Canonita, Las Vegas NV

image197

Canonita

image127 image126

Margarita Trio – Canonita with Patron Silver and Gran Marnier / Jalapeno with Monte Alban Tequila Silver infused with Jalapeno, Orange, Cilantro / Pineapple with Monte Alban and Cointreau infused with Pineapple and Tahitian Vanilla Bean

image155 image157

Non-alcoholic Trio – Cucumber Melon-Tini, Prickly Pear Juice, Horchata

image132 image138

Warm Tortilla Chips with Guacamole, Spicy Salsa, Smoky Salsa

image142 image141

Roasted Mussels and Shrimp Skillet – Tequila, pasilla Oaxacan Sauce, Housemade Chorizo

image143 image145

Queso Fundido with jalapenos and flour tortillas

image146 image150

Tuna Ceviche Tostada with Ahi, Red Onion, Lime, Avocado, Cilantro, Serrano Pesto / Posole Verde with hominy, diced pork, green chile, tomatillos, oregano, cabbage, red radish / Chorizo Gordita with lettuce, pico de gallo, queso fresco, escabeche

image151 image153

Patzcuaro Duck Relleno – Canela and orange duck confit, savory manchamantel sauce, Mexican crema

image159 image160

Toluca Portobello Mushrooms – Roasted Portobello, Tomato-fennel sauce, seared greens, cilantro pesto, black beans

image161 image162

Wild Mushroom Enchiladas – Poblano cream sauce, white rice, borracho beans, pico de gallo

image166 image170 image165

Santa Rosa Pork Barbacoa – Cilantro Rice, Black Beans, Chipotle barbecue sauce with corn tortillas

image172 image171

Shrimp & Mussels Moqueca with calamari, white rice, peas, carrots, coconut aji Amarillo sauce

image174 image176

Carne Asada Nortena – Outside Skirt Steak, Sweet Corn Tamales, Roasted Serranos, garlic, lime, cilantro

image187image178

Iced Double Espresso

image179 image181

Tres Leches – Sponge Cake soaked in three milks, fresh strawberries, strawberry coulis, Italian Meringue

image182 image183

Warm Chocolate Brownie – Chocolate-cinnamon Brownie, Vanilla Ice Cream, Cajeta, Candied Pecans

image185 image184

Coffee Flan – Patron XO coffee, Piloncillo syrup

image124 image131

Invited to a special afternoon tasting by General Manager Annaliza McKinney, and Robert Menefee of sister-restaurant Aquaknox, it was an unfortunate effect of earlier plans and traffic that saw me arrive late to lunch at canal-side Canonita, but finding my friend out front chatting with the hostess as well as Annaliza herself my welcome could not have been warmer, the two of us led swiftly to the best two-top in the house, mere inches from the gondola filled waters.

image122

Told that the Chef would be cooking for us, but offering up menus in case something specific struck our eye, it was with gracious tableside service from a middle-aged Hispanic gentleman that the afternoon commenced and with a jokey sort of professionalism guiding us through the afternoon one really could not have asked for better, Northeastern-born but Border Grill educated Chef Donna Willey also stopping by frequently to discuss her inspiration and training, as well as techniques implemented in more than a dozen plates plus two trios of drinks.

image129

Undoubtedly a ‘touristy’ setting, the views of artificial sky alongside the canal juxtaposing traditional Mexican decorations within the restaurant’s confines, it was with a trio of Margaritas and chips rewarmed from an outside source that the dining began and finding both the green salsa and Jalapeno Infusion far too poignant for my tastes it was on the Vanilla tinged pineapple cocktail and guacamole that I focused, the former a formidable refresher with alcohol well balanced by the fruit while the later was rather dull without a bit of the chipotle salsa added to taste.

image188

At this point ready to see what the kitchen could do, tables around us receiving all sorts of divine looking plates, it was perhaps ten minutes later that a sizzling cast-iron skillet arrived and with the smell of smoke quickly filling the air it was only once things finally cooled down that we finally had a chance to indulge in the snappy butterflied shrimp, meaty mussels, and housemade chorizo teaming with spice, each taste as good as the last with a second dish of queso fundido proving most fortuitous in timing as the still-bubbling cheese topped in jalapenos was a bit timid on its own, but a near-perfect addition when spread on flour tortillas with some of the seafood piled on top.

image189

Here requesting service be slowed as our sizable two-top was already filled to capacity with plates, glasses, and utensils it was next to a trio of the Chef’s signature appetizers that we were treated and progressing left to right one would be hard pressed to cite a single bite as less than superlative – the ceviche showing clean acidity alongside its accoutrements while the Pozole was equally well balanced and intensely vegetal, the ‘gordita’ a lightly fried set of bites that was at once bold yet nuanced, creamy but acidic, and entirely greaseless with just the right amount of heat.

image191

Obviously unable to forgo anything stuffed with duck, plus generally fancying most things featuring mushrooms, the next three plates were served in slow succession and although the cinnamon tinged fowl stuffed inside a smoky pepper was indeed quite good it was in fact the fungus that saw me swoon, both the black bean laminated Portobello bathed in fennel tomato sauce and the signature enchiladas showing a deft hand with quality produce, Chef Willey’s time at Border Grill undoubtedly well spent.

image192

Now progressing towards heavier proteins, plus an entirely unexpected Brazilian fish stew, suffice it to say that while the Carne Asada struck me as something I could have just as easily had anywhere both the Barbacoa and Moqueca were amongst the very best bites of the meal, the former brightly spiced and easily cut with a spoon before being added to corn tortillas to form makeshift tacos while the later was a seamless marriage of sea and sweet with coconut milk playing foil to notes of spice that only became evident after a satisfied breath between bites.

image193

Moving onward to desserts, originally offered two but eventually seeing three, it was with a double espresso over ice that the meal would come to an end and although personal preferences obviously have much to do with all things in dining one would be challenged to find a better tres leches in town, the fully saturated sponge entirely sweet yet finding levity in strawberries and meringue, while both the brownie and the flan were also quite good – the former obviously quite hefty while the latter proved far lighter than other versions offered in town, the XO just boozy enough to give it some kick while the unrefined sugar syrup helped soften the blow.

image194

UNABLE TO FAIRLY RATE DUE TO COMP, BUT THREE AND A HALF STARS BASED ON FOOD ALONE: Clearly given the VIP treatment, and as such sampling a far greater swath of the menu than the average duo possibly could, the food that Chef Willey is creating at Canonita is at once almost universally approachable yet at the same time bold and complicated in a way that few other Casino-based ethnic restaurants would dare. Admittedly underwhelmed by more routine plates like guacamole, queso fundido, as well as carne asada and still perplexed as to why the restaurant would outsource something like tortilla chips when executing more complex items so well there is no doubt that a great meal can be had at Canonita by those willing to venture away from the tried and true, particularly when taking into account the vibe and the view.

image195

RECOMMENDED: Chorizo Gordita, Toluca Portobello Mushrooms, Shrimp & Mussels Moqueca, Santa Rosa Pork Barbacoa, Tres Leches.

AVOID: Guacamole, Carne Asada Nortena.

image196

TIP: Now offering breakfast at 8am, a limited menu featuring at least one daily special, with the all-day menu beginning at 11am. Reservations available via Opentable, though walk-ins are always welcome.

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

http://canonita.com/

Taqueria Canonita on Urbanspoon

Posted in Canonita, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Gelato Messina, Las Vegas NV

image070

Gelato Messina – Private Event

image076

Iced Coffee

image087

Latte

image093 image094

Cremino – Salted Caramel Gelato, Crushed Amaretti Biscuits, Soft Meringue and Nutella Brulee

image096 image097

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich – Brioche Gelato, Peanut Butter Mousse, Blackberry Jam

image114 image117

Zuppa Duppa – Marsala Soaked Sponge, Strawberry Sorbet, Vanilla Crème Chantilly

image112 image111

Fresh Churned Gelato

image080 image082

Samples – All 40

image118 image121

To-Go Pint: Italian Nougat, Elvis The Fat Years, Poached Figs in Marsala

image071 image075

Invited to join a dozen others at a Media Event celebrating the Grand Opening of Australia’s Gelato Messina at Downtown Summerlin it was just prior to 11am that I entered the newly minted space, and greeted by a duo of Public Relations folks including one straight from Sydney the 90 minutes that followed can best be described as an educational event with plenty of samples and stories to help ‘sell’ a brand that is undoubtedly committed to doing things right.

image072 image074

Officially the Gelataria’s first American Outpost, the built-to-spec space occupying a large footprint at the heart of the recently opened shopping center, a first look at Gelato Messina is likely to see most visitors quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of flavors and with a large Las Vegas themed mural overseeing a space featuring high ceilings and clean lines the question quickly becomes which of the forty gelatos to try, the samples offered with no limit to those willing to ask and the smiling young men and women behind the counter surprisingly well educated about the product in a city where so many other spots are happy to ‘mail it in.’

image079 image081

Seated in the back of the space, across from a window where the team could be seen pasteurizing, churning, and preparing with the sort of tools one might associate with Home Depot or Lowe’s, it was first with stories of the shop’s Aussie origins and dedication to quality ingredients that our visit began and perusing Messina’s recipe book as we listened one could not help but be impressed by the tradition or passion, even the coffee crafted to match the quality of things on the other side of the planet with sourcing ‘only the best’ products, whether local or not, stressed in each thought.

image084 image100

Offered a number of prepped items, including the brûléed Cremino and whimsical PB&J while we watched the head Chef prepare one of the restaurant’s Black Forest gelato cakes from beginning to end, it was after both a mild iced coffee and an ethereal latte that a sampling of the cabinet was finally offered and with thirty-five signatures alongside five weekly-rotating specials offered I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take advantage in trying them all, the risk of palate fatigue briefly considered but thankfully never becoming an issue due to the extremely light milk-fat content which never allowed the tongue to become coated or compromised.

image085

Obviously sporting a huge variety of flavors, some perfectly run-of-the-mill with other offering far more intrigue, suffice it to say that there is something for everyone at Gelato Messina and running the gamut from milky Italian Nougat to bold Chocolate Fondant the question really becomes one of where the visitor’s passion lies, each fruit sorbet a spot on translation of the real deal while items like the Bacon and Pancake studded “Porky’s Revenge” or elegant Apple Pie are studded with baked goods made in house.

image098

Offered the gift of a tiny tin featuring a rich biscuit base beneath a grown up ‘strawberry sundae’ concoction like those offered in plastic cups when I was a kid, as well as a trio of flavors packed into a temperature resistant pint on departure, it was admittedly a tough choice to decide which three had stirred my mind the most but with the Nougat an obvious choice I eventually settled on “Elvis The Fat Years” and “Poached Figs in Marsala” as the others…though the pitch-perfect Pistachio, smooth Coconut & Lychee, bitter-sweet Blood Orange Sorbet, and Gianduia Bianca all warranted serious consideration, to say the least.

image113

FOUR AND A HALF STARS:  Paying nothing for the experience, save for a tip to the scoopers placed in the can atop the glass case, I’m more than comfortable saying that Gelato Messina is immediately the best Gelato in town with the recent closure of Art of Flavors and although prices trend higher than other local scoop shops the amount of time, quality, and craft going into the production cannot be overlooked – a ‘get what you pay for’ experience with almost everything made on the premises.

image108

RECOMMENDED:  Look, decide what sounds good to you, sample it, sample some more, sample some more, then order something.

AVOID:  Tasting off the wooden sticks as they taint the flavor of anything with nuts, request plastic spoon samples.

image110

TIP:  Open 11a-11p Seven Days a Week, those interested in purchasing a gelato cake are advised to call in advance, though several of the whimsical creations are reportedly immediately available to go from cold storage.

http://www.gelatomessina.com

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

Gelato Messina on Urbanspoon

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Food, Gelato Messina, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Tiramisu

Real Donuts, North Las Vegas NV

image047

Real Donuts North Las Vegas

image063 image064

Large Apple Fritter

image060 image061

Old Fashioned

image054 image056

Buttermilk Bar

image066 image068

Bear Claw

image057 image059

Crumb Cake

image051

Located in North Las Vegas with the sort of dingy confines that makes one wonder exactly how the place has remained in business for so long it was late-morning when I stopped in to Real Donuts on East Lake Mead, and fortunate to find a new batch of fried treats immerging fresh from the kitchen as I arrived a $6 order was placed, the lone English speaking clerk providing excellent service and explaining a number of the Hispanic baked goods to me, as well, until a few more patrons arrived.

image050

Eschewing boxes in favor of bags, and as such sort of haphazardly packing my quintet of donuts with a wad of napkins, it was at a small table in the narrow space that I sat to enjoy and with several families filtering in and out the doors throughout the fifteen-minutes that followed an answer to the earlier proposed question arose, almost every person that entered greeted as a regular with several on a first name basis grabbing a dozen or more colorful pan dulce to go.

image049

Happy to find three of my five selections still-warm to the touch it was with the buttermilk bar that the tasting began and eating only halves to preserve room for a long day of eating I immediately knew restraint would be a challenge, the simple glaze not over applied and thus allowing the tangy interior to shine, a similar sort of experience offered by the sour cream old fashioned that followed – each bite melting on the tongue until the whole cog-wheel was gone.

image067

Finding a great deal of disappointment in the Bear Claw, a doughy yeasted 12oz belly-bomb that was questionably fresh with sickeningly sweet apple pie filling inside, it was after only a small bite that the rest was discarded and somewhat returning to form with a soft cinnamon round topped in sugary crumbles it was with the the ‘jumbo’ apple fritter that the experience finished, the exterior not quite as crisp as the superlative versions at Ace or Friendly but the pillow-soft interior rife with cinnamon and large pockets of sugar-soaked fruit and not a hint of grease.

image048

TWO AND A HALF STARS: Not exactly in the nicest part of town, nor to be mistaken for the doughnuttery of a similar name on West Charleston, Real Donuts of North Las Vegas is another mom ‘n pop spot worth checking out for those in the area, the donuts themselves nothing that cannot be found better elsewhere but the popular Mexican pastries perhaps worth a second look.

RECOMMENDED: Buttermilk Bar, Sour Cream Old Fashioned

AVOID: Bear Claw

TIP: Cash only with no restroom and minimal seating, those looking for a place to linger over coffee are advised to look elsewhere.

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

Real Donuts on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, North Las Vegas, Real Donut, Real Donuts

PublicUS, Las Vegas NV

image003

PublicUS

image017 image018

Kivu Kigeyo, Rwanda – Pourover Coffee

image028 image034

Vanilla Glazed Butter Croissant

image032

Brown Butter Banana Bread

image029 image045

Mixed Berry Muffin

image026 image042

Blueberry Cream Cheese Scone with Lemon Zest

image031 image046

Brookie – Fudge Brownie Cookie, Balsamic Toffee Filling

image019 image020 image024

Brioche French Toast – Apple Butter, Caramelized Bananas, Bourbon Syrup

image035 image037

Beignets ‘Inspired Toast’ – Berry Jam, Cereal Milk Spread, Granola Cluster, Cantaloupe

image038 image040

Pear ‘Inspired Toast’ – Banana Jam, Almond Butter, Pecan Crusted Grapes

image005 image010

Still in a ‘soft opening’ phase, and located on the far end of ever gentrifying East Fremont, it was admittedly with baited breath that I’d watched PublicUS tumblr site ever since the restaurant was announced and as pictures and reviews began to spring up thanks to good words from John Curtas an early morning visit was planned, a quick message sent to Pastry Chef Hemant Kishore seeing the young Chef sit with me throughout my hour-long stay discussing things from the local food scene to his Southern Indian heritage, CIA Training, and inspiration behind each baked good.

image006 image009

Expansive in size, bathed in sunlight, and specked with handmade seating alongside live plants, it was just prior to 7am that I entered publicUS and finding Hemant just having laid out the daily bread while a few older men sipped coffee it was with wide eyes that I looked upon the somewhat limited offerings, and although the five pastries behind glass would inevitably end up part of the order my interest was even further piqued by a large breakfast menu – three more made-to-order options delivered to the table by still-green service shortly after a cup of rich single origin pour-over.

image004 image016

Speaking to Hemant as I tucked in, it was logically with warm items that the tasting began, and with the croissant shell shattering after slight flex a vast cavern of buttery aromatics poured forth, the use of quality European product obvious to anyone familiar while the light vanilla sugar glaze tickled the tongue without overwhelming one bit.

image013 image014

Next delivered the French Toast, a textbook Brioche that may be the menu’s best bargain at $6 for two thick slices, those interested in custard-centered iterations of the dish will be happy to know the PublicUS kitchen is making one of Sin City’s best while the caramelized bananas used both here and in the cardamom heavy banana bread showed great depth of flavor, particularly when drenched by a pot of boozy maple syrup.

image011

Impressed by a scone that would likely confuse a proper Englishman while wowing most American palates with an interior softened by cream cheese it was next to the muffin that my tasting turned, and with an almost pudding-soft interior beneath a lightly browned top the bakery’s best item was found, each bursting berry adding vibrant levity to all the butter, though a ‘light’ breakfast this stump-less round most certainly is not.

image015

Underwhelmed by the $5.50 ‘toasts,’ first off by how thin the housemade sourdough was sliced when considering the fact that a whole loaf can be had for $6, and then by the fact that they took nearly twenty minutes to make and still arrived cold, suffice it to say that PublicUS has a good idea going with the texturally compelling “Beignet” while the pears and almond butter were unfortunately lost amidst the sweet-savory goat cheese crusted grapes of “Pear,” the final bites of ‘brookie’ proving a far better investment as the brownie textured sandwich was delicate yet intense, the vinegar tinged toffee center something I’d gladly have jarred to drizzle on ice cream, or to spread on a more substantial piece of the sourdough bread.

image008

THREE AND A HALF STARS:  Still finding their footing, but clearly a place with big plans plus a team seemingly ready and willing to do things right, PublicUS is a welcome addition to a city long-marred by a lack of innovative artisan baking.  Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an immense parking lot directly next door it will be interesting to see how things develop over the coming months, though I doubt it will take me that long to return considering the bread pudding offered as lunch and dinner dessert.

RECOMMENDED:  Mixed Berry Muffin, Brioche French Toast, Croissant, Brookie.

AVOID:  Inspired Toasts need work.  No matter how high the ingredient quality neither the quantity nor execution justified $5.50 each, the total comprising nearly 1/4 of my tab.

image025

TIP:  Open at 6am for coffee and pastry with breakfast beginning at 7am and lunch tipping off at 11a, those looking for their PublicUS fix later in the day will be happy to know that despite early hours the spot is also open late – 10pm on Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Fri-Sat.

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

http://publicuslv.tumblr.com/ or http://www.publicuslv.com/

PublicUs on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, PublicUS

800 Degrees at SLS, Las Vegas NV

image121

800 Degrees at SLS

image135 image136

Burrata + Beets + Balsamic – Grilled Ciabatta

image138 image137

Meatballs – Wood-oven baked with tomato, oregano and Parmigiano Reggiano

image134 image133

Quattro Formaggi with Sausage – fresh mozzarella, garlic, oregano, olive oil with Smoked Provolone, Parmigiano Reggiano, Gorgonzola, Fontina

image132 image131

Zucca – fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, oregano, olive oil, butternut squash, caramelized onions, bacon, rosemary oil

image142 image141

Margherita DOC – Mozzarella di Bufala, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil

image118

Located in the SLS, with a second local found outside The Monte Carlo at the other end of The Strip, it was largely an effect of travel and an ever expanding local ‘to-do’ list that had prevented me from visiting 800 Degrees until Saturday but armed with a $30 off $60 coupon provided by The Code for my birthday it was with a friend I sat down within the languishing casino, our 6:30 arrival seeing more than half the table games without a dealer and nearby restaurants Katsuya and Cleo less than 1/8 full.

image119

Conceptualized by Adam Fleischman, the man behind Umami Burger and a growing empire of restaurants rolling out in the Golden State as well as parts East, the heart of 800 Degrees is the wood burning oven and capable of turning out a Neapolitan Pie in less than two minutes with any number of artisan toppings for under $15 it was only after careful deliberation that our selections were made, the $60 tab proving far tougher to target with just two diners than one would imagine but three pies and two sides achieving the goal with a glass of wine and iced tea to boot.

image128

Exemplifying the ‘quick casual’ counterside ordering concept overtaking much of America’s mid-range dining culture these days, but left to collect items from the cashier when a number is called out, it was perhaps an unfortunate aspect of the size of our order and a few parties following us that the pacing of our meal was marred by having to stand up from the table thrice to gather the goods, but once everything was finally obtained one would be hard pressed to find fault in the quality of any of the cuisine served – a first bite of creamy burrata and beets tinged in balsamic speaking of high quality sourcing soon to be found in each of the oven-singed plates.

image122

Obviously focused on the pizzas, but happy to partake in charred balls of meat slightly smaller than a Titleist or Ping, suffice it to say that the four tender orbs were amongst the city’s best for the price and with plenty of brightly acidic sauce left-over for dipping of crust it was onward to the Margherita DOC that our tasting progressed, each cherry tomato bursting with flavor beneath a bit of salt while milky mozzarella bubbled atop the smoky, pliable crust.

image139 image143

Said by some to be too ‘wet,’ but in reality a near-textbook rendition of the traditional Neapolitan pie, it was next in two ‘Bianca’ style discs that we sank our teeth and topping the Quattro Formaggi with a bit of crumbled sausage the smoke and savory composition sang, a similar bit of praise to be levied on the oft-praised ‘Zucca’ that matched tender butternut squash to briny bacon with caramelized onions and topnotes or rosemary tickling the palate in each and every bite.

image130

FOUR STARS:  No more expensive than Settebello, despite its Las Vegas Boulevard locale, and featuring far better ingredients than most ‘artisan’ pizzerias located throughout the 702 those looking for a top quality Neapolitan pie at a fair price would be well advised to check out 800 Degrees – one of those rare ‘chains’ doing things right, a rarity to say the least.

image124 image126

RECOMMENDED:  Zucca, Margherita DOC, Meatballs.

image120

AVOID:  Larger orders are likely to require repeat trips to the counter, something a food runner would easily remedy at what would seem to be a low cost to the restaurant.  Gelatos, additionally, are not made by 800 Degrees but instead by the SLS itself, the $3 per cup cost seemingly excessive compared to the scoops found around town.

image127

TIP:  Proudly offering a crispier style of crust, as well as gluten-free options for those so inclined, locals are encouraged to keep an eye on the SLS Social Media for “Social Sundays” during which 800 Degrees can frequently be had at 50% off.

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

http://sbe.com/restaurants/800degrees

800 Degrees on Urbanspoon

Posted in 800 Degrees, 800 Degrees at SLS, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Grimaldi’s at the Palazzo, Las Vegas NV

image115

Grimaldi’s

image098image101 image103 image102 image105 image104

Large Pizza – Half Traditional / Half White with Garlic and Artichoke Hearts

image106 image108 image109

Dessert Trio – Sampler of Cannoli, Tiramisu, Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake

image093

Vowing to use every free offering and comp sent to me for my Birthday it was finally on Saturday that I decided to venture into Grimaldi’s Coal Oven Pizzeria at The Palazzo, and sporting a coupon that affords one free Large Pizza with one topping (up to $1Smilie: 8) it was only after a bizarre incident at the front desk that I found seating in the restaurant’s main room, a request specifically made in order to watch the pizza makers at work without being exposed to the two-tops dotting the shopping mall’s faux-patio.

image112 image110

Having more than once been steered away from the Brooklyn Bridge original by New Yorkers whose palates I trust, it was just after 3:00 that I arrived at Grimaldi’s front stand and first refusing a seat at the bar, then basically having to demand to not be seated out front despite the restaurant only being 1/8 full, it was at a small table of my choosing that I finally relaxed, a young woman named Angie who preferred to call me “buddy” throughout the stay providing obligatory service, though often letting me see the bottom of my water glass.

image114

Undoubtedly pegging me a tourist, and likely also put-off by the coupon which must be presented prior to placing an order, suffice it to say that my small table was low-priority compared to those drinking wine and ordering appetizers around me, but amused enough bby action in the kitchen and Martin, Sinatra, etc soundtrack above it really wasn’t too much a bother, the fifteen minute prep-time for my pie whizzing past and the resultant cracker-crisp disk landing before me with cheese still bubbling and crust lightly charred.

image097

Obviously not the artisan pies offered by Neapolitan spots in town, but at the same time using quality ingredients including whole milk Mozzarella and their own signature sauces brought in direct from New York it should come as no surprise that the coal-oven crust is where Grimaldi’s makes its mark, and with good blister, great chew, and just enough thickness to hold up to toppings without being sloppy the flavor profile of both halves was good, if not great – the red sauce trending a bit too sweet for my palate while the white was nicely tinged with garlic, the artichoke hearts a bit overpriced at $4 however, and in desperate need of salt or some marinade.

image096

Boxing up two red slices, as well as two slices of white, and later donating them to a trio of guys with a sign indicating “anything helps” en route to Caesars’, it seemed only fair to give desserts a try considering the complimentary pie, and with the fresh-piped cannoli far out-showing the soggy slop served at celebrated Carlo’s Bakery just a few steps away it is unfortunate that neither the cocoa-heavy tiramisu or overly-sweetened cheesecake could ascend to such heights, the $10 trio a good enough deal for scaled down portions, though if left to do it again I’d simply invest the $4.50 in the plate of two-cannolis, and save the rest for somewhere else.

image095

TWO AND A HALF STARS:  Better than many local purveyors of the “New York Slice,” and served up in splashy environs that clearly cost the restaurant high rent, there are simply far better places for pizza in Sin City than Grimaldi’s – several even under the same roof.

image094

RECOMMENDED:  White Pizza, Cannoli.

image091

AVOID:  Artichokes, Tiramisu.

TIP:  The aforementioned coupon is offered via e-mail to members of the restaurant’s fan-club, though having never visited any of their several Southwest locations I remain somewhat perplexed as to how exactly I ended up on the mailing list.

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

www.grimaldispizzeria.com

Grimaldi's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Food, Grimaldi's, Grimaldi's at the Palazzo, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Tiramisu

El Dorado Cantina, Las Vegas NV

image042

El Dorado Cantina

image050 image052

Nachos with Three Salsas

image056 image060

Queso Fundido – Mexican three cheese blend with chorizo, topped with grilled veggies & pico de gallo. Served hot on a skillet.

image054 image062

Queso Fundido – Mexican three cheese blend with mushrooms, topped with grilled veggies & pico de gallo. Served hot on a skillet.

image058 image065

Chapulines – Garlic lime sautéed grasshoppers

image070 image069 image067 image076 image075 image074

Grande Feast – Steak, carnitas & chicken burritos, pulled chicken & cheese quesadillas, beef & chicken taquitos, Sliced carne asada, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp & chorizo with queso fresco, cactus, grilled onions & chiles, served with beans and rice.

image085 image084

Flan – Chef’s 80yr old recipe of traditional sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, organic eggs & natural cane sugar cooked to perfection.

image082 image081

Tres Leches Cake – Vanilla cake with rum & three milks, topped with whipped cream & fresh cut fruit.

image088

Spicy Salted Peanuts

image087

Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker Bites

image041

Open 24/7 and helmed by Chef Paco, a Mexico City native whose dedication to quality sourcing cannot be overstated, El Dorado Cantina had long been on my Las Vegas culinary to-do list, and although the Industrial Road location adjacent to Sapphires Gentleman’s Club is unlikely to win the restaurant any awards both the interior of the space and the quality of cuisine are the very definition of ‘diamond in the rough.’

image044

Originally slated as a small birthday lunch with an old friend visiting from Phoenix, but eventually growing to a party of nine ranging widely in age, ethnicity, and culinary experience it was just prior to noon that we entered the softly lit cantina and with televisions showing conference tournament action juxtaposing heavy woods, vibrant colors, and a well-appointed bar it was with the service of a young man named Jesse that the experience would commence, all beverages kept brimming throughout the nearly two-hour stay while plates were presented with excellent pacing and descriptions befitting the excellence of the Chef’s food.

image063 image064

Beginning with warm chips and a trio of spicy salsas at a pair of tables pushed together in order to accommodate our group it would not be long before an order was elected and with most selecting water as their beverage of choice a trio of appetizers emerged from the kitchen after a mere fifteen minutes, the sautéed grasshoppers a novelty plate that neither wowed nor appalled with a slightly funky flavor somewhat similar to frog legs faintly perceptible beneath acid and spice while two plates of melty cheese served with tortillas were absolutely reference standard, the request for more shells briefly forgotten but soon rectified leaving not a drop from either skillet behind.

image046

Happy to share-and-share-alike it was with little indecision that the table decided our best bet for experiencing a wide swath of El Dorado’s cuisine resided in one of the signature “Feasts,” and briefly doing the math only to realize that cost-per-person would be a mere $20+ it was in the “Grande” offering that we invested our appetites, a pair of enormous platters more than half-filling the large table with not one dud amongst the items to be found.

image078 image079

Truly a glut of food, the total number of items trumping a dozen while likely weighing in at just as many pounds, it was with the meat selections that tasting began and although the carne asada was ever-so-slightly overcooked for my tastes the shrimp, chicken, and chorizo all impressed while tender vegetables including grilled paddles of cactus more than made up for any perceived lack of moisture – none of this an issue when taking a look at plate two, each overstuffed burrito amongst the best I’ve tasted in recent memory while taquitos were light and greaseless, the chicken quesadilla also quite special with onions adding a smoky, aromatic punch.

image048

Admittedly full, to the point where a solid meal or two’s worth of food was boxed up to go, it was still without hesitation that dessert was ordered and although the boozy tres leches was quite excellent beneath whipped cream and fresh fruit it was Chef Paco’s ancient flan recipe that stole my heart, the texture far more thick than many would associate with the dish, but each caramel tinged bite proving as good as the last until each plate was clean, the chef himself standing tableside and offering gifts from a care packaged straight from Mexico while discussing his passion for cooking as the meal reached an end.

image045

FOUR STARS:  Organic + Non-GMO + 24/7 + Authentic Mexican Food + Next to a Strip Club = an equation only Las Vegas could dream up, and like many things in this fabulous city it works like a charm.

image049

RECOMMENDED:  Mushroom Queso Fundido, Flan, Grille Shrimp, Carnitas Burrito.

image047

AVOID:  Cheese Quesadillas were a bit plain, and Carne Asada was a bit tough on its own.

image040

TIP:  Offering free Flan via Social Media Check-In, those using Yelp or Foursquare are encouraged to take advantage…and for those looking for a real deal El Dorado offers half-off for locals on Mondays with BOGO Seafood Entrees on Fridays – other specials offered through their Facebook account on nearly every day of the week.

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

http://eldoradovegas.com

 

El Dorado Cantina on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, El Dorado Cantina, El Dorado Restaurant, El Dorado Restaurant + Cantina, El Dorado Restaurant and Cantina, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Pantry, Las Vegas NV

image006

Pantry

image008 image009

La Colombe Pacific Blend Coffee

image016 image017

Cinnamon Sugar Donut Bites

image015 image019

Two Cheddar Chive Biscuits – Honey and Butter

image012 image013

Blueberry and Banana Nut Muffins

image021 image022

Abuela’s Huevos Rancheros – Fried Eggs, Black Beans, Corn Tortillas, Cotija Cheese, Avocado Crema, Salsa

image024 image026

Chicken & Waffles – Texas Pete Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Vanilla Waffle

image032 image033

White Chocolate Brioche French Toast – Berry Compote & Whipped Mascarpone

image028 image030

Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes – Strawberry Ice Cream, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Pure Maple Syrup

image010

Long targeted as a place for breakfast given the beautiful space, quality ingredients, and collection of favorites including an ever-changing ‘pancake of the week’ it was finally with friends in town that I sat down at The Mirage’s 24/7 Pantry, a three course order marred only by the confusing menu where dashed-boxes unclearly delineate ‘exclusions’ to the mix & match bakery section while denoting highlights elsewhere, and not every “Take The Best Of It – Comes with Smash Browns” actually comes with the spuds, regardless of what the subtext says.

image035

Offering breakfast all day, and the rest of the menu from 11a until 11p, Pantry is located at the back of The Mirage and with an open café up-front overlooking the gaming floor and a more cozy family-style dining area in back it was in the latter that we sat, a large four-top easily big enough for six set for just three soon greeted by a middle-aged waitress named Rina who dutifully pushed coffee (an excellent roast from La Colombe charged at $5 per pot, without free refills, though diners are left to discover that for themselves) before filling water and taking orders, the request for items to be coursed out loosely adhered to until it was reinforced after round two landed atop quarter-finished baked goods.

image036

Told that the donuts could not be included in the ‘mix & match’ because it was “in a box, see” and then served only one biscuit, instead of the menu-listed two, because “it was part of the mix & match” as though one was supposed to infer this information for themselves, suffice it to say that at $9 the biscuit and two muffins were still a veritable bargain considering the quality and although the donut bites were a bit steep at $5 for six, the crispy sugar shell over a light brioche center was every bit as good as those at Puck’s Postrio which carry a tariff several dollars more – the addition of locally sourced honey, whipped butter, and two types of housemade jam the sort of small details I’d gladly pay a premium for whether dining near home or on the Strip.

image037

Sitting, chatting, and enjoying the first round it was less than five minutes later that a man arrived porting two plates and setting aside the muffins and donuts while informing him to put the brakes on expediting the next course it was soon in chicken and waffles alongside huevos rancheros that we partook, neither served with the ‘smashed browns’ advertised on the menu but both again showing the work of a confident kitchen working with quality ingredients, the crispy tortillas beneath eggs and accoutrements featuring no lack of dynamic flavors or textures while as the spicy chicken featured skin that crackled to the tooth atop a supple and aromatic waffle more than ready to sop up plenty of pure maple syrup served in a sizeable sidecar.

image034

Transitioning back to sweets, another pot of coffee elected even after assuming the upcharge based on the menu’s description, it was perhaps a gluttonous choice to pick both the pancake of the week and four-piece French Toast when eating with friends generally not the sort to indulge in such things but never one to shy away from over-ordering to experience the best of what a place has to offer it was honestly a surprise to even myself just how excellent Pantry’s griddles were, the decadent custard soaked brioche cooked golden and topped with rich mascarpone plus plenty of berries featuring far more chopped chocolate than one would have ever assumed while the fluffy flapjack trio was not only topped with housemade strawberry jam and freshly sliced berries but also imbued with strawberries and cream in the batter and layered between each cake, a large dollop of whip and a small ball of ice cream added to finish perhaps a bit unnecessary, though I certainly didn’t hear anyone complain.

image038

THREE AND A HALF STARS:  Confounded by a menu seemingly built to confuse and up-sell with the sort of service that is trained to turn tables it is almost as if Pantry does not know just how good the food coming out of the kitchen really is, particularly for a 24-hour spot on the Strip – a bit more attention to detail from the front of house would go a long way to giving the chefs the credit they deserve.

image039

RECOMMENDED:  Biscuit, Pancakes, French Toast.

image002

AVOID:  Donuts, ordering without asking questions and/or reading the menu thoroughly.

image001

TIP:  Pancake of the Week and off-menu specials can be found on the restaurant’s Facebook page or the small menu board behind the hostess podium for those visiting The Mirage.

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

http://www.mirage.com/restaurants/pantry.aspx#

Pantry on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, La Colombe, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pantry, Waffles

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [6,] Las Vegas NV

DSC00802

Yardbird

DSC00808 DSC00810

Fried Green Tomato BLT – pork belly, greens, tomato jam, house-made pimento cheese

DSC00809

Low & Slow Smoked Chicken Salad – Haas Avocado, Warm Fried Cornbread, Yogurt Dressing

DSC00823 DSC00825

Mama’s Chicken Biscuits – free range fried chicken, pepper jelly, housepickles, house-made buttermilk biscuit

DSC00811 DSC00813

St Louis Style Pork Ribs – tender slow-cooked, house BBQ sauce

DSC00814 DSC00816

Smoked & Roasted Bone Marrow – country bread, onion jam

DSC00820 DSC00818

Deviled Eggs – fresh chive, smoked trout roe ‘redneck caviar’

DSC00822

Warm Farmer’s Cheese – Watermelon, Olive Oil, Sea Salt

DSC00832 DSC00834

Shrimp n’ Grits – Florida shrimp, crisp Virginia ham, Nora Mill Granary grits

DSC00829 DSC00830

Pot Pie – Andouille Sausage, Italian Sausage, Smoked Chicken, Traditional Gravy, Laminated Biscuit Top

DSC00831

Macaroni and Cheese – Torchio Pasta, Five Artisinal Cheeses, Crispy Herb Crust

DSC00836 DSC00838

Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles – Fried Chicken, Hot Sauce Honey, Spiced Watermelon, Cheddar Cheese Chow Chow Waffle, Bourbon Maple Syrup

DSC00840

Short Rib n’ Grits – 18oz Bone-In Short Rib, Nora Mill Granary Corn Grits, Charred Corn, Haricot Vert, Sweet Garlic Bordelaise

DSC00843 DSC00850

Cornmeal Chess Pie – Sorghum Chantilly, Caramel Sauce, Caramel Pretzel, Popcorn

005 - Yardbird (52) 005 - Yardbird (55)

Deep Fried Oreos – Rice Crispy Doughnut Dough Fried Oreos, Oreo Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

005 - Yardbird (49) DSC00846

Blue and Black Cobbler – Blueberries, Blackberries, Oat Crumble, Honey Ice Cream

DSC00842

Bacon Butterscotch Cake – Pecan Filling, Bourbon Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce

DSC00806

Having previously visited Yardbird Las Vegas five times in the two months since opening, while also investing some of my appetite in Miami at the original in November, there was little doubt where I would spend my birthday dinner with friends and with the private room arranged by Marketing Manager Niceole Ismert and a carte blanche menu prepared by Chef Todd Harrington the experience was no less than exemplary, a few new plates experienced while several old favorites made an appearance at the table where I was joined by six friends.

DSC00804

Mostly allowing the kitchen to chart our course, a few suggestions made by myself so that friends could experience the plates I’ve come to love, every item I’ve described at length prior was just as good as ever and with service a given considering the circumstances everything from lighting to music was tailored to our needs, the only thing not ‘perfect’ being the fact that none of us had come prepared for quite so much irresistible food – most of the plates presented in duplicate at a prix-fixe cost far beneath what one would have paid ordering a la carte.

DSC00805

Speaking now to new items, a total of three including one not yet offered on the menu, much has been mentioned in the past of Yardbird’s smoking program and beginning with the St. Louis Style Ribs with a plethoric pile of bone marrow to follow one would be hard pressed to decide which was a more impressive use of the technique, the former fall-from-the-bone tender with sauce that served to compliment rather than overwhelm while the marrow was heavily imbued with char, the richness cut by housemade onion jam and pickles that made nearly everyone a temporary okra fan.

DSC00851 DSC00852

Always going above and beyond to invent, create, and improve a menu that has not sat on its laurels for even a moment since the space opened their doors it was after a few more favorites that Todd arrived tableside with an all-new item, and describing the laminated biscuit dough pastry overlying a ‘pot pie’ far more European than what would be expected from the Amish or folks down South one couldn’t help but be impressed, the golden crust again displaying the unabashed talent of the pastry team while the interior was densely packed with several types of meat ranging from smoky chicken to spicy andouille bathed in thick, savory jus.

DSC00835 DSC00826

Already quite full even before two full plates of the restaurant’s signature “Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles” arrived, not to mention crocks of macaroni and the newly introduced short rib with charred corn grits, it was with most of the table waving a white flag that desserts did appear and with cobbler, fried Oreos, and a thick wedge of Bacon Butterscotch Birthday Cake all prone to please it was the full sized Chess Pie that officially made my night – a perfect ending to a meal surrounded by friends from a kitchen I knew I could trust with my ‘special day.’

DSC00854 DSC00853

http://www.venetian.com/restaurants/american/yardbird.html

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Waffles, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Dougie J’s Cafe, Las Vegas NV

DSC00763

Dougie J’s Café

DSC00773 DSC00775

The Riz – French Toast stuffed with Nutella and Whipped Cream

DSC00776 DSC00777

Big G’s Blueberry Pancakes (1 cake)

DSC00781 DSC00784

Pink Diablo – Batter Dipped Peanut Butter, Bacon, and Banana on White Bread rolled in Frosted Flakes

DSC00790 DSC00788

The Bubba – Steamed Pastrami on Marble Rye with Cole Slaw, Swiss, Dougie Sauce

DSC00792 DSC00794

Fried Chicken and Biscuit with housemade white gravy (1/2 order)

DSC00795 DSC00797

Blueberry Coffee Cake

DSC00799 DSC00801

The Bad Influence – Bacon, Pretzel Toffee from Whoa!, Cranberry, Chocolate Chips

DSC00762

Owned and operated by Suni Chabrow with a menu crafted by her longtime friend and business partner, a former bodybuilder and attorney downtown, Dougie J’s Café is Sin City’s only Patriotic dining locale and with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Memorial Foundation of Suni’s fallen hero son it is undoubtedly the sort of space that everyone would love to see succeed, the potential no doubt there but a few tweaks necessary before the food will truly ‘wow.’

DSC00767

Patriotically decorated without pandering to the “USA, USA” crowd it was after contacting Suni directly about the restaurant’s concept and the possibility of ordering a few ‘half-portions’ to better assess the menu that I arrived at for Saturday lunch and with both Ms. Chabrow and the menu’s creator present throughout my hour-long stay it can only be said that the whimsical cuisine and story of the space was interesting and inspiring, respectively, while both were thoroughly explained.

DSC00766

Largely opting to indulge in breakfast, while allowing the Chef liberty with portion sizes and price, it was with a full order of The Riz that the meal began and featuring well-saturated brioche from Bon Bread at its base the French Toast sandwiching Nutella and Whip was decidedly sweet, a pitcher of artificial maple syrup thankfully unnecessary both here and in the follow-up blueberry pancake that was fluffy and well aerated, more than suitable for sopping up butter as well as blueberry reduction though the berries within the batter were somewhat disappointing and bland.

DSC00769

Chatting with the proprietors as I ate, stories including Soni’s decision to pursue a lifelong passion for making English Toffee striking a chord about the value of following one’s dreams, it was next that a whole order of the Pink Diablo arrived and drawing on concepts other restaurants would just as happily attributed to Elvis both the portion and flavor was plethoric, though much of the nuance was lost due to far too much peanut butter, a half portion more than enough to satisfy my curiosity though I did indeed pay for a whole.

DSC00770

Next sent out a half “Bubba,” a dish I neither desired nor requested but was happy to try given the staff’s glowing reviews, suffice it to say that between the watery pastrami and substantial amount of slaw little of the $6.50 I was charged for the gift was worth it, the ‘Dougie Sauce’ a lone exception with a whole lot of heat packed into the Russian-Style cream.

DSC00764

Back to items I’d inquired about, it was to a haphazard ‘torn’ half biscuit alongside fried chicken with thick country gravy that I was treated next and with the bird pounded flat and nearly flavorless while the biscuit large but no better than Bisquick suffice it to say this was a major miss, a fact made all the more humorous when the man behind the menu idly poked fun at the food at Hash-House-a-Go-Go before also admitting the lazy-man ingredient was used in Dougie J’s signature blueberry coffee cake – a dish still well worth ordering given the substantial use of cinnamon and delicate, buttery crumb.

DSC00771

Unable to make me an Apple Fritter, one of the items I’d specifically requested and one that Suni couldn’t stop raving about even after telling me the restaurant had failed to procure apples on that day, it was with a single “Bad Influence” cookie that my meal ended and served hot and gooey from the oven with bits of Suni’s Whoa! Foods Toffee filling the batter alongside bittersweet cranberries anyone in the area, which means anyone in DTLV or East Fremont, should consider stopping in to grab one…or perhaps a dozen as it may just be the best cookie on Las Vegas Boulevard right now.

DSC00786

THREE STARS:  Originally served a bill with a pre-tip of just under $75 – whole stacks of pancakes, full sandwiches, and a full  order of chicken and biscuits rang up along with what I’d actually ordered…and the Bubba which I had not…but later adjusted to a tally of $62 inclusive of tax and tip, the prices at Dougie J’s are unfortunately far out of line to the quality of product used or served and while I’m happy to donate to a great cause like The Douglas J. Green Foundation I’d have sooner done so on a voluntary basis rather than be upcharged for many of the things I tasted, though there are undoubtedly some gems on the menu to be found.

RECOMMENDED:  The Bad Influence, The Riz, Blueberry Coffee Cake

AVOID:  The Bubba, Chicken and Biscuit

TIP:  Located on a corner with plenty of parking just south of the more happening parts of Fremont and DTLV and open at 8am with seating for 42, those looking to check out Dougie J’s are well advised to also look into Suni’s Whoa! Foods Toffee, both the peanut butter and pretzel offered as samples during my stay found to be melt-in-the-mouth excellent and offered throughout the valley with some of the proceeds also going to the charity bearing her son’s name.

http://www.dougiejscafe.com/

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

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Dougie J's, Dougie J's Cafe, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork

Honey Cakes Café, Las Vegas NV

DSC00712

Honey Cakes Café

DSC00726 DSC00724

Butterscotch Muffin

DSC00729 DSC00730

Red Velvet Pancakes with a scoop of Birthday Cake Gelato

DSC00731 DSC00734

French Toast with 100% Maple Syrup

DSC00735 DSC00737

Pecan Bun

DSC00740 DSC00741

Apple Croissant

DSC00744 DSC00745

Hazelnut Croissant

DSC00748 DSC00752

Almond Macaron

DSC00750 DSC00751

Salted Caramel Macaron

DSC00753 DSC00754

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

DSC00757 DSC00760

Carrot Bundt Cake

DSC00723

Tucked away in a shopping center in Centennial, with early morning hours seven days a week, it was on a whim that I decided to travel up to Honey Cakes Café and although the twenty-two minute drive to an area I really had no other reason to visit proved a hassle due to an early morning traffic incident slowing cars to a crawl my 7:20am arrival found the small café ready and waiting – no customers quite yet, but the shelves and cooling racks stocked with no less than two dozen varieties of fresh pastries while the small kitchen gleaming as a cook stood mixing batters for a variety of made-to-order plates.

DSC00713 DSC00715

Owned and operated by a gentleman named Anthony, a classically trained baker who has manned and managed the kitchens of some of Sin City’s finest resorts, it was with the Chef himself present and happy to chat that several pastries were discussed and focusing mostly on personal favorites as well as those hot from the oven seven options were selected, a complimentary apple croissant plus two plates from the kitchen and a ball of housemade gelato comprising an order totaling just shy of $40.

DSC00727DSC00742

Beginning first with a muffin, taken back to the kitchen in order to be rewarmed in the oven, suffice it to say that anyone who fancies butterscotch would be well served to drive up to Honey Cakes ASAP as the Scotch infused batter dotted with golden chips is undeniably delicious without being overly sweet and following this up with a fresh laminated pastry packed with housemade apple-cinnamon compote a theme was established, the flavor of apples in abundance with a relative lack of sugar allowing the buttery layers of pastry to shine.

DSC00733

At this point receiving two made-to-order plates, one with a ball of sumptuous ‘birthday cake’ gelato, it was a bit of a surprise that the pancakes were served far thinner than many Las Vegas breakfast institutions but with rich cocoa notes and a delicate crumb freely lacquered by a pitcher of 100% Maple Syrup the flavors were robust and on par with those several times more costly on the Strip, the French Toast faring slightly less well largely due to the high egg content of housemade brioche and the fact that it was not soaked long enough to allow custard to penetrate all the way through.

DSC00739

Moving back to pastry, the last item consumed within the café arriving halfway through my pancakes and French Toast, one must consider the phrase “the early bird gets the worm” quite appropriate when considering Chef Anthony’s $4.50 Pecan Roll because, while I cannot guarantee it is nearly as good midday, the piping hot version just out of the oven was not only stunning in the quantity of pecans and caramelized sugar packed into each bite, but also by the crunchy shell with stretchy-soft dough within – a reference standard iteration of a classic that I’d rank best in the city by some distance, and on par with the best I’ve tasted anywhere else as well.

DSC00756 DSC00761

Taking the last five items to go, the bulk consumed with coffee as part of a midday snack, it was only a slightly gummy salted caramel macaron that held the rest of my order back from perfection and with the almond version of the Parisian favorite light and crisp one almost wonders if the former was a one-off mistake – something I’ll no doubt have to determine at a later time when I make the drive back up to Centennial since the creamy housemade hazelnut spread filling another croissant is the sort of thing I’ll crave while the chewy oatmeal cookie and carrot-packed bundt were equally desirable, the later also available in a cake form still calling my name.

DSC00718

FOUR STARS:  Long hidden in the ‘pastry department’ of several Strip-based resorts, but now ready to shine in his own regard, the work that Anthony and his team at Honey Cakes is doing not only meets but exceeds several of the city’s most highly regarded bakeries at a far more friendly pricepoint with ingredients and execution every bit as refined.

DSC00720

RECOMMENDED:  Pecan Roll, Butterscotch Muffin, Apple Croissant.

VOID:  French Toast.

DSC00719

TIP:  Currently offering a $15 off $30 restaurant.com certificate, those looking for a deal are well advised to check it out.

DSC00721

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

http://www.honeycakescafe.com/home.html

Honey Cakes Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Croissant, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Honey Cakes, Honey Cakes Cafe, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Macaroon, Nevada, Pancakes

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [5,] Las Vegas NV

005 - Yardbird (1)

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

005 - Yardbird (11)

Coffee

005 - Yardbird (33) 005 - Yardbird (35)

Short Rib n’ Grits – 18oz Bone-In Short Rib, Nora Mill Granary Corn Grits, Charred Corn, Haricot Vert, Sweet Garlic Bordelaise

005 - Yardbird (13) 005 - Yardbird (14)

Buttermilk Biscuits – Honey Butter, Strawberry Jam

005 - Yardbird (19) 005 - Yardbird (20)

Maple Glazed Bacon Brioche Donuts – Bacon Bits, Butterscotch Sauce

005 - Yardbird (16) 005 - Yardbird (17)

Cornmeal Chess Pie – Sorghum Chantilly, Caramel Sauce,  Caramel Pretzel, Popcorn

005 - Yardbird (24) 005 - Yardbird (26)

Hickory Smoked Coffee Cake – Coffee Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

005 - Yardbird (27) 005 - Yardbird (29)

Apple Hand Pies – Pate Brisee, Vanilla Ice Cream and Graham Cracker Crumble

005 - Yardbird (55) 005 - Yardbird (52)

Deep Fried Oreos – Rice Crispy Doughnut Dough Fried Oreos, Oreo Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

005 - Yardbird (41)51

Yardbird Banana Split – Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Banana Brulee, Banana Curd, Chocolate Sauce

005 - Yardbird (62) 005 - Yardbird (64)

Crunch n Munch Bread Pudding – M&M Chocolate bread Pudding, Popcorn Ice Cream, Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel

005 - Yardbird (71) 005 - Yardbird (70)

Chocolate Chess Pie – with Chocolate Chips, Orange Blossom Ice Cream, Citrus Marmalade, Chocolate Sauce

005 - Yardbird (42) 005 - Yardbird (44)

Red Velvet Whoopie Pie – Red Velvet Cake, Fluffy Cream Cheese Mouse, Pistachio Ice Cream, Crushed Pistachios, Raspberry Sauce

005 - Yardbird (49) 005 - Yardbird (51)

Blue and Black Cobbler – Blueberries, Blackberries, Oat Crumble, Honey Ice Cream

005 - Yardbird (66) 005 - Yardbird (67)

Bourbon Vanilla Milk Shake – Vanilla Ice Cream, Maker’s Mark, Gingersnaps

005 - Yardbird (59) 005 - Yardbird (61)

Bacon Butterscotch Cake – Pecan Filling, Bourbon Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce

005 - Yardbird (2)

Admittedly a fan of Yardbird, having now visited the Las Vegas location four times in its first two months of opening with another visit upcoming soon, it was on the invite of Chef Todd Harrington that I stopped in on Saturday to explore the reinvented dessert menu, and although a few of the restaurants biscuits reconfirmed my opinion that there is no better buttermilk version being served anywhere I’ve traveled while the Chef’s newly added shortribs were nothing short of falling off the bone perfection atop a mountain of charred-corn dotted grits, the star of the show was instead Vivian Chang – the woman responsible for twelve sweet selections which frequently left me dumbfounded that they weren’t the result of some old recipe from a grandma down South.

63851

Beginning first with brunch selections, suffice it to say that the retooled brioche donuts are a dramatic improvement on the longjohn of past and with each tender, maple-lacquered bite studded by crispy bacon the ante is further upped by a sidecar of butterscotch sauce, a gluttonous accoutrement I nonetheless found myself dipping into frequently and later adding to the buttery apple pies, one eaten by hand with the second cut up and mixed with ice cream, graham crackers, and the aforementioned caramel for one heck of a makeshift sundae.

005 - Yardbird (23) 005 - Yardbird (15)

Continuing the morning-meal options, another re-imagined item from Todd and Vivian was presented in the form of ‘smoked’ coffee cake and although the young chef claims the moist bread is only stored in the smoker for two minutes the result is a substantial hint of hickory with chocolate chips and robust coffee ice cream adding just a bit of sweetness, a task completely unnecessary when enjoying the sorghum sweetened chess pie whose creamy texture atop an all-butter crust rivals the best I’ve experienced anywhere in Amish country or the Southeast.

005 - Yardbird (22) 005 - Yardbird (37)

Transitioning to dinner desserts, both Yardbird’s signature Bacon Butterscotch Cake and Crunch n’ Munch Bread Pudding remain largely unchanged, the latter’s popcorn flavor scaled back a bit in order to let the dark chocolate notes better shine, but with six other desserts also available one would be hard pressed to decide which was ‘best,’ though large groups would be strongly encouraged to look into either the bubbling hot and simply delicious seasonal cobbler or rich Red Velvet Whoopie Pie as each are more than enough to share with the former currently featuring blueberries and blackberries while the silky cream cheese mousse of the whoopie pie is simply too much for even a hearty due of diners to tackle on their own…no matter how much they may wish to try.

005 - Yardbird (45) 005 - Yardbird (47)

Decidedly not a place for ‘light’ desserts, but one where a few smaller portions can be found, chocaholics and those interested in a true Southern delicacy would be well suited to order the chocolate chess pie served with both the orange blossom ice cream and blood orange marmalade to help to balance out the cocoa’s substantial heft while those looking for something a bit more ‘fun’ should find exactly what they’re looking for in Chang’s inspired take on fried Oreos, the oft-oily ‘fair-food’ staple perfected by protecting the cookie’s texture with batter while rice crispies add texture to both the dough and as a chocolate covered topping to the ball of ice cream at the center of the plate.

005 - Yardbird (65)851

Consistently impressing with both the variety and quality of house-made ice creams it seems only logical that Chang opts to feature them in so many of the restaurant’s desserts, and rounding out the restaurant’s dozen offerings one would be well advised to consider either the upscale Banana Split or Bourbon Milk Shake to finish off their meal, the shake a drink best shared given its substantial portion even though the booze is very nicely balanced by both the vanilla ice cream and whip while the sundae is perhaps the most unexpected surprise on the menu as two types of ice cream along with banana pudding, caramel popcorn, chocolate sauce, graham crackers, and a torched banana provide a veritable ‘choose your own adventure’ of textures and flavors without a single underwhelming bite to be found.

005 - Yardbird (46) 005 - Yardbird (57)

UNABLE TO RATE:  As the entirety of the meal was comped, with much of my time spent sitting and chatting with Chef Harrington, suffice it to say service was exemplary and with both savories as well as desserts this good played beneath a soundtrack including everything from old-school blues to Them Crooked Vultures preceding Thickfreakness-era Black Keys, Yardbird remains my favorite affordable restaurant on the Strip and a place which I recommend everyone check out for themselves.

005 - Yardbird (3)

RECOMMENDED:  Biscuits (always,) Sorghum Chess Pie, Smoked Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, Deep Fried Oreos, Yardbird Banana Split, Bacon Butterscotch Cake.

005 - Yardbird (4)

AVOID:  For single diners, or even duos, the Red Velvet Whoopie pie is simply ‘too rich,’ something that could perhaps be corrected through the use of a stonefruit or citrus ice cream…or perhaps berries such as those previously utilized in Yardbird’s excellent Red Velvet Trifle.

TIP:  With a talented and passionate team headed by Chefs Harrington and Chang making everything in house, those visiting should be aware that weekly specials as well as seasonal updates are planned and as such not all items listed here are guaranteed to be offered, the cobbler and pies in particular prone to frequent change.

http://www.venetian.com/restaurants/american/yardbird.html

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Postrio, Las Vegas NV

351

Postrio

004 - Postrio (11)

Mimosa

004 - Postrio (36)

Double Espresso on Ice

004 - Postrio (12) 004 - Postrio (13)

Fresh Pappardelle – Fennel Sausage, Bolognese, Italian Parsley

004 - Postrio (14) 004 - Postrio (16)

Bucatini a la Carbonara – Pancetta, English Peas, Parmigiano Reggiano

004 - Postrio (17) 004 - Postrio (19)

Breakfast Pizza – Egg, Bacon, Roasted Tomatoes, Spinach, Vermont Cheddar

004 - Postrio (32) 004 - Postrio (34)

Warm Brioche Doughnuts – Vanilla, Chocolate, Raspberry

004 - Postrio (29) 004 - Postrio (31)

Monkey Bread – Caramel Toffee Sauce, Cream Cheese Sauce

7132 004 - Postrio (25)

Buttermilk Pancakes – Cinnamon Spiced, Vermont Maple Syrup, Blueberries, Candied Lemon

004 - Postrio (39) 7145

Pear Sticky Toffee Pudding – Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Spiced Pear Compote

004 - Postrio (40) 004 - Postrio (43)

Cinnamon and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding – Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

004 - Postrio (3)

Often overlooking Wolfgang Puck restaurants given the Chef’s general ubiquity throughout the United States it was at the recommendation of a local writer and with the assistance of Ms. Stephanie Davis of Puck’s PR that a reservation was set for brunch at Postrio, and although some of the heavily praised plates from lunch and dinner were not available at brunch while dessert, originally stated as not available was, a noon meal beneath the pseudo-sky of St. Mark’s Square at The Venetian proved mostly impressive – the disorganized service and surprisingly loud ‘Carnivale’ performers aside.

004 - Postrio (9)

Themed as an informal indoor patio café with a menu covering a handful of WP classics as well as several Italian plates and California-style pizzas it was with complimentary Mimosas that the meal began and offering cheers to an old friend I’d not seen in some time the menu was perused with a three course order originally requested, a fourth only added at the end of the meal when it was revealed that the work of Kamel Guechida was indeed available, an offer I simply couldn’t resist.

004 - Postrio (24)

Joined by an interloping indoor pigeon who was almost as entertaining as the stilt walkers and singers to our side, it was after a long delay that the man who originally served our drinks was finally ‘assigned’ our table and with the lone special of steak and eggs declined it would not be long before two half-portions of pasta arrived, the wide pappardelle soft and smooth beneath bright tomatoes teaming with aromatic sausage while the al dente round noodles slicked with egg yolk and tossed simply with peas and pork was absolutely textbook, perhaps the best version of the dish served in a resort with no shortage of Italian options from which to choose.

004 - Postrio (21)

Always amused by Puck’s Pizzas, at this point a prerequisite for dining at any of his restaurants, it was with brief consideration of both the mushroom iteration that we opted for the newly added breakfast pie and although I’d have preferred the egg to be served runny after the baking process the general balance of the pie was admirable, a hefty amount of sharp cheddar and bacon most detectable on first bite with the light char notes of crust and vegetal notes lingering on the palate thereafter.

004 - Postrio (10)

Choosing ‘one of each’ from the “Batter and Breads” section, suffice it to say that any disappointment regarding soups and sides available only at dinner were mostly forgotten and although the sticky bun was generally underwhelming both in size and in flavor while the stack of cinnamon dusted donuts was far less impressive than those served at Yardbird, the fluffy pancakes with pure maple syrup, blueberries, and candied lemon were absolutely excellent – the $13 price-tag notwithstanding.

004 - Postrio (44)

Acknowledging that less ‘batter’ would have been ordered had I known desserts were ready to go it was without batting an eye that two of five delectable sounding options were selected to compliment a double espresso over ice and having last experienced Chef Guechida’s work at Joel Robuchon it came as no surprise that the pastry chef’s work completely stole the afternoon’s spotlight with both the buttery brioche pudding loaded with chocolate beneath intense coconut ice cream and the pear-based sticky toffee cake with pecan studded ice cream the texture of silk absolutely mesmerizing, each elegantly presented and surprisingly restrained in a manner equally befitting the Grand Canal Shoppes or the MGM Grand’s 3* crown jewel of the Chef’s past.

004 - Postrio (35)

THREE STARS:  With prices similar to several of The Venetian and Palazzo’s alternative Brunch options, but portions far smaller and service that seemed disjointed throughout our stay, Postrio falls squarely in the middle of the road for on-strip upscale midday dining – the food likely familiar to those who know Wolfgang Puck while the desserts are every bit as good as one would expect from one of America’s best pastry chefs.

RECOMMENDED:  Desserts, Bucatini a la Carbonara.

AVOID:  Sticky Bun.

004 - Postrio (4)

TIP:  Currently offering Free Mimosas to all brunch-goers with a 20% discount available in the Grande Canal Shoppes/Fashion Show coupon book those interested in finding a deal are advise to investigate both, the later definitely softening the blow of “strip-side” pricing found up and down Las Vegas Boulevard.

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

http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3821

Postrio Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pizza, Postrio

Grand Cafe at Red Rock, Las Vegas NV

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (4)

Grand Café Red Rock

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (15) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (19)

Sticky Bun

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (20) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (23)

Apple Fritter

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (32) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (34)

Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Pancakes

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (26) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (37)

Tableside Flambee Bananas Foster French Toast

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (45) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (47)

Kitchen Sink Cookie / Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (44) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (41)

Carrot Cake Bar

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (1)

Located within walking distance of my door, and visited frequently for movies as well as meals at Hearthstone, I’d admittedly not given much thought to Red Rocks Resort and Casino’s other dining options until I found out an old colleague was in town for a Bariatric Surgery conference and with her packed lecture schedule largely precluding lunch or dinner the decision was made to meet up at Grand Café for breakfast, the resulting meal anything but ‘physician approved’ but surprisingly delicious with service that outperformed nearly any of Las Vegas Boulevard’s 24/7 dining options by a country mile.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (5) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (6)

Arriving just after 7:00am, but requiring a reprint of my Boarding Pass in order to collect on a $15 coupon, it was a few minutes later than anticipated that the two of us sat down in the large dining area overlooking an expectedly empty pool and deferring the order to me with the stipulation that we must try the pancakes a three-course meal was requested, a smiling Hispanic waitress effortlessly managing a half-dozen tables while keeping water brimming and the silver coffee pot of surprisingly balanced brew filled throughout the hour long stay.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (10) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (13)

Starting off with two pastries, the chopped pecan topped sticky bun and house-made apple fritter both rewarmed at our request, it was much to my astonishment that Red Rocks’ in-house pastry team makes items throughout the day in order to replenish supplies and although the fritter was a touch too oily despite being jammed-packed with apples the nicely laminated bun unraveled as a textbook spiral, the exterior golden and crunchy while the interior featured a springy yeasted stretch packed with butter and cinnamon notes.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (11) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (12)

Moving onward to entrees, the four-stack of chocolate chip studded buttermilk flapjacks taking no shortcuts and fluffy as can be despite the bargain basement price of $8.78, there was no way I was passing of the “house specialty” Bananas Foster French Toast and with an unexpected tableside show of liquor-laced caramel being lit ablaze as it was poured over thick egg-bread with whipped cream added afterward every single bite of the dish was well worth not only the $8.95 tab, but also the signature status – easily one of the best off-Strip French Toasts in town and the only one I know of that is delivered with such flair.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (49)

Sitting, chatting, and sipping at third pot of coffee with my friend stating she couldn’t possibly eat another bite it was only here that I realized I’d not yet spent the requisite $30 to qualify for use of the coupon and leaving aside just how much of a bargain that indicates for the rest of what we ordered it also justified the purchase of a trio of desserts, the elegant carrot cake beneath crispy praline bark proving quite moist even before considering the rich cream cheese frosting while both of the cookies were admittedly quite sweet, though soft centered with a crispy rim that held up nicely for an afternoon snack later that day.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (50)

FOUR STARS:  Using the coupon with a total bill after tax and tip ringing in at a mere $26 one would be hard pressed to name a better bargain for such a large amount of surprisingly well made food in any Southern Nevada casino and with service proving better than several places charging more than twice the price for food no better I’ve little doubt I’ll revisit Grand Café sooner rather than later, at the very least to sample some more of the extensive pastry case…though I can’t rule out another order of fiery French Toast, as well.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (31)

RECOMMENDED:  Bananas Foster French Toast, Buttermilk Pancakes, Sticky Bun.

AVOID:  Apple Fritter, as there are simply better versions available elsewhere at less than the $1.25 cost.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (27) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (36)

TIP:  Open 24/7, with everything but the Prime Rib and a few specials offered throughout the day and night, those looking for a bargain are encouraged to keep an eye on local mailers and papers, the $15 off $30 easily enough to feed a family of four for less than $20 if ordering right.

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

https://redrock.sclv.com/Dining/Grand-Cafe.aspx

Grand Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Grand Cafe, Grand Cafe at Red Rocks, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes

The Pig, Chapel Hill NC

image072

The Pig

image083 image084

Hand Cut Pimento Cheese Fries with Cheek Bacon

image088 image090

All Dark Meat Fried Chicken with Pickles, Hush Puppies, and Slaw

image085 image087

Hickory Smoked Whole-Hog BBQ, Roughly Chopped and seasoned by Cider Vinegar Sauce with Pickles, Hush Puppies, and Slaw

image095 image097

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

image092 image093

Banana Pudding

image080 image081

Targeted as our final meal in the state of North Carolina, a post-game destination after watching Roy Williams run the 4-Corners in honor of Dean Smith against Wake Forrest in the dome bearing his legendary name, it was just moments prior to 3:00pm that we entered The Pig and with a sign at the door proudly promoting the use of locally-raised hormone and antibiotic-free pork the barbeque that followed was the very definition of ‘saving the best for last.’

image073 image079

Perhaps a bit more hip and trendy than traditionalists looking for a spot like Ole Time or Allen & Son would prefer, but at the same time offering all the essentials plus some whimsical specials in a space far less commercial than The Pit, it was only after standing back perusing the laminated menu and chalkboards that an order was placed, the $45 tab after tax and tip speaking to higher ingredient quality while the décor was mostly wood, tile, and Formica with a few swine-centric ornaments strewn about.

image074 image075

Waiting only ten minutes while a few more parties sporting Tar Heel Blue filed in, it was with both appetizers and mains served simultaneously that we sat impressed by the portions and uncertain of where to start a mixed tasting would ensue, first bites of the crispy hand-cut potatoes beneath spicy pimento cheese and briny cheek bacon proving far better than later bites after the oil set in while both the slaw and hushpuppies were as good as we found during our trip, the later rich with herbs beneath a particularly crisp shell.

image077

Focusing next on the “Carolina Classics,” though here served as separate plates as opposed to in combo form, the question of whether the brined bird or cracklin’ studded pork was better is truly a matter of taste because no matter how you rate it they both were reference standard, the former just short of Beasley’s for best in The Triangle while the later was even more succulent than that at Ayden’s Skylight Inn, a tremendous amount of smoke proving an adept balance acid and salt.

image076

Not exactly a spot for sweets, but trying far harder than many mom n’ pop houses of ‘cue, it was a menu of four specials that we were left to navigate and with the banana pudding an obvious choice my personal preferences also saw a bowl of steamy bread pudding arrive alongside, the former nothing to write home about compared to those at Mandolin, The Pit, or others while the sweet potato pie-meets-flan concoction was surprisingly mild, the tuber’s natural starches providing most of the flavor alongside milky tones with whipped cream added for sweetness as well as to lighten the load, each bite still stick-a-spoon-up-straight thick.

http://www.thepigrestaurant.com

The Pig on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, North Carolina, Pork, Raleigh, The Pig, Vacation

Neal’s Deli, Carrboro NC

image047

Neal’s Deli

image054 image055

Buttered Biscuit with Jam

image057 image060

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Biscuit

image050 image051

Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownie

image049

The third stop on a morning breakfast run that had already seen beguiling biscuits at Sunrise and woeful disappointment at Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe, Neal’s Deli was recommended by a well-traveled gourmand as a ‘can’t miss’ place for upscale deli cuisine and arriving to find every seat filled and a line two-deep surrounding the counter I nearly walked out for simple lack of a place to stand, a man at the window-side bar fortuitously getting up just as I entered graciously offering me the stool on which he’d just sat.

image052

Using my coat to mark my space, and getting in a line of eight that moved surprisingly fast, it was with Take-Out menu in hand that decisions were made and although both soups and pastrami seemed to be selling like hotcakes it was once again in biscuits that I’d invest – the buttermilk batter just entering the oven as I sat down to enjoy a plastic wrapped brownie chewy with dark chocolate and punctuated with slightly bitter nuts.

image061

Slightly prolonged in my wait, but likely to benefit from biscuits served hot and fresh, it was with an elderly local that I struck up some chat and told that I’d made ‘the best choice’ in ordering the pimento cheese and bacon biscuit his words soon rang true moments after the man behind the counter called out my name – the fluffy golden crumb tinged with buttermilk proving quite nice with simple strawberry jam but finding a substantial upgrade when sandwiching spicy cheddar spread and crisp bacon that didn’t seem particularly ‘Jewish Deli,’ but was delicious just the same.

http://nealsdeli.com/

Neal's Deli on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, Neal's Deli, North Carolina, Pork, Raleigh, Vacation

Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe, Chapel Hill NC

image021
Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe

image030

World’s Worst Coffee

image039 image044

Buttermilk Biscuit

image038 image037

Pecan Waffle

image032 image042

M&M Pancakes

image028 image024

Considered to be a Chapel Hill institution, particularly on days before the Tar Heels take the court, it was around 8:30am that we located parking in front of Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe and entering to find a ‘thirty minute or so…’ line snaked along the left wall it was with high expectations that we stood, the smiles of several co-eds and alumni portending good things…or at least so it seemed.

image023 image025

Unabashedly crowded, the sort of place that would seem busy even if it were only half-full due to the shotgun narrow space set alongside the kitchen, waffle irons, griddle, dish washers and it was unfortunately the later that assaulted our nostrils as we approached the front of the line, and frankly becoming nauseated from the smell of Cascade and chlorine as we waited it almost enough to make me leave – any seat juxtaposing the area absolutely unacceptable, though we would thankfully soon be sat in the back-room where a questionably competent young server attempted to man far more tables than should have been allotted to one person.

image027 image031

Thankfully expedited in prep, the line cooks clearly well attuned to the need for turning tables, it was less than ten minutes after ordering that plates were delivered and having already given up on luke-warm, acrid coffee that rivals the worst found anywhere our attention turned to the food, the biscuits seemingly cut out of a tube from Pillsbury, while two batters fared only slightly superior, the ‘whipped spread’ and Log Cabin doing little to raise the stakes.

image035 image045

Truly a disappointment, one part the effect of hype and the other a simple lack of quality product, suffice it to say that the Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe’s eponymous item was a ‘best available’ sort of experience though opting for the pecan upcharge was insulting at best, the pieces supposedly within the batter but entirely imperceptible while the candy in the pancakes was par for the course – a touch color and cocoa added to the doughy, bland base.

image046

http://www.yeoldewaffleshoppe.com/

Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Chapel Hill, Coffee, Dessert, Durham, Food, North Carolina, Pancakes, Raleigh, Vacation, Waffles, Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, Chapel Hill NC

image014

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

image004 image005

Fried Chicken Biscuit

image011 image012

Virginia Ham Biscuit

image007 image009

Buttered Biscuit

image020 image019

Cinnamon Roll

image001 image003

Beginning our last day in Raleigh-Durham with a long outdoor run on freshly thawed streets it was after a quick shower followed by packing that we pointed the GPS towards Chapel Hill, a noon date at The Dean Dome to be preceded by a three-part breakfast beginning at the drive-thru and walk-up only stand considered by some to offer the best buttermilk biscuits in the land.

image013

Titled Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen and every bit the sort of mom n’ pop operation that needs to be seen in order to be fully understood, it was just a few minutes after 7 o’clock that we turned right off East Franklin Street and queuing up behind a few cars it would not be long before the line snaked out into the street, most wise locals opting to park and take the walk-up route only discovered by tourists like ourselves after procuring a bag of hot biscuits and looking for somewhere to stop and nosh.

image016

Undoubtedly a space happy to ‘do one thing, and do it well’ it was with little hesitation that our four part order was crafted and beginning with a simple buttered biscuit topped with a sidecar of honey the rumors of greatness were immediately confirmed, the light salinity of a golden top giving way to the fluffy interior of an unthinkably light buttermilk round.

image018

Opting next to indulge in two sandwiches, the sliced biscuits themselves standing up admirably to toppings despite the loosely-packed crumb, suffice it to say that although the chicken was good it was the briny seared ham that really impressed…though not quite as much as the frosting topped biscuit dough snailed around butter and cinnamon that is thus far the best $1.25 I’ve spent all year.

http://sunrisebiscuits.com

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, North Carolina, Pork, Raleigh, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, Vacation

Mandolin, Raleigh NC

image186

Mandolin

image199

Herbal Fixer – Lemon, Lime, Orange, Ginger, Cinnamon

image195 image198

Dinner Roll and Corn Muffin with Honey Butter

image200 image202

Housemade Pork and Duck Sausage with Fennel Orange Marmalade and Grilled Bread

image203 image206 image207

Confit Duck Leg-Frisee Salad – Beets, Blue Cheese, Bacon, Grilled Bread, Sherry Vinaigrette

image212 image211

Chicken & Waffles – Fried Ashley Farms Chicken Breast, Buckwheat Waffles, Braised Greens, Sautéed Mushrooms, Bacon–Mushroom Emulsion, Truffle Honey

image214 image217

Pan Seared Duck Breast – Dirty Farro, Squash, Apricot, Kale, Black Trumpet Mushrooms

image229 image231

Simply Divine Caramel Cake – Buttermilk Ice Cream

image232 image234

Southern Banana Pudding – Vanilla Pudding, House Made Vanilla Wafers, Chantilly Cream

image226 image228

Carrot Cake – Carrots, Cream Cheese Mousse, Pistachio, Ginger, Carrot Sorbet

image188 image189

Owned and operated by Sean Fowler, a Raleigh native whose pedigree includes stints at New York’s Le Bernadin and Fearrington House, where we had enjoyed dinner the night before, it was minutes early for a 7:00pm reservation that we arrived at Mandolin and dropping my mother off at the door before allocating parking behind the restaurant she was already seated at a plush four-top when I walked-in, the dining room surprisingly sparse for a Friday night but soon to fill to perhaps 75% capacity with a crowd of locals enjoying relief from a week of ice and snow.

image187image222

Lowly lit and decorated in blonde wood with black and white photos, jars of pickles, and the restaurant’s eponymous instrument filling space on walls and shelves it was with light music playing overhead and light gleaming from the kitchen that our server approached and describing the restaurant’s “refined Southern” style with focus on local protein and produce selected daily by the Chefs it was with two shared specialties described that we were left to decide, a hand mixed herbal cocktail of bright citrus and spice soon delivered over a whole lot of crushed ice.

image194 image224

Sensing our ‘first time visitor’ status and offering recommendations based on classics as well as dishes he felt to show the seasonal menu best it was eventually a three-course meal that was ordered, the first arriving alongside bread service that featured the city’s best cornbread and house-churned honey butter that immediately necessitated a second round, the soft dinner roll held over and later used to sop up bacon-imbued sauce.

image220

Featuring a surprisingly large amount of duck, no less than four plates featuring the farm-raised fowl sourced from a farm ‘just up the road,’ round one of the menu featured two sizable portions of protein and with the saporous sausage finding plenty of balance in aromatic, chunky marmalade alongside toasty blackened bread the salad was even more impressive, a large and crisp leg of confit duck served over greens, several varieties of beets, winter citrus, and blue cheese all melded by a light splash of acidic vinaigrette.

image218 image219

Admittedly surprised by the portions considering the relatively low prices for such a ‘fine-dining’ space it was after a somewhat lengthy delay that mains would arrive and targeting two more plates of bird one would be hard pressed to levy a single complaint against either, the lightly seared duck rich and fatty atop the liver infused grains while the Chef’s signature chicken was well brined and impeccably crisp with naturally truffled honey adding just a touch of sweetness to the otherwise strongly savory accoutrements.

image225

Unable and unwilling to pass on dessert, particularly with a menu featuring two personal favorites, it was again after a bit of respite that a trio arrived and paired with a much needed double-espresso over ice it was only the overworked carrot cake which was far too potent with ginger that failed to shine, the mason jar of banana pudding as light as a feather with crisp cookies juxtaposing Chantilly while the Caramel Cake and tangy ice cream more than lived up to its description as “divine.”

image223 image221

http://mandolinraleigh.com

Mandolin on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Chapel Hill, Cornbread, Dessert, Durham, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Mandolin, North Carolina, Pork, Raleigh, Vacation, Waffles

Ole Time Barbecue, Raleigh NC

image153

Ole Time Barbecue

image172 image173

Chicken Pastry

image158 image162

Hush Puppies

image165 image166

Chopped Pork, Fried Chicken, Mac & Cheese, Coleslaw

image176 image175

Banana Pudding

image157 image155

Taking a ‘cue break to visit a few museums and stores in downtown Raleigh it was back to the plan that we leapt, and finally finding Ole Time Barbecue open after several down days due to the weather it was just after 5:15 that we stood outside the window watching the lone chef chop, chop, and chop some more pork before heading inside where an overhead stereo played an eclectic blend of classic rock and expected country while service offered Southern-charm at its best.

image156 image160

Every bit as rustic as the exterior would have one guess, yet at the same time virtually spotless without a speck of dirt to be seen amidst the various knick-knacks dotting the décor, it was mere moments after taking a seat that the restaurant’s lone waitress dropped off menus and with water glasses soon filled it was before an order was even placed that a big basket of golden hushpuppies arrived, each oblong nugget pillowy soft and delicious on its own, but even better with some fiery Ole Time Hot Sauce.

image163 image178

At this point having already dined on chopped swine alongside fried chicken twice that day, and still with one more meal to go, it was a foregone conclusion that a shared combination plate would constitute the bulk of our order and offered the option of eating ‘right away’ or waiting for the next batch to be fresh chopped the answer was obvious, a bowl of dumplings in rich gravy entitled ‘chicken pasty’ enjoyed as we waited, along with the rest of the fried dough.

image180 image181

At this point enjoying the interplay between waitress and no less than a dozen regulars who stopped in to procure ‘cue to-go on their way home it was perhaps twenty minutes before our entrée arrived and with the pork absolutely steaming with light notes of acidity juxtaposing briny bits of skin it can only be said the chicken was even better, a robust crunch overlying each juicy bite while sides of macaroni and sweet slaw were no less impressive, the former particularly impressive with al dente noodles far more impressive than those at competing houses of Carolina-style ‘cue.

image182 image185

Unquestionably impressed by savories it was to a limited selection of sweets that the meal would conclude, and told that the Banana Pudding was “nothing fancy, just real good’ a small Styrofoam bowl was delivered straight from refrigerator mere minutes later; the composition of homemade pudding, overripe bananas, and soggy ‘Nilla wafers without any unnecessary whipped cream instantly proving our server’s words to be true.

image183

http://www.oletimebarbecue.com

Ole Time Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, North Carolina, Ole Time Barbecue, Pork, Raleigh, Vacation