 20+ minutes the Panther concept differs little from spots like Intelligentsia or La Colombe and with several single origins, a few blends, several brewing methods, and outsourced pastry offered from a long counter a duo of orders explored only a fraction of the offerings, the smooth and intense cold-brew bottled on the spot via pints or quarts while a mugged Americano featured the sort of complex crema generally reserved for freshly pulled espresso shots – a clear indication that these baristas know their craft well.

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Moving onward to pastries, mostly unlabeled with little assistance offered by eye-rolling employees, a half dozen items were sampled over the course of daytime snacks and although both the croissants were somewhat soft with no semblance of shattering shell the flavors were excellent, a similar compliment due to impressive miniature cakes that proved dense, moist, and only mildly sweet as well as a duo of cookies – the Nutella Swirl a bit heavy handed but the sweet/salty juxtaposition of Snickers and crispy potatoes surprisingly refined and all the better when paired with cold brew poured over ice on the outdoor patio where people watching is pretty tough to beat.


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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Florida, Food, Miami, Panther Coffee, Vacation

1826 Restaurant & Lounge, Miami FL




Warm Focaccia with cultured butter and dill yogurt spread

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Prosciutto Croquettes – potato, chives

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Hudson Valley Foie Gras – Amaretti cookie, huckleberries, currants, brioche

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Zucchini Blossoms – whipped ricotta, tomato, basil, mint

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Beet Salad – lime, pistachio, wild huckleberries

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Lobster Stracciatella Risotto – leeks, parsley, tomato confit

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Perigord and Burgundy Truffle Risotto – Madeira, fines herbs, cremont

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Duck Duo – Roasted and Confit, Tokyo turnips, black trumpets, honey, almond

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Mille Feuille – puff pastry, diplomat cream

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Warm Valhrona Chocolate Fondant – fleur de sel, caramel, bourbon ice cream

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Citrus Mosaic – basil, lemongrass, key lime pavlova

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Sweet Gorgonzola Gelato – Medjool dates, celery granite, Villa Manodori balsamico


Having missed Danny Grant’s tenure at Michelin 2* Ria in Chicago it was with high hopes that I booked a table at trendy 1826 and although the restless chef had again moved on by the time dinner arrived it was still his final menu to which we were treated, an eleven plate experience during which not a single plate fell short of exemplary.


Every bit the South Beach hotspot, with 4 inch heels and a tight skirt never more than a few feet away, it was just after 7:30 that our party of three entered the second story space and deferring on a dreadful first table offered by the buxom hostess it was with a window-side view that we soon sat, a plate of buttery warm focaccia landing along with the menus as EDM pulsed overhead.

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Trending a touch ’Vegas’ in terms of style and demeanor, but decidedly upgraded in service by a team well versed in the menu and its nuances, it was after mere moments of indecision that selections were made from the menu’s 3×2 format and although an opening volley of delicate croquettes were decidedly pricy at $3 per marble the explosive potato center teaming with butter, pork, and chives was a wakeup call to the palate and a good sign of things to come.


Onward to appetizers suffice it to say that both the beets and the blossoms traced the flavors of late-autumn in bold lines with light touches of acid helping to brighten each plate while a nearly three ounce slice of creamy foie gras took an entirely different route in resting atop a slice of buttered brioche, the substantial heft just barely reined in by a duo of fresh fruits while grated cookie lended just a bit of texture up top, a sort of torchless brûlée, if you will.


Largely focused on heavier proteins and pastas as entrees it was after a short respite as the dining room filled that two bowls of risotto plus a “duo of duck” arrived and while both the snappy crustacean amidst buttery cheese as well as the mushroom crusted fowl served alongside crackling confit were delicious neither were in the same league as the simple combination of rice, cream, wine, and fresh truffles – the tableside unveiling perfuming the immediate area and each bite as good as the last until the diner is running their finger through remaining sauce lamenting the focaccia long gone.


Moving into dessert it was with minimal debate that a “one of each” approach was taken to a menu from which all options appeared divine and although molten chocolate cake and a composition of bright fruits atop ethereal key lime curd were both quite pleasant the reference standard made-to-order mille-feuille and complex “frozen cheese plate” were undeniable must-haves, the former a shattering juxtaposition of butter pastry and thick cream while the later melded brine, bitter, acid, and sweet into an amalgam that should make folks in Miami very excited for whatever Chef Grant and his new team at 50 Eggs plan to hatch next.


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Posted in 1826, 1826 Restaurant & Lounge, Bread Basket, Dessert, Florida, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Lobster, Miami, Pork, Truffle, Vacation

The Federal Food Drink & Provisions, Miami FL


The Federal Food Drink & Provisions

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Federal Jumbo ‘Biskit’ – buttermilk, honey apple cider glaze


Carmeliz’d Onion & Crab Dip – lump crab, pickled radish, brown butter, crusty bread

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Punkin Spiced French Toast – gingersnap cookies, pumpkin butter, salted caramel, whip cream, maple

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Pig Wing and Waffles – country fried pork shank, cornmeal waffle, housemade ‘hot’ honey

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Jar o’ Duck – duck confit rillete, charred fluff, candied sweet potato


Knowingly overestimating the dining capacity of co-travelers, but attempting to make the most of limited time, second brunch on Saturday saw our trio seated at Buena Vista hipster hangout “The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions” where although the bottomless brunch bubbles seemed to be a hit with several loud surrounding tables the experience was average, at best, for those sober enough to know the difference.


Strip-mall located with a tight interior decorated in taxidermy beleaguered by kitsch as servers parade around nonsensically offering anecdotes, without particularly accomplishing much as relates to presenting plates, it was from a recently retooled menu that our meal was crafted and having done away with the prix-fixe shared plates concept in favor of a la carte the five plate meal progressed quickly, an unadorned jumbo biscuit starting things off right with a tremendously flaky interior imbued in buttermilk beneath a golden tan ever so slightly sweet.


Admittedly an interesting menu despite service and ‘scene,’ it was not long after the biscuit that the creamy crab as well as the crispy waffle arrived and although the bread served with the dip was nearly inedibly dry the spread itself was intensely flavorful, the same to be said for a lightly breaded pork shank that effortlessly shredded from the bone to outperform all but the finest fried chicken and waffles tasted to date.

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Served ‘small plates style,’ but still a touch out of the order that would be expected, it was in follow-up to the dip that thick slices of French Toast were delivered and although each a bit doughy the accoutrements of pumpkin puree, sticky caramel, and spiced whip each dazzled – the later strikingly similar to the toasted marshmallow fluff plated alongside caramelized sweet potatoes and a jar of confit duck – a signature dish, indeed, though again held back by poorly conceptualized bread.

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Posted in Breakfast, Crab, Dessert, Florida, Food, French Toast, Miami, Pork, The Federal, The Federal Food Drink & Provisions, Vacation, Waffles

Swine Southern Table & Bar, Miami FL


Swine Southern Table & Bar

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Biscuits with maple butter and blackberry preserves


Jalapeno, Cheddar, Bacon Cornbread with maple butter and blackberry preserves

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Macaroni and Cheese –‘pig tail’ macaroni, bacon, five cheeses, toasted bread crumbs

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Pulled Pork n’ Poached Eggs with smoked pork, Adluh South Carolina stone ground grits

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Country Fried Bacon and Waffles with thick cut house smoked bacon, Cheddar cheese waffle, chilled spiced watermelon, honey hot sauce, bourbon maple syrup

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Blueberry Pancakes with fresh whipped cream, bourbon maple syrup

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Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie


Warm Sticky Icky Bun with Maple Bourbon Toffee Syrup, Pecan Butter Candied Bacon Brittle and Vanilla Ice Cream

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Owned by 50 Eggs, the group behind South Beach hotspot Yardbird, Swine puts a smokehouse spin on the “Southern Table & Bar” and with a brunch menu running the gamut from pancakes to pulled pork the only real question during the 10am meal was “how hungry are you?”

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Undoubtedly a carefully curated spot, with plenty of wood and whimsy plus a high ceiling design allowing for an upstairs loft, our arrival at Swine was met with warm welcomes and quickly seated in cozy booth by the woman who would be our server it was not long before questions were answered and an eight-part order unfurled – a quartet of cornbread and three flaky biscuits with house-blended maple butter and blackberry preserves soon sending a warning that Swine doesn’t skimp on quantity or quality – the toothsome muffins particularly impressive with smoke and spice prominent amidst a background only slightly sweet.


Moving on to entrees, alongside a smoldering bowl of pork-imbued Mac, it was with eyes focused on things both sweet and savory that brunch progressed and although fluffy blueberry pancakes were quite delicious under a sheen of boozed up maple syrup they simply could not hold a candle to the quality of swine-centric specialties including acid-splashed pulled pork over creamy stoneground grits or audacious inch-thick strips of bacon taken to the deepfryer before nuzzling up to crunchy waffles drizzled in Tobasco, the later an absolute treat when taken with fresh watermelon and a drizzle of maple to help temper the heat.


Sated but not stuffed it was somewhat disappointing to discover that much of Swine’s dessert menu is only offered at supper but making do with what was available the results were pleasant enough, the $10 slice of pie a bit overpriced albeit delicious and quite rich while the signature “sticky-icky” bun was all sorts of sinful with melting butter dripping from golden curls as caramelized bacon brittle dazzled beneath slowly melting ice cream – vanilla as the menu-designated sweet potato was as yet also unready, but delicious just the same.


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Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Cornbread, Dessert, Florida, Food, Ice Cream, Miami, Pancakes, Pork, Swine, Swine Southern Table & Bar, Swine Southern Table and Bar, Vacation, Waffles

Mojo Donuts, Pembroke Pines FL


Mojo Donuts

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Apple Fritter

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Banana Walnut Fritter

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Maple Bacon Bar

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Coco Puff

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Raspberry Yeasted

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Oreo Filled Cake

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Crème Brulee

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Candy Apple

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Pumpkin Pie

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Peanut Butter and Jelly

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Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Lemon Meringue Pie

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Nana’s Banana Pudding

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Snickers and Shoestring Potatoes

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German Chocolate




Flying into Ft. Lauderdale via the redeye with a 6:55am arrival I figured we could make it to Mojo Donuts by 7:35 and with fortuitous traffic on our side so began my first dining trip to South Florida – at a small strip-mall shop in Pembroke Pines that is turning out some of the most interesting and texturally appealing donuts to date.


Diverse to the point of dizzying, a total of at least two dozen choices coming out fresh at six o’clock each day with several hot rounds to follow, Mojo Donuts is the brainchild of Shawn Neifeld and considered by some to be the only artisan doughnuttery anywhere near Miami a look at the wares proved nearly across-the-board impressive…only a bit of ‘put-upon’ hipster service holding the store back from excellence in all ways.


$14.99 per dozen, with a pair of fritters charged extra and a +1 check-in offer via social media, the Mojo experience began with a selection of bottomless brews and sipping ample amounts of Columbian java to cleanse the palate between bites the tasting kicked off with each supplementary fritter setting a high standard as crunchy shell gave way to supple insides laced in spice with fresh fruit to spare, a similar generosity of ingredients found in bacon gracing a pillowy maple longjohn while all sorts of childhood whimsy decked out a hole-less puff seemingly straight from the folks at Reese’s.


Onward and upward to yeasted rings and several filled options, including a stunning apple pocket beneath shattering candy shellac, it was only the Oreo-fluff sandwich that disappointed by proving a touch too heavy handed but quickly returning to form with tangy cream cheese and airy meringue atop red velvet and lemon curd, respectively, it would be hard to quibble with any of the rest, the lack of any ‘normal’ options notwithstanding…though why would anyone want ‘double chocolate’ or ‘old fashioned’ when they could instead indulge in Snickers and salty potatoes or deep fried German chocolate cake?


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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Florida, Food, Miami, Mojo Donuts, Pembroke Pines, Pork, Vacation

Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar [2,] Las Vegas NV



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D.O.C. Flatbread – Buffalo Mozzarella + Basil + Chili

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Charcuterie Board – 3 Meats, 3 Cheeses, Truffled Honey, Fig Jam, Toast


Roasted Artichokes – Provence Style + Lemon & Black Garlic Yogurt

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Stuffed Dates – Chorizo + Bacon + Piquillo Pepper Gravy

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Meatballs – Braised Short Rib + Goat Cheese + Tomato

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Charred Octopus – Smoked Potatoes + Rocket + Chorizo Aioli


Butchered Steak Tartare – Pickled Vegetables + Truffle Toast

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Hearth Cooked Wings – Black Garlic + Chili + Rosemary

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FG&J – Foie Gras Mousse + Virginia Peanuts + Housemade Jam

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Crabby Snacks – Lemon Dill Aioli

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Rotisserie Potatoes – Jalapenos + Rosemary + Sea Salt

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Roast Suckling Pig – Mustard + Apple Butter + Pork Jus


Wild Arugula Salad – Citrus Poached Leeks + Toasted Hazelnuts + Ricotta Salata


Lobster Polenta – White Corn + Mascarpone + Chives

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Wagyu Short Rib – Stout Braised + Ricotta + Broccoli Rabe


Calabrian Shrimp Pasta – Housemade Pasta + Hawaiian Shrimp + Calabrian Chili + Meyer Lemon

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Spiced Apple Tart – Cream Cheese Dough + Walnut Frangipane + Sour Cream Ice Cream

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Peanut Butter Lava Cake – Butterscotch + Roasted Banana + Brown Butter Ice Cream


Butterscotch Pudding – Cookie Butter Crunch + Whipped Cream

Making my second visit in three weeks to Hearthstone, this time with a quartet of friends in tow, suffice it to say that Brian Massie and Light Group’s newest spot at Red Rock has seemingly found its audience – a packed house with hour-long waits when we arrived at 8:00pm – and although service was clearly belabored by the crowd the kitchen continued to shine, all nineteen plates experienced showing a deft hand for balanced spice profiles, superlative textures, and in the case of a nightly special the kind of backyard decadence rarely found in any indoor environment, let alone a casino restaurant.


Suffering from lackluster hostesses, clearly hired for their look as opposed to their ability to read a reservation, it was at an outdoor table with the sort of service prone to drop off plates with no description while pushing drinks as “yummy” or “delish,” that we were originally seated and eventually making it evident that such behavior was unacceptable it was only then that the meal improved, though the nicely blistered pizza, well sourced charcuterie, and plates of tender meatballs beneath blistered tomatoes as well as stuffed dates atop a bed of smoke and swine had already impressed.

Eventually moved indoors when the wind picked up and dropped the temperature by about 20 degrees it was next at a tall eight-top that we were seated and with service improving dramatically with visits from the dining room manager, Chef Massie, and others soon to follow the subsequent cuisine was a Chef selected mix of the menu’s best – the charred octopus again exemplary with the crab toast light and sweet, the foie this time entirely creamy amidst crushed peanuts while the tartare was so smooth and well balanced by the pickled vegetables that it essentially reinvented the tired old dish into a beef presentation I’d consider ‘must order,’ a rarity to say the least.

Obviously intending to impress with a giant wooden platter of perfectly picked swine topped in ample amounts of crispy skin it simply goes without saying that the Hearthstone’s suckling pig outperforms the bland $125 quarter-swine at Bazaar Meat for best I’ve tasted in the valley but with the addition of roasted pork jus dripped through the rotisserie potatoes the dish reached even higher ground, a pot of apple butter atop toasted bread and a lightly dressed salad adding a bit of levity to the courses’ otherwise intense heft.

At this point fully sated but happy to experience more it was in two ‘entrees’ that we indulged and with the shortrib expectedly fork tender as broccoli rabe provided a bitter textural foil the spicy chittara pasta was no less impressive, a pile of snappy shrimp with sweetness intensified by a spritz of Meyer lemon almost outshowing my second experience with a creamy side of lobster polenta…almost, were the later not again one of the best sides I’ve experienced this year.

With the clock now approaching eleven, and all but those gathered around shuffleboard and the bar thinning out, it was again to a long conversation with Chef Massie that the table was treated and joined by his second-in-command as they discussed upcoming ideas and concepts it was to a trio of desserts that the night concluded, the lava cake and pudding again showing strongly while the tart that had sold out during my previous visit was nothing less than exemplary, an American classic gussied up with bittersweet frangipane as autumnal aromatics danced lightly amidst subtly sour ice cream.


Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Hearthstone, Hearthstone Kitchen, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Octopus, Pizza, Pork, Truffle

East Side Pizza, Las Vegas NV


East Side Pizza

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Slice of Pepperoni

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Garlic Knots

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Eggplant Rollatini – Thinly Sliced Eggplant, Fried Golden, Stuffed with Housemade Ricotta and Mozzarella over Marinara

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Red Velvet Cake

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Half-Order of Bombolini


As authentic as many New York slice shops despite its Westside location in Summerlin’s Boca Park, East Side Pizza had been earmarked for a visit for some time when I entered its doors on Saturday night and with football playing on two screens as fairly steady stream of foot traffic arrived for takeout the experience was as good as expected – no more and no less.

Clearly a locals-only sort of spot, despite ownership proudly declaring Big Apple roots, a visit to East Side Pizza begins at the end of a long counter where single slices are there to temp and with ordering available up front or seated at tables to the right I found myself a four-top where the Italian-American menu expanded well beyond the giant rings of dough being hand tossed by a duo of young men standing before ovens glowing electric orange.


Obviously there for the pizza, but also willing to sample a few appetizers along with, it was with recommendations from a friendly female server that my order was made and with little delay the meal began with the aforementioned slice, a classic pepperoni concoction with a bit of char, plenty of crunch, and a stream of grease pooling on the plate when folded to take a bite. Less successful, a followup of ‘garlic knots’ had none of the expected crunch and although reasonably laced with garlic butter the dinner-roll texture left me luke-warm, a sidecar of classic marinara improving the flavors only a smidge.

At this point experiencing a bit of delay due to several take-out orders occurring at once it was after perhaps twenty minutes of watching Oregon State and ASU that the $10 Eggplant Rollatini arrived and although meager in portion with only three thin slices of eggplant on a bed of marinara with a veil of cheese both the flavors and textures shined, a similar kind word offered to the rich cocoa tones of limited-edition Red Velvet Cake but completely inappropriate for thimble-sized ‘bombolini’ that lacked any semblance of yeasty nuance, instead presenting nothing but oily fried dough.


TWO AND A HALF STARS: Friendly service, save for an older woman jokingly spouting semi-racist epithets to the men spinning dough, and fairly good red sauce classics are the name of the game at East Side Pizza and although never particularly sold on the idea that New York Style is a pie worth seeking out the version here is pretty close to the real deal while other options vary in quality and quantity compared to price paid.


RECOMMENDED: Pizza, Red Velvet Cake.

AVOID: Garlic Knots, Bombolini.


TIP: Offering several lunch specials, 4-course $9.99 dinner, and Groupons those looking for a deal can easily exit East Side Pizza for less than $10 per person while still hitting the menu highlights.


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

East Side Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, East Side Pizza, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Pork

China Mama, Las Vegas NV


China Mama

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Beef Roll

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Green Onion Pancake

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Steamed Juicy Pork Buns


Mama’s Special Pan Fried Pork Buns

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Steamed Red Bean Bun

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Tea Smoked Duck


Walnut Prawn


Technically located on Jones, but just steps from Spring Mountain, China Mama had long been on my ‘must visit’ list thanks, in part, to strong reviews from several palates I trust. Every bit an unassuming space, a veritable ‘hut’ in the lot adjacent Chada Thai, it was on entry that friends were located at a nearby table and with the extensive menu quickly perused under the watchful eye of a server who seemed intent on making sure there was never a moment of pause throughout our 70-minute stay an order was placed – the seven item onslaught soon to begin as the table filled quickly with far too much food for any three people to eat.


Beginning with items from the oft-raved “pastry” section before progressing to selections delineated by the origin of their protein, the meal began with Mama’s signature Beef Roll and with the pan-kissed noodles stuffed thick with supple beef and light scallions both flavors and textures popped, a similar compliment due to the unctuous pancake – the poignant flavor profile bolstered by a side of thick hoisin-like sauce that paired beautifully both here and with plate of intensely smoky bone-in duck.


Delving next into a steamer of XLB that was a bit light in soup despite excellent sapor from a ball of briny pork it was onward to walnut shrimp that our meal progressed and although occasionally overwhelmed by mayonnaise this version was perhaps the most impressive of the afternoon, a large portion of crisp and sweet crustaceans more than justifying the $18.95 menu price that proved on par with those at Blossom for best I’ve tasted in Las Vegas to date.


More than sated at this point it was almost comical just how large Mama’s Special Pan Fried Pork Buns turned out to be, and although some were regrettably packed up as leftovers due to a frank lack of capacity the crispy exterior yielding a pocket of seared pork amidst rich aromatics still enticed me enough to eat three, a steamer of red bean buns intended as ‘dessert’ picked at simultaneously with subtle sweetness proving an excellent juxtaposition to the brine of the pork while the creamy filling was forgivingly light at the end of a rather substantial meal.


FOUR STARS: No different than many of the eateries surrounding Spring Mountain in terms of scene and service but excelling with regard to the food China Mama is every bit worthy the high praise it has received from persons both local and distant. Admittedly a bit more expensive than Cathay House or Chang’s but far superior to the former and without the dim-sum service issues of the later a large-group exploration of a more extensive swath of the menu seems pertinent.


RECOMMENDED: Beef Roll, Mama’s Special Pan Fried Pork Buns, Walnut Prawns

AVOID: Tea Smoked Duck was not only a bit tough, but also almost “too” smoky to be enjoyable past a few bites.


TIP: Featuring a rather large space it has been said that both service and quality vary depending on the size of the crowd, our visit taking place at 12:30 on a Saturday finding the restaurant less than 1/3 full with service friendly enough as empty plates were cleared quickly while beverages remained filled at all times.

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

China Mama on Urbanspoon

Posted in China Mama, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Chef Zen, Las Vegas NV


Chef Zen

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Latiya – Custard Pound Cake with Cinnamon

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Blueberry Yeasted Donut

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Apple Fritter

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Cream Cheese Croissant

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Blueberry Croissant


Newly opened on South Buffalo, in the former environs of Dee’s Donuts next to Babystacks #2, the head baker at Chef Zen is actually named Paolo and although his selection of sweets is thus far limited an early look shows promise of things to come. Featuring specialties ranging from France to Guam, with a fluffy American donut complete with natural blueberry glaze in between, my Chef Zen experience was in fact curated by the owner himself and taking his word on what was best the $6.95 order of five items featured none short of enticing, even the slightly oily apple fritter packing quite a few apples into a crispy and compact shell.

Steering away from more fried things, though ‘cronuts’ and empanadas were due to debut at eleven o’clock, it was onward to a duo of laminated baked pastries that my tasting next trended and although the blueberry croissant could have been more densely filled the cream cheese iteration was without fault – the flaky shell shattering to tooth as light savory notes arrived up front only to dissipate into a linger just a touch sweet.


Finishing up with a clamshell of Latiya, pronounced with a z-sound in place of y, the item was described to me as ‘pound cake beneath cinnamon custard’ and with the two textures vying for dominance while butter, cream, sugar plus cinnamon flooded the palate the explanation proved spot on – a heavy dish, no doubt, but unique despite familiar constituents while once again proving that the marriage of two delicious desserts can indeed be better than the sum of its parts.

THREE AND A HALF STARS: Still finding its footing inside the small storefront, and reportedly to soon feature more ethnic specialties alongside the small case of empanadas and young coconut pie, Chef Zen is the sort of place I look forward to revisiting in the near future, the raised n’ glazed donuts already amongst the best in the Valley while the customer service shines.

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RECOMMENDED: Latiya, Yeasted Blueberry Donut, Cream Cheese Croissant.


AVOID: Apple Fritter was a bit greasy, particularly noticeable as it was also undersized.

TIP: Open at 6am Seven Days per week with seasonal pies including pumpkin and pre-orders available those looking for baked goods to take to work, events, or holiday parties would be well advised to stop in as there is not yet a website, though the bakery can be reached at 725-777-8235.


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

Posted in Breakfast, Chef Zen, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

SkinnyFATS, Las Vegas NV




Chick-A-Waff-A-Dopolis – Fried Chicken Tenders over a buttermilk waffle

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One Eyed Monster – Brioche Bun Stuffed with Country Gravy, topped with Applewood Bacon and a fried egg


Drunken Monkey Cakes – 3 Pancakes, glazed bananas, whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate, Applewood Bacon


UnBRIElievable – Brioche French toast, brie, basil, strawberries, balsamic glaze

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Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Warm Oatmeal Cookie


Now open on Warm Springs Road with early morning hours starting at 7am it was finally on Saturday that curiosity led to breakfast at SkinnyFATS – a half-dozen item order that saw me seated next to owner Reed Slobusky as his front-of-house team of four worked diligently amidst newly refurbished digs of whimsically painted reclaimed wood rising high above concrete floors as tracks from Lorde played loud.


Expectedly the first patron of the day as the doors unlocked it was with a short explanation of the “Live Healthy, Live Happy” concept that I was greeted on entry and after piecing together an order to be delivered in two courses a table was selected – College Gameday projected on one wall while a flatscreen displayed the same for those soon to form a line.


Generally not one to dine-out healthy as my weekday consumption is essentially 100% ‘clean’ it was from the “Happy” side of the menu that breakfast began and with free WiFi plus an informative conversation with Mr. Slobusky helping to pass the time it was not long before the first round arrived; the juicy tenders atop a crisp yet pliable waffle pleasant yet predictable with pseudo-Maple syrup that unfortunately added little while the daily special “One Eyed Monster” proved a far more innovative concoction with smoky bacon adding just a bit of crunch to a breadbowl reinvention of traditional biscuits and gravy that likely won’t find its way onto the Healthy side of the menu anytime soon.


Moving on to more happy things as Reed discussed everything from On Strip expansion plans to Boylan’s line of soda, course two began with a triple stack of buttery pancakes beneath an pile of bananas, whip, marshmallows, and chocolate that entirely delicious even without the aforementioned ‘syrup,’ and once again eschewing any semblance of dietary discretion its tablemate UnBRIElievable would offer the best bites of meal with the eggy brioche proving impressively crisp around a core of molten cheese and fresh berries with while fresh basil and reduced Balsamic provided an aromatic finish that lingered on the lips.


FOUR STARS: Never one to invest in ‘quick casual’ or the kind to be caught off-guard craving a ‘healthy’ meal outside the home my appreciation of Mr. Slobusky’s concept hinges largely on the fact that SkinnyFATS is a bit of an anomaly in the growing trend of ‘quick and healthy dining that seems to be overtaking many local markets – not only because it is locally owned and operated, but also because it offers the sort of menu that is built to please all palates without seeming preachy or judgmental in the least.


RECOMMENDED: UnBRIElievable, One Eyed Monster, Oatmeal Cookie (served warm from the oven for $2 for those dining in)


AVOID: I simply cannot get over how many restaurants continue to take the cheap route regarding pancake syrup…it would be so simple to stock and offer small jars at a surcharge as they take up little room and have a nearly unlimited shelf-life.


TIP: The Cold-Pressed Juice Bar next door opens soon.


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

Skinnyfats on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, SkinnyFATS, Waffles

David Clawson Restaurant, Henderson NV


David Clawson Restaurant


canapé – salmon belly, wasabi, citrus, salt rock


amuse – uni, simulated sea water, seaweed


bread – milk bread, plugra butter, alaea red salt


soup – corn bisque, tomato, crab, chive

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mushroom – bruschetta, portobello, balsamic, feta cheese

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scallop – hokkaido, tamari, finger lime, tobiko


salad – hamachi, avocado, do chua, pomegranate


A Fleur D’Or 2011 Sauternes


liver – foie gras, pear, ginger, shallot jam


crab – jumbo lump cake, red pepper, basil


duck – leg confit, lemon, honey, blueberry


rice – niigata koshihikari, uni, salmon, reggiano cream


sausage – boudin blanc, apples, cider cream

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pork – Berkshire belly, achara, nashi pear


noodles – lo mein, garlic, more garlic

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chicken – organic, achiote, green chile, macaroni


shrimp – black tiger, corn, jicama, chorizo

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potato – Yukon gold, garlic, ham hock

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beef – tenderloin, sambal, balsamic, trumpet mushroom

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lamb – t-bone, shishito, olive, muhammara


cheese – truffle gouda, fig, marcona almond


cheese – epoisse, quince, honey


brûlée – bailey’s irish cream, blueberries, espresso biscotti


fruit – sticky apricot love, vanilla cream, rum toffee

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chocolate – crunchy praline, valrhona, tangerine

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truffle – white chocolate, basil, pistachio


Setting aside givens such as skill, sourcing, setting, and service it is oftentimes commitment and confidence that separates a ‘great’ restaurant from one that is simply ‘good,’ and on Saturday night it was in fact those two factors that introduced myself and a friend to the greatness of David Clawson Restaurant. Eponymously named for the Chef who cut his teeth at any number of the nation’s finest resorts and located inside a former strip-mall sushi bar way out in Anthem the David Clawson Restaurant experience begins with warm welcomes at the door and quickly whisked away to a Chef’s Counter seats amidst modest décor as light alt-rock played overhead it would be mere moments before service began – a light amuse of tender salmon belly atop a salt rock whetting appetites even before a menu was in hand.


A surprisingly casual space with jovial, well informed service provided by a young man named Shawn, it was with wide eyes and large appetites that we perused the menu and although minor changes have already occurred from that presented online it was to no lack of options that we were tempted, the eventual order entailing 22 individual items with canapé, amuse, and mignardise presenting twenty-five plates at a total of just under $240 before gratuity – many of the plates far larger than one would expect and all together a tremendous amount of food, much of it exceptional in many ways.

Deferring to the kitchen on order of arrival it was a creamy tongue of urchin bathed in brine that started our meal and beginning light before transitioning heavy the progression was well crafted while pacing was perfect, the lightly sweet bread and soup that followed both impressive with a crab-stuffed roast tomato assertively speaking to the end of summer with eloquence that bridged nicely to the smoky-sweet mushroom toast that followed.


Treated next to tender scallops atop sushi grade rice with citrus up-front it was onward to a hamachi salad brightened by pomegranate vinaigrette that things progressed and although the foie gras was not quite as creamy as one would have hoped atop tender pears the crab cake and confit that followed provided quick recovery to say the least, the former at least eighty percent sweet crustacean with gentle spice while the later was absolutely textbook as crackling skin gave way to tender, gamey flesh.

Occasionally at lack for course descriptions as the team worked at frenetic pace to keep up with what was apparently their busiest night yet it would be a nearly impossible task to decide whether creamy rice, house made boudin, pork belly, or handmade lo mein were most impressive of the plates that followed and although chicken proved overcooked and overwhelmed by cilantro the dishes that followed were an immediate return to form, the creamy potatoes particularly beautiful while I marveled at how Chef Clawson allowed the lamb’s funk to shine whereas so many other chef’s in the city opt to rein it in and render it similar to beef, a protein equally well prepared at the chef’s counter as sambal plus balsamic played a point and counterpoint game of heat and sweet.


At this point well sated but happy to enjoy more it was in a duo of nicely aged cheeses that we indulged and although I’d have preferred more time before desserts arrived the pastry kitchen proved just as excellent as the savory line with a delicate crème brûlée tinged in booze starting things off before “sticky apricot love” offered itself up as a contender for 2014’s best dessert, the steamy English classic reinvented with aromatic nuances adding balance to the intensely sweet sauce I soon found myself scooping up with a spoon.


Completing the evening with a duo of chocolates, the first a milky ganache atop dark feuilletine while the complimentary truffle served with the bill tickled the palate with herbal notes amidst a creamy base, it was with big smiles and graciousness for feedback that the team bid us farewell and with a long drive back to Summerlin to discuss the experience suffice it to say that a return visit is already in the works, a seasonal change in the menu the only thing holding us back.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Open for only five weeks, and just now finding its audience, David Clawson Restaurant is one of those rare places firing on all cylinders fresh from the gate. Admittedly following a ‘career greatest hits’ format so far, according to our server, it will be intriguing to see how the cuisine develops over time and particularly how the various omakase options evolve as word spreads. Already impressive, particularly given the skeleton crew of just Clawson and a sous-chef working the line while pastry is managed by a very talented young woman in her own regard, one can only hope that the quality remains high while the menu undergoes frequent change – the forty-five minute drive easily justified for an experience of this quality at such a great price.


RECOMMENDED: Crab, Duck, Fruit, Rice, Lamb, Potato, Scallop, Soup, Sausage

AVOID: Chicken was not only dry, but also overwhelmed by cilantro while the liver was slightly grainy, likely the only ‘sourcing’ flaw of the entire meal. Those sensitive to garlic would be well advised to skip the noodles, though they are excellent for everyone else. Of the desserts, chocolate was chocolate…order a second fruit…and a third.


TIP: Having communicated with the restaurant both before and during the meal in order to determine the format of the “Omygodse” $195 menu the best I could gather was that it includes smaller portions of every menu course plus “a few extras,” not particularly a bargain when you consider the fact that two persons sharing every plate on the menu clocks in at less cost-per-person, though for solo diners with the appetite the concept seems ideal, particularly with 2oz or 5oz beverage pours offered to pair with each, any, or every course at the diner’s discretion.

David Clawson Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Crab, David Clawson, David Clawson Restaurant, Dessert, Foie, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Truffle

Makers & Finders, Las Vegas NV


Makers & Finders Urban Coffee Bar

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Cold Brew

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Mango Caprese Arepa – Sliced Mango, Queso Fresco, Tomato, Balsamic with plantain chips

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Elvis Press – Sweet Croissant, Bacon, Peanut Butter, Nutella, Banana

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Ojaldras – Honey Orange Batter, Cinnamon Sugar, Lechera, Vanilla Ice Cream


Almost unabashedly targeting the hipster crowd with a clever name complete with ampersand it was just after lunch at El Sombrero Mexican Bistro that I entered Makers & Finders, the ‘urban coffee bar’ still in its soft opening phase just across Charleston on South Main Street and with a focus on roasters not yet featured in Sin City and a menu featuring loosely defined “Latin” cuisine the experience component still needs a little work, though the promise is great.


With owner, operator, and marketing folks working front of house while a team of three manned a small kitchen in back it was mere moments after crossing the outdoor patio and entering Makers & Finders glass door that I was greeted by a young man named Christian and seated along a wall with full view of the extensive coffee bar the service that followed was fun, informative, and efficient as can be – all questions answered and feedback sought on every item tasted throughout my nearly hour long stay.


Stripped down in décor with Botero posters lining the back walls as a mod-techno infused soundtrack filled the air it was with an clean, full-bodied cold-brew that the afternoon began and browsing free WiFi while a few already-regulars chatted at a table to my left it would not be long before the first of three plates arrived, an arepa with a piping hot bun so crisp that it could barely be cut with the flimsy flatware provided while the flavor of crisp fruit, vibrant tomatoes, and mild cheese tinged in balsamic was anything but meek – a restrained sweetness added to the Italian classic and a perfect option for vegetarians and those looking for something healthy and fresh.


Moving onward to things more sinful it was perhaps good fortune for Makers & Finders that I am not, in fact, a vegetarian as the whimsical “Elvis Press” was described on the menu with no mention of bacon and although I was admittedly underwhelmed by the doughy croissant – something the restaurant would be well advised to remedy via quick consult to Chef Ogasawara at Sweets Raku, perhaps – the constituents within were again pleasant, the crisp pork offsetting decidedly sweet flavors as molten hazelnut spread and peanut butter made the composition more fork and knife friendly than the sort of thing eaten by hand.


Still sipping the coffee while debating a caramel or honey infused espresso it was not long before a final plate of Ojaldras arrived and having never tasted this dish, thus with no precedent to judge, all I can say is that the crisply fried strips were excellent beneath a veil of citrus-kissed honey while “seasonal” vanilla bean ice cream was icy and inert, another outsourcing job to be considered…in this case a job for the team at Art of Flavors, or perhaps another ‘unique’ purveyor not yet featured in the Las Vegas market as it is with the focus of the brew.


TWO AND A HALF STARS: At this point an imperfect vision tucked amidst the unique antique shops on Main Street there is little doubt that Makers & Finders is apt to grow with experience and time, the team obviously interested in the customer experience while the menu aspires to things far more interesting than the typical soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastries popularized by large chains. Not yet ready to take on spots like Sambalatte or Grouchy John’s but obviously much more convenient to the hip-urban crowd it will be interesting to see how this project develops, the brewery next door another clear sign of the direction downtown continues to progress.

RECOMMENDED: Cold Brew, Mango Caprese Arepa, Ojaldras minus the ice cream.


AVOID: The croissants are no better than store-bought versions wrapped in cellophane, and although I informed the team of the menu mistake regarding the Elvis Press those with dietary discretions would be advised to pay attention – the Queso Fresco apparently originally listed as Buffalo Mozzarella when the restaurant originally opened its doors.

TIP: Still in its soft opening phases with limited hours starting at 11:30am, Makers & Finders will open for full service starting at 7am beginning in December, hopefully with all kinks worked out and ready to shine.


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

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Makers & Finders, Makers and Finders, Nevada, Pork

El Sombrero Mexican Bistro, Las Vegas NV


El Sombrero

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Housemade chips and salsa


Sangria Trio – Blushing Senorita: Watermelon, Lime, Mint, Rose / Roja: Red Apples, Orange Wedges, Strawberries, Red Wine / Blanco: Orange, Green Apples, Bay Leaf, Chardonnay


Quesillo Fondue Mexicano – Mexican Cheeses, Hormiga Sauce, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Flour Tortillas

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Spicy Calamari a la brasa – Squid Ink, Citrus Jalapeno charbroiled calamari


Parrilladas Del Patron- Grilled Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, Costillitas, Mexican Cream Corn, Portabellos, Papas Criollas with Ancho Chile Steak Sauce, Chimichurri Sauce, Hormiga Sauce


Tamal de Pollo – braised and seasoned shredded chicken, roasted garlic creamy tomatillo sauce


Mole Semana Santa – Roasted Chicken in traditional Mexican spicy Chocolate Sauce


Bread Pudding – dulce de leche


Re-inventing Las Vegas’ former ‘oldest restaurant’ into an upscale “bistro” helmed by Chef Oscar Sanchez it was with high hopes of Latin cuisine rivaling that found in New Mexico or Arizona that plans were made to dine at El Sombrero and although a rude welcome by the woman who turned out to be the restaurant’s owner put an early damper on the experience the food, service, and setting that followed were nothing short of first-rate. Joined by two others, one well known to the restaurant, for a lunch beginning just shy of noon it was amidst the cozy modernized confines of a room suited for less than fifty that the meal commenced and with free-flowing tortillas hot and crisp from the kitchen flanked by aromatic salsa not overburdened by heat a strong attention to detail was obvious from the start.


Generally underwhelmed by Sangria, but told that El Sombrero’s was far better than the average grog, a ‘one of each’ sampling immediately proved the point as bright balance and bold aromatics nuanced each of the infusions and with a duo of strong starters soon to arrive the dominant fruit tones were a welcomed refresher between bites – the creamy Quesillo offering subtle hints of smoke when matched to the Roja while tender ringlets of squid bathed in a murky broth teaming with citrus and spice proved every bit the ‘signature’ starter that many have claimed – a similar paella presentation apparently offered for special events immediately piquing interest for a future visit with several other options offered for groups as large as sixteen.


Transitioning next to a platter of meats traditionally offered only at dinner suffice it to say that the Parrilladas Del Patron is more than enough to feed two assuming starters are ordered and although the pork short ribs proved a bit too fatty to be fully enjoyed both of the beef options were impressively tender and spiced only enough to let the quality of the meet shine – a similar compliment offered to tender mushrooms while sides of crispy potatoes, tender beans, and pan-scalded corn in light cream were no less than superb.

Certainly a bigger fan of tamales than either of my dining buddies, albeit a bit let down that the restaurant was currently out of brisket, there is no doubt in my mind that Oscar’s Tamal de Pollo is the least heavy-handed I’ve tasted to date and with garlic tinged tomatillo sauce melding nicely to the sweet corn it was the roasted chicken that truly made the plate shine, a statement almost equally well suited to the tender-roast bird beneath the sort of mole uncommonly seen at all but the most authentic of spots, a ‘dirty’ dark sauce teaming with spice with only the slightest cocoa linger as opposed to the sugar-sweet chocolate syrup popularized by more Americanized spots.


Finishing the afternoon with the restaurant’s only daily dessert, a pleasant bread pudding with silky-soft texture doused in dulce de leche, it was once again here that Chef Sanchez arrived tableside to make sure all was well and with compliments and thanks paid to the chef and servers any lamenting the closure of the original El Sombrero should find consolation in the fact that sometimes the right team really can teach an old dog some new tricks.

FOUR STARS: Apparently mistaking me for some sort of fool, competitor, or otherwise unwelcomed person I still cannot get over just how accusatory the tone of owner Irma Aguirre was when I was seen taking pictures in the parking lot, nor how her tone changed when our VIP friend joined. Using the explanation that she could “provide professional photos” as there were “a lot of people coming by and uploading lousy pictures because the place was so new” I’d suggest anyone so sensitive to such things immediately implement a no-photos policy and stop reading the reviews as somewhat higher-than-average prices are unlikely to set well with everyone, no matter how good ingredients or food.


RECOMMENDED: Spicy Calamari a la brasa, Bread Pudding, Mole Semana Santa, Cream Corn.

AVOID: Pork Short Ribs were too tough and the rice accompanying each plate was largely forgettable compared to other sides which ranged from good to truly exemplary.


TIP: Currently offering paella only for private events and on Wednesday nights with a small selection of breakfast items available on weekends Chef Sanchez promised several surprises, specials, and menu evolutions to come, though hopefully the social media will broadcast these things in advance since the website is as yet unfinished, at best.

El Sombrero on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Dessert, El Sombrero, El Sombrero Mexican Bistro, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Kailyn’s Diner, Las Vegas NV


Kailyn’s Diner



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High Roller Tots – Kalbi, Cheddar, Green Onions

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Blueberry Pancakes – Daily Special

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Strawberry Loaded French toast with cream cheese and whipped cream

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Deep Fried Cookie Dough with Bacon

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

Thus far missed for breakfast due to its distant location, an 8am table for three at Kailyn’s Diner was selected this Saturday largely because its owner, Robert, decided to suggest his business during a conversation about ‘best off strip breakfasts’ on Yelp – a non-promotional, non-‘comped’ move that seemed bold enough to justify the twenty-two minute drive to 3430 East Tropicana. Small in size and cute in décor with Robert manning the griddle while his wife, Carolyn, acted as the restaurant’s lone server it was from a large menu full of breakfast standards tinged in whimsy along with a few specials that we made our selections, and opting to dine in three courses while sipping hot coffee the results were mostly impressive while prices trended low.


Admittedly lamenting the lack of sweeteners aside from Sweet-n-Low or granulated sugar to improve somewhat acrid brew our first round came as a duo and while the High Roller Tots were golden-crisp beneath a balanced blend of cheese, beef, and onion the more impressive plate was a duo of biscuits sans country gravy, a buttery base permeating the rich crumb for $1.95 – a veritable bargain in a city where good biscuits are for lack and often $2 each.

Progressing to things more ‘breakfasty,’ our second round arrived piping hot from the griddle and although ‘loaded’ French Toast was underwhelming with doughy bread quickly becoming soggy from strawberry cream cheese, glaze, and Redi-whip the ‘daily special’ pancakes showed far better with bursting blueberries in plethora amidst airy buttermilk batter, the use of artificial syrup always a pet-peeve, though perhaps understandable at the low cost of $5.95 for a full stack.


Moving last to ‘dessert,’ obviously a must at any breakfast, our meal concluded with vegetarian-Carolyn’s deep-fried cookie dough with bacon alongside a steamy slab of pumpkin bread pudding and while the cookie dough was perhaps a bit too sweet with little added by chopped pork the bread pudding was faultless, a dense custard base with plenty of spice and enough nuance to the intensely sweet prevent it from being heavy-handed – a perfect taste of fall, no matter how ‘played’ the pumpkin spice trend has become.

THREE STARS: Every bit the ‘mom n’ pop’ operation, with daughter (and restaurant namesake) Kailyn busying herself with a computer at a table in back, Kailyn’s Diner is the sort of place unlikely to attract the typical tourist but with surprisingly large menu of options running the gamut of breakfast and lunch it is also the sort of place where regulars are the rule, a good sign of consistency and customer service often lacking at any number of spots on The Strip.


RECOMMENDED: Biscuits, High Roller Tots, Bread Pudding.

AVOID: Loaded French Toast.


TIP: Frequently offering discounts through social media those interested in checking out Kailyn’s at an even bigger bargain than that offered by their already affordable menu would be well advised to check facebook or LivingSocial.

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

Kailyns Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Kailyn’s Diner, Kailyn’s Kitchen, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork

Donut Tyme, Las Vegas NV


Donut Tyme

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Pumpkin Cake

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Crumb Cake

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Apple Fritter

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Buttermilk Bar

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Sour Cream Old Fashioned

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Blueberry Cake


Open 24/7 in a nondescript strip-mall at 4268 East Charleston with a mantra of “Making mouthful of happy moments” an early morning stop at Donut Tyme was largely a result of my inability to sleep in on Saturdays and with a sixteen mile run already under my belt with breakfast plans at eight o’clock a 6:35am arrival proved perfectly timely, the morning’s fresh options emerging from the fryer just a few minutes before I entered the front door.


Clearly a local’s spot with regulars proving the rule as nearly every patron’s order was already known to the friendly clerk on their arrival it was only after a few questions, easily managed despite language barriers, that a half dozen was ordered and with the $4.95 tab paid and laptop in hand the next hour was spent in sugary indulgence while perusing the internet via free WiFi for information on the Kings and Buckeyes games later that night.

Entirely ignoring yeasted options in favor of the cake based classics by which any donut shop should be judged it was with a seasonal pumpkin ring that the tasting began and with surprisingly restrained glaze and a supple center without a hint of grease the nutmeg notes of spice shined, a similar lightness found in streusel-topped crumb selection with a slightly less dense cake beneath a similar lacquer of sweetness that acted to balance a substantial compliment of cinnamon that otherwise could have easily been ‘too much.’


Moving next to blueberry, obviously artificial but tasty none the less, it was a small fritter into which I next sank my teeth and although a bit less ‘apple’ than I’d have personally preferred the crispy shellac over soft batter was virtually oilless, an impressive feat for any bakery to overcome such a common complaint.

Hoping for a ‘best for last finish’ with two personal favorites following the fritter it would be difficult for any local bakery to outperform the high standards set by the buttermilk bar at Sunrise Too and although Donut Tyme admittedly came close despite over glazing this particular piece it was the Sour Cream Old-Fashioned that effortlessly stole the show, a smooth and rich finish to the delicate base with light sourness that rose to the palate as initial sugary notes faded on the tongue.


FOUR STARS: Clearly overlooked, likely in part due to location, but executing well across the board Donut Thyme is the sort of place many would claim ‘doesn’t exist’ in Nevada – a 24-hour donut parlor on par with the likes of those in California and easily a rival to Real or Friendly for ‘best overall’ in the 702.


RECOMMENDED: Sour Cream Old Fashioned, Cinnamon Crumb, Apple Fritter for those who find more fruited versions too oily.


AVOID: Those seeking a textbook blueberry cake donut would be well served to visit Donut Hut instead while those who need a bit more fruit in their fritter at the expense of more apples would be well advised to travel out to Friendly, though the version at Real Donuts on Charleston is excellent as well.


TIP: Cruller fans may be interested to know that Donut Tyme makes these tough-to-find treats via advanced order only, the elderly gentleman sitting at the table across from me proclaiming them to be the best he’s ever tasted, though I have the feeling he may have been biased as he chatted chummily with the owners nearly non-stop throughout his stay.


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

Donut Time on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Donut Tyme, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Las Vegas NV


Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar

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Honey Badger – Aviation Gin + Belle Poire + Apple Juice + Lemon + Thai Basil + Cardamom Honey

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Charcuterie – Vacherin Mont D’Or, Heritage Pork Rillette, Country Terrine, Truffle Honey, Balsamic Crème, Raisin Walnut Toast

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FG&J – Foie Gras Mousse + Virginia Peanuts + Housemade Jelly

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Baked Ricotta – Truffle Honey + Black Pepper + Gouda

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Carbonara Wood Oven Flatbread – Panchetta + Soft Poached Egg + Onion

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Roasted Squash – Burrata Cheese + Brown Butter Nut Granola

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Lobster Polenta – White Corn + Mascarpone + Chives


Tuna Carpaccio – Avocado + Meyer Lemon + Jalapeno

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Scallop Tartare – Plum Vinegar + Basil + Grapefruit

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Charred Octopus – Smoked Potatoes + Rocket + Chorizo Aioli


Harvest Quinoa Salad – Chickpea + Apple + Gouda + Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Espresso on Ice

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Peanut Butter Lava Cake – Butterscotch + Roasted Banana + Brown Butter Ice Cream


Butterscotch Pudding – Cookie Butter Crunch + Whipped Cream

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Blood Orange Sherbet


Filling an enormous footprint at Red Rock Resort and Casino with urban-rustic décor, flatscreen televisions, and an open kitchen alongside a sizable raw bar, Light Group’s Hearthstone represents the company’s first off-Strip Las Vegas venture and with Brian Massie overseeing the restaurant’s launch the residents of Summerlin should take notice as the future of innovative dining options in the masterplanned community may depend on it. Every bit the trendy spot, but comfortable with several seating options and a soundtrack ranging from Taylor Swift to The Doors, the experience at Hearthstone begins with vibe and featuring a staff already exceedingly well trained and exuberant in their discussion of the food and drink the large menu is the sort that could just as easily seen in Chicago, Los Angeles, or even New York – a wide selection of shared plates, snacks, cheese, and charcuterie alongside a few ‘entrees’ and desserts.

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Seated at a raised leather booth, overlooking the kitchen where Massie and his team worked non-stop in front of wood burning ovens turning out pie after pie, it was in a selection of housemade charcuteries, spreads, and bread from Bon Breads that the meal began and with both the rillette and ricotta truly standout alongside truffled honey as well as reduced balsamic cream the “FGJ” only found its footing after being allowed fifteen minutes to warm up, the texture then smooth enough to spread athough the accompanying brioche had long since cooled down. Sipping the well balanced and whimsical “Honey Badger” as I awaited round two, it would not be long before a flatbread and two sides arrived and with a well blistered crust bolstering the flavor profile of cracked pepper, onions, and pork beneath an egg added tableside the only thing that prevented me from devouring the whole “Carbonara” immediately was the quality of the sides, a creamy low-bowl of polenta teaming with butter poached lobster while the squash was a perfect taste of autumn – a substantial plate for $7 and perhaps the best bites of the night.


At this point quite sated it was an unexpected surprise that the team opted to send out a few more items to try and although I cannot say the tuna did much for me as I generally find the fish to be quite boring, the scallop tartare was absolutely silken in texture with a bold hit of acid up front and light heat on the finish. Rounding out the savories with a salad far more interesting than I’d have guessed and charred octopus no less fabulous than that at Carnevino atop an admixture of brine and smoke it was onward to dessert that the meal progressed and although the apple tart was already sold out the highly recommended pudding and seemingly overplayed ‘lava cake’ both showed strongly, neither exceedingly sweet and the cake especially remarkable when the crowd-pleasing center poured forth with a flavor of pure roasted peanuts and bananas rather than some sugary concoction that could have unbalanced the whole plate.


FOUR STARS: Declined any form of a check and thus presenting an uncomfortable situation where I emptied the limited cash in my wallet in order to compensate the stellar service I’d originally considered reserving my opinions for a second visit, but evaluating the cuisine and experience as objectively as I can I’ll simply say that Hearthstone has the potential to be very special, particularly given its location. As yet still finding its footing and offering a menu that seems a bit ‘everything to everyone’ it will be very interesting to see how Light Group tries to bring locals out to Red Rock for such a large and aggressive concept, but with plans for daily specials and prices trending far lower than similar spots on the strip I’d suggest that the average couple could easily compose a great meal here for less than $100 by focusing on small plates and come away very happy, the well-culled charcuterie selection and a cocktail also presenting an option for those looking for an after-work hangout or a light bite before a night out.


RECOMMENDED: Baked Ricotta, Rillettes, Roasted Squash, Quinoa Salad, Octopus, Lava Cake.


AVOID: The tuna was the only plate I did not enjoy, but those with dietary limitations would be well advise to ask about individual item preparations as unannounced items often appear, the jalapenos on the scallops or the capers amidst the octopus both with potential to ‘ruin’ a dish for someone overly sensitive to heat or brine.


TIP: Although not a wine drinker I’m told the list is excessively overpriced at Hearthstone, the top-shelf $12 cocktails perhaps a better value for those choosing to imbibe while several craft beers including 8 drafts range from $6-8.


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

Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Hearthstone, Hearthstone Kitchen, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Octopus, Pizza, Pork, Truffle