Peng Zu

Even out in Las Vegas, where I should be the Patriarch of the family, I sometimes get over-ruled on the selection of a restaurant.  I am partial to independent establishments as opposed to the national chains that have seemed to homogenize the nation and eliminated local cuisine styles.  I also try to choose a restaurant that is not in my own back door, because somehow it just doesn’t seem like I am away.  Now I am not really sure, if there is such a thing as Las Vegas comfort food or cuisine, unless one thinks of the early days of all you can eat $1.99 buffets, that I never tried, for the sake of my intestines.  Nowadays, Las Vegas is a Mecca for enthusiasts of fine food, as almost every “name” chef has at least one restaurant and it has been usually found on The Strip.  That is wonderful unless you are taking out about ten people to dine in which case after a week, even the Brink’s truck would be depleted.

They were all checking out Peng Zu Asian Cuisine that was located in our hotel and was a new addition since we had last been there.  I would venture to say that the majority of people like Asian influenced food, I have tended to avoid it, just because I have found that most establishments would rather rely on MSG as a flavor enhancement, instead of actually being interested in creating quality food.  A couple of the people, including my Bride inquired about the MSG situation and they were all assured that it was not used, so we were going there to have dinner.  I have no idea what half of the dishes were, all I know was that there were plates of food being dropped off at the table, and the plates were being passed around.  I felt like a fish out of water, but I was amazed to see that even my grandchildren were eating with abandon and some could even use chopsticks.  My Bride is very adept using these utensils, and as for myself, I am still a heathen and use a knife, fork and a spoon.   I have to say that I enjoyed the appetizers, and outside of the egg rolls, I could not tell you what else there was.  I also thought that I would venture into something safe and order the Roast Crispy Half-Duck, which I found to be very fatty and greasy, so in the future, I will only order it from a bistro setting.  The good thing is that the food did not go to waste and everyone was enjoying their meals.

Since I knew that we were going there to eat, I stopped by a day or two preceding our dinner to look at the wine carte, and I was surprised that they did not have a single Gewurztraminer listed, and I think of this as a basic go-to wine for this type of cuisine, and in actuality, the wines that they were offering were just basic red and white wines that the average diner would recognize to go with any popular priced national chain.  I asked if there was a corkage fee, if I elected to bring in a wine of my own choosing and they said that there would be a ten-dollar fee, which I could live with.  Off I went in pursuit of a wine and I did not want to go crazy, but I wanted something interesting.  I found a bottle of Lucien Albrecht Tradition Gewurztraminer 2016 from the Alsace in France.  This winery goes back to 1698 and has survived the turmoil that is Alsace, swinging from one kingdom to another and back again.  They also pride themselves on hand harvesting the fruit and becoming increasingly better stewards of the land, as the industry has been going.  I could not find any technical information about this particular wine, but I will venture to say that it was probably aged in Stainless Steel.  It had a very nice soft color, with a soft nose, and it may have been one of the most delicate Gewurztraminer wines that I have ever encountered.   While the others were enjoying the food, I enjoyed the wine.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Brunch at Echo & Rig

“A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz.” – Humphrey Bogart

Those are the words that greets you on the window as you approach Echo & Rig Butcher and Steakhouse at Tivoli Village, and from the time that we started making plans to go to Las Vegas again, there was constant mention of the brunch there.  I just wouldn’t be a good trip without it.  The whole main floor of the restaurant is a bar and a butcher shop that sells prime cuts of meat and they also age the meats in house.  It is much different than any other butcher shop that I have ever encountered.  The restaurant is located on the second floor and they also have a beautiful porch overlooking the town square of Tivoli Village, and that is where we decided to dine.  Even though it was a bit chilly, especially for Las Vegas, we have that Michigan blood, plus the overhead heaters and the portable gas heaters really helped as well.

We debated as to whether we were going to try something new, but we both succumbed to our tried and true favorites.  We did opt for something new that we shared before our main dishes arrived.  We split an order of Maryland Blue Crab Cake with a red pepper coulis and fresh limes.  My Bride started to waver but stuck with her original choice of Blueberry Buttermilk pancakes with house made Blueberry syrup. I naturally went big time and chose their featured item on the menu and how could I resist since it was a butcher shop as well as a restaurant. I had Short Ribs Hash and I love Short Ribs and these were Prime, with Yukon Gold potatoes, Bell peppers, Shallots, two Poached eggs and Smoked Hollandaise Sauce.  We did do some sharing and afterwards there was no room for any of the desserts that they were offering that morning.  Our appetites are not as large as they once were, but we were totally happy.

Now as for the “bottomless Mimosas” they were true to their word, as the wine goblet was filled as often as the water glass. The fresh orange juice must be dearer than the sparkling wine, because the juice was brought out in a small carafe for us to pour, while the sparkling wine was almost filling the goblet. The first time that we were there we had this wine, I had never heard of the wine that was being poured, but since then I have noticed other restaurants back home touting the same wine for their Mimosas. Wycliff Brut California Champagne is by the William Wycliff Winery which is under the umbrella of the Gallo Winery group. This screwcap bottle of sparkling wine is geared strictly to restaurants and catering companies, so that the consumer cannot check the retail price of the wine or buy it on their own. Since it is part of Gallo, I am sure that they have made sure that they were grandfathered in with the term “California Champagne.” This wine is made by the Charmat Method, which is a more economical way of producing a sparkling wine and since it was being mixed with orange juice, it was more than adequate. Traditionally the wine would be made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and I will presume that all or part of those grapes are being used. All I can say is that it was a great way to start the day off.  The only thing lacking was the screw cap, instead of the classic pop of a cork, but it was still a great way to start the day.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Marche Bacchus Survived

We were going to try to meet some other wine bloggers for an afternoon while we were in Las Vegas, but I guess our communications were misunderstood.  I had suggested Marche Bacchus as a likely place to meet, as it is a wine shop, wine bar and a restaurant located in the middle of a residential subdivision on one of the engineered lakes.  I was told that they were closed, because a truck had crashed into their shop, and even though we were not going to meet them, my Bride still wanted to go there for a meal.  I called to see if I could get a reservation and they obliged and later on I read about the accident, and the business continued without too much of an interruption.  When we got there, we could see the physical damage to the façade, but we went in and saw that everything was about the same as the last time.  We wondered around the shop looking for a wine for our meal, because they only charge a ten-dollar corkage fee above the price of the bottle of wine, which is very reasonable, and good business savvy.  There were plenty of wines that would have caused me an instant divorce, if I selected them.  I also refrained from grabbing a bottle of DRC or Petrus to have a photograph taken with the bottle, as it was something that I couldn’t do, because I only write about the wine that I am drinking at the moment, or a wine that I have bought that will be in a future article when I open it up.  While I have had the good fortune to have enjoyed a few of the DRC wines in my youth, the closest I have ever been to a Petrus is seeing it in a rack in a shop, or on a wine carte, though I can still have a fantasy or two about it.

We were seated at a table down along the lake and I had memories of the Snake River Farms Kobe Beef Wagyu “Haute Dog” that I had the last time, my Bride was ecstatic that she was going to enjoy some Foie Gras, and while it was on the menu, it was only served at dinner time now, and they couldn’t serve any, because the required prep was not done ahead of time, we were informed.  C’est La Vie, as we say in Detroit.  We shared a couple of appetizers to begin with, as we were in no rush that afternoon.  We had their Escargot “Persillade” a classic interpretation of Escargot done in Garlic Herb Butter with Parmigiano Bread Crumbs.  The other appetizer that we shared was the Smoked Salmon Tartine with avocado, red onions, capers, Crème Fraiche and Citrus Aioli.  We were still a couple of happy campers.  I had the house salad from my Bride’s entrée and she had my Lobster Bisque from my order.  She had the Blackened Salmon BLT (with the bacon on the side, since it was Lent) with tomato, Bibb lettuce, bacon, avocado on a Potato Bun.  I had the Lobster Salad Croissant with tomato, avocado and Tarragon-Citrus Aioli, as well as her bacon rashers that she declined to have, as I am a brazen heathen at times.

The fun was in finding a wine and there were plenty there to choose from.  I was the kid in the candy store as I wandered the aisles.  I was looking for a white wine for the afternoon and something new that we haven’t had before.  We ended up having a bottle of Orin Swift Cellars Mannequin California Chardonnay 2014.  While Orin Swift Cellars are located in Napa, the juice for this wine was from across the state.  The wine was seventy-nine percent Chardonnay, but the balance was a blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat and Roussanne.  The wine was aged for nine months Sur Lie in French Oak and it had a delightful color, a refreshing nose and just a touch of sweet.  The wine kind of evaporated during our lunch in the beautiful ambience of the setting.   I had to keep the bottle, just because Orin Swift Cellars always have the most unique label art and I wanted to keep it for my scrap book.  Just a pure idyllic day.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Night with Everyone

Here we were in Las Vegas and trying to find someplace that everyone would enjoy.  With the grandchildren getting older, there are all acquiring likes and dislikes about food, a rather common occurrence and one they could probably blame on their grandfather, the King of fussy eaters.  We ended up having dinner at Capo’s Restaurant & Speakeasy again which is in Las Vegas, but not on The Strip.  We had to enter through the classic speakeasy entrance, but now it seems that the world has discovered this fun little place and from what I hear, reservations are the norm, but when you are having ten for dinner, reservations are always the best idea.  The room still has the semi-lit ambience and live entertainment that one would expect from a speakeasy environment.  In fact, the hardest part was finding someplace for a group photo that my Bride took.

There is so much food that they serve with the entrees that it really wasn’t necessary to start with any appetizers.  Some started with the soup, but most were like me and had the house dressing of Creamy Garlic, which is very nostalgic and keeping with the theme of the restaurant.   Some of the dishes had quaint names like “Chef Sleeps with the Fishes,” “Dinner Tony Duck” and “Racketeer’s Ravioli.”  As you can see they play off of The Godfather, The Sopranos and the Kefauver Trials for the names of the entrees.  The fancy names were for classic interpretations of Italian dishes that one would expect to get, going out for dinner, with the added plus of a lounge singer in the background, truly a nice touch and something one doesn’t often encounter any more.

We started off with Famiglia Pasqua Passi Mento Bianco Veneto IGT 2016.  The Easter (Pasqua) Vineyards and Cellars began in 1925, in the famed Veneto district near Verona.  The name of the wine is a shortened version of “Passione e Sentimento” and is also known as “Romeo and Juliet” and that is about as passionate and sentimental as one can get.  The name of the wine is actually printed over a photograph of a portion of the messages left on the walls of Juliet’s house.  The wine is made from the Garganega grape, hence the Veneto IGT designation.  The grapes are left to dry in trays to concentrate the sugar and then macerated for twelve hours in Stainless Steel.  Part of this juice is then transferred to wooden barrels for a couple of months and then is blended with the balance from the Stainless-Steel tanks.  The lighting doesn’t allow the yellow straw color to be appreciated, but it was a very enjoyable wine to begin the evening.  The second wine of the evening was one that we have enjoyed each time we have been there, just three different subsequent vintages.  We were enjoying Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre Veronese IGT 2013, that they were listing as a “Baby Amarone.” The Allegrini family has been making wine since about the Sixteenth Century and they only bottle estate grown wines. This wine carries the Veronese IGT because it is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese, otherwise it would have been a Valpolicella if instead of Sangiovese they had used Molinara. The reason that this wine is referred to as a “Baby Amarone” is from the fact that it is produced using the Ripasso Method with whole partially sun-dried grapes. Even in the dimly lit room I could tell that the wine was a deep color and with way then enough character to stand up to the rich Italian dishes.  A wonderful way to spend an evening with the family.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Afternoon in Vegas

If one has never been to Las Vegas the bright lights are almost a Siren call for all of the glitter that is there.  Alas, for me that Siren has long been silenced from all of the years of going there, I now have other Muses that tend to entice me, as I discovered decades ago that I am not a gambler and thankfully that was not an expensive lesson.  So, what does one do in Las Vegas, especially when the internal clock is still set for three hours earlier?  We shop and sometimes if the Gods smile upon us, it is some great power shopping.  This was not the case, but it was worth a gamble, especially to keep us away from the tables.  While my Bride has an extensive wardrobe, I have to admit that I am no slouch in that department, though I am constantly reminded that my shopping is far dearer than hers.  We both enjoy buying shoes, but I wear such a unique size, it is amazing that I have as many shoes as I do, we both fall far behind Mrs. Marcos, but we do strive for that goal.

After a lackluster attempt at shopping, we did work up an appetite, so we decided to get a quick light meal, because we were going to have dinner with everyone later that evening.  I prefer independent restaurants for the most part and we ended up going to an eatery that we have enjoyed in the past.  We went to Grape Street which is located in Downtown Summerlin, which in itself is unusual, because Summerlin is a planned community that was designed and platted on paper, before the first shovel was inserted into the dessert ground.   The allure of Grape Street is that not only do they have good food, they are also a wine shop and bar which for us is an oasis in the dessert.  Even the tables that one dines on, are reclaimed wine crates with such heady names at DRC and Opus One, just to make us feel comfortable.  All we did is share a couple of appetizers to hold us over until our dinner.  We shared an order of Baked Brie in a puff pastry shell with toasted Hazelnuts, caramelized onions and an apricot preserve.  The other plate that we shared was Crab Stuffed Shrimp with a Scampi Sauce and some sides of charcuterie and cheese.  Our hunger was satisfied without being over sated.

Somehow it just wouldn’t have felt right to be dining at Grape Street and not to have wine, after all that is what I tend to write about eventually in all of my ramblings.  My Bride had some Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé North Coast AVA NV.   The juice for this wine came from Carneros, Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast and Marin County.  The juice was a blend of sixty-four percent Pinot Noir and the balance was Chardonnay.  The juice was aged in a mixture of barrels and tanks for a year, blended then in the bottle for another two years to totally finish the wine in the traditional method.  I enjoyed a glass of Beau Joie Champagne Brut NV from Bertrand Senecourt in Epernay, France.  This wine was a blend of sixty percent Pinot Noir and the balance was Chardonnay.  This wine was aged for four years on the lees and then spent another two years in the bottle.  The name of the wine translates to “beautiful joy” if my French is up to par, and the bottle is encased in a unique recycled copper mail wrapper, which can be recycled afterwards, and the purpose is that it will keep the bottle chilled for a couple of hours after opening without the necessity of having an ice bucket, depending on the ambient temperature of the room.  I have to admit that both of the wines were excellent in delivering what a good sparkling wine should, but we were unanimous in our thoughts that the Beau Joie was the tastier and more interesting of the two.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vintner Grill

Our first night in Las Vegas and we were not able to see any of our children or grandchildren, so it was a date night. I had talked to our son earlier to map out some ideas during our stay and he mentioned a restaurant that he had wanted to try, but he could never get a reservation as the place was very popular and not on The Strip. In fact, it was in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas and that is where we were staying. We called and got a reservation, possibly, because we wanted an early time, as we were still on our internal Detroit clock. Even with our GPS we had a little difficulty finding the restaurant, because it was nestled in a grouping of assorted businesses, which is very common in Summerlin, but we did find it and we were looking forward to it.

Vintner Grill for being in a modern building was like stepping back in time once we entered it. The white tablecloths made me smile and there was a magnificent polished and lacquered long bar that was very old school. The ceiling I noticed was tongue and grooved and rather reminded me of being on a yacht and we were seated at a booth centrally located in the restaurant and we could observe the bar and the ultra-modern kitchen that was open visually for the diners. We were not that hungry, but we knew that we had to eat. My Bride ordered the braised Lamb Bolognese with black pepper tagliatelle, Truffled ricotta and fresh grated nutmeg, it looked and tasted wonderful. I went with the Seared Sea Scallops with saffron risotto, English peas, fennel, pea sprouts and roasted pepper relish and I enjoyed it immensely. The wait staff was also old school and were very polished and not intrusive.

As for the wine we went with one that would really compliment my Bride’s dish and though it was heavy I did not complain. I might also mention that the wine list was very well thought out and they were not trying to gouge the patrons, which is really a nice touch. The Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve 2015 from the Padernal Valley of San Juan, Argentina. This is one of the oldest wineries in the area as it was established in 1870, so they have crushed a few grapes over the years. The wine was aged for twelve months in new oak barrels, which were a combination of French and American. As to be expected from a good Argentine Malbec the nose, color and finish were full bodied and big enough to hold its own, even without food. I think we may try a return trip here, the next time we are in town.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Situated in Vegas

The joys of modern travel.  After scrambling off the plane with each of us carrying two bags, we made our way to the baggage area, to get our other luggage.  I have no idea, how people can do a flight with one bag.  Then we now each had three bags in tow and proceeded to the rental car agency to pick up a car.  We were kind of lucky that we got an upgrade, because I said that and showed that we were from Detroit, and I thought we should have an “American” car made by the Big Three.  Off we went to our hotel for the next week, and thankfully now the phones have GPS, so we don’t have to rely on memory.  I mean, I need as much memory space that I have left for wine information, since there is still so much to learn, as a rank amateur.

The other most important thing was to stop at a wine shop, before we got to the hotel.  I mean we did have to maintain a small oasis for relaxation.  Our room has a refrigerator, so that calls for wine, and in our checked luggage was a cork screw and some rubber corks for resealing the bottles.  We also had to buy a case of bottled water, as I discovered years ago, even in the homes, bottled water is the norm, and even the restaurants use it when serving glasses of water on the table.  Since we were getting wine, it was also only natural that we would get some wedges of cheese and of course some crackers.  One can’t be a heathen, even in the dessert.

I picked up a couple of easy drinking wines to get us started.  The first bottle was Domaine Chatelain Petit Chablis 2016, as I have read about the designation, but I had not tried one.   It is the lowest classification for Chablis, as most of it is for local consumption, because it is from the outlying areas of Chablis.  It had a nice crisp Chardonnay color and nose, without any oak and very easy to drink, when one is trying to maintain the lifestyle of Nick and Nora Charles.  The other wine that I picked up was for easy drinking as well.  The Chateau de Nages Cuvee JT Blanc Costiers de Nimes 2015 was just perfect, as it has our initials on it, though in reality the JT stands for Joseph Torres.  The wine is a blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc.  The different juices spent eight months on the lees, before blending in French Oak.  The Costier de Nimes is the southern most designation of the Rhone, originally it was part of the Languedoc with the VDQS Costieres du Gard until 2004, so I thought it would be fun to try it.  It was very refreshing and the Viognier gave it the little extra plus to the nose.  We were off to a good start.

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments