Archive for June, 2008

Notes from the Road, June 2008 – Vegas baby, Vegas!

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Vegas greetings to you all!  This update is from much closer to home, as I’ve returned to Las Vegas and our offices here.  However, I figured you’d all be curious as to what is happening in Vegas – so here we go!


It was an interesting week overall, so I’m going to start with Wednesday night.  I was fortunate to celebrate my good friend Franck Savoy’s birthday at his restaurant, Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace (  The gathering was a small group of restaurateurs, public relations mavens and wine professionals.  We were able to enjoy their ‘Bubble Bar’ for a festive and rich meal, combined with some outstanding Champagne and still wines.  My highlight of the night was the Guinea Hen, cooked in Pig Bladder!  Quite a site and an outstanding version of ‘en Papillote’ cooking…


Of course, the night couldn’t end there as a small group of us continued to Noir Bar (Pure Management Group’s inventive cocktail lounge at the Luxor).  Creative cocktails were the standard and Ken Hall’s libations were the plan for the evening.  He created an outstanding Gin cocktail for me with muddled watermelon and cucumbers, simple syrup and Hendrick’s Gin.


Thursday brought with it a day in the office to start, so no daytime adventures for you all there!  However, that evening we continued out to watch the Celtics/Lakers Game #1 of the NBA Finals at a neighborhood bar and grill, Home Plate.  Our buddy Matt holds it down over there and we had a blast catching up with him.  They do really simple, but great bar food from spiced Buffalo Wings to Patty Melts and one of the best dishes, their Chicken Souvlaki! 


After the game, I went on to meet some friends at one of the newer hot-spots in Vegas, over at Town Square to Blue Martini (  This is a concept that started down in Florida and is known for its martinis (obviously), live music, a boisterous crowd and good times.  I believe they’re doing pretty well overall, but the ‘security’ guards need to remember it’s an off-Strip place, not a Strip nightclub – so mellow out guys!


Friday night we went over to TAO Beach to support Chris & Sonny from Rock ‘n Roll Wine (  This was a great event from the very start – smaller than usual for the boys, but a great crowd, killer wines and a beautiful night in Vegas.  If you’ve never been to one of their events, you’ve got to get there!  Hit the boys up on their website, myspace or out and about – they’re really making it happen with wine! 


The evening’s culinary adventure that night was a bar dining experience with our long-time friends at Valentino.  From Bob to Cristina to Carlo and over to James Beard Award winner, Luciano Pellegrini – we had a great time and some outstanding wines and culinary creations.  The highlight was a new appetizer Luciano created – Swordfish Carpaccio with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and capers.  Perfect for Spring and Summer in Las Vegas.


Next stop was a quick visit to see DJ Roger Gangi (a good friend and also my neighbor!) spinning at V-Bar.  Roger was sounding great on the 1’s & 2’s, with an interesting crowd visiting the lounge that night.  But, if you haven’t heard him spin yet – make sure to check him out.  He’s on myspace as well – with his calendar letting you know where his next gig is.


To end the evening, we continued over to PURE at Caesars Palace ( to support my friend DJ Vice (  By the way, Vice just released his latest CD/compilation, Vice Vice Baby – it’s his take on music from the 90’s, a great listen!  PURE was jumping that night with locals and tourists, and we got some great service behind the bar from friends Nick, Jady and Alexis – man, they can make a mean cocktail!


Saturday was another adventure evening, starting with a few glasses of Peju Sauvignon Blanc (for my girls, the Sisters Peju!) over at Sedona Restaurant & Lounge (  It is always a great place to grab a drink in a cool environment in the suburbs, away from the hustle of the Strip.  Dinner was a fantastic sushi experience at Naked Fish, a great little Sushi Bar on the Westside.  The quality of their fish is superior to many off-Strip sushi bars and the guys behind the counter are friendly and fun, especially when you buy them a beer!


Well, that’s about all from this week’s adventures and notes from the road, even though I was home in Las Vegas.   Stay tuned for more adventures and remember; Keep eating and drinking!

Notes from the Road – New York City

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

After leaving Chicago, from the NRA Show, I continued over to New York City for more dining experiences and meetings.


My travels first brought me to Josie’s Restaurant, ( to visit my cousin who is the GM of the venue.  They are known for their commitment to organic ingredients and market fresh cuisine – always good in today’s desire for ‘green’ restaurants.  As well, they also triple filter their water, offering it complimentary.


Dinner that evening was over at Schiller’s Liquor Bar, ( a Keith McNally restaurant.  It is a straightforward, American restaurant with inventive and classic cocktails in the Lower East Side – and it’s always busy!  Our server, Jimmy Hurley, made the night and kept us all entertained.


Thursday morning brought a workout at Equinox at the Time Warner Center, hands down one of the best gym’s I’ve ever experienced.  Post-workout was a snack at Bouchon Bakery ( with a darn fine cup of coffee and sandwiches on fresh baked bread.  After exploring the city a little further, I made my way to Balthazar (, also another Keith McNally restaurant, to enjoy one of the most classic French bistros in North America.  They didn’t disappoint, with fresh West Coast oysters, Frisee salad with Lardons to outstanding Duck confit and Skate wing.


After some shopping in SoHo, we met some friends over at Restaurant Jane ( for an early dinner.  The space is very cool and simple, and the server did a very nice job overall.  The food was a good attempt in a renowned area for cuisine, but could have delivered a little better.  Later that evening was a quick trip for cocktails to Wharf Bar – a NYC bar that is just a step above being a dive!


Friday was a very proper breakfast at The Yale Club for a meeting.  The hickory-smoked salmon was outstanding and the view from the 22nd floor dining room was very relaxing.  The day continued through the city, including the discovery of an outstanding little bakery on the Upper East Side, Corrado Bakery and Pastry.  Their Spinach and Feta pie in phyllo was delicate and flavorful, a very nice treat. 


Later that evening we joined a group for dinner at Primehouse, a B.R. Guest restaurant (  We weren’t sure what to expect, however the evening could not have been more perfect – we were set at a great 8-top in the middle of the dining room and proceeded to be pampered.  I was able to enjoy a 35-day dry aged Kansas City Strip (I’d go back for that alone) while at the other end of the table; my friends were enjoying a Porterhouse (at least 48 ounces) for two, leaving some behind!  The treat of the evening was discovering Gramercy Cellars, 2005, Syrah on the wine list.  A friend of The Nyman Group, Greg Harrington, makes this wine and it was actually his first vintage.  The wine was completely outstanding – full, rich, flavorful, yet polished.  It was so good that we ordered a 2nd bottle!


Saturday brought a quick day caught up in the city, with less than memorable food experiences overall.  However, the evening did finish on a positive note with a bottle of wine at Eleven Madison Park ( a Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant.  The room is absolutely gorgeous, the staff was extremely polished and the setting overall was more than memorable.


Sunday morning brought a surprise treat, brunch at Sushi Samba Park (  I didn’t even know they did brunch, however after being invited there and looking at their menu, I was more than impressed.  I was able to enjoy a traditional Brazilian (Portuguese) dish, feijoada – this was a treat since it is hard to find on American menus and when done well, is amazing.  This was no exception – an outstanding dish full of flavor.  It was a great meal and nice escape from the day.


Monday was another blur of a day, however, we finally made it for a late lunch/snack at Madison & Vine, a simple American Bistro and wine bar.  Here we were able to sample their Charcuterie, cheese selection, and outstanding filet tartar while drinking a bottle of Januik Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State.  It was a perfect finish to a debaucheristic dining long-weekend in New York City.  I was now fortified for my plane travels back to Las Vegas.  Stay tuned for the next adventures around the country – who knows where they’ll end up taking me!


Keep eating and drinking!





Notes from the Road – Chicago

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Last week was a trip to Chicago, Illinois for the National Restaurant Association Show for meetings and outstanding food & beverage experiences.


After heading Downtown from another airport adventure at O’Hare, we started our Saturday night with a visit to the Gage (, which is located right on Michigan Avenue and across from Millennium Park.  This restaurant and bar isn’t so much a Gastropub as it is a really good restaurant with a damn cool bar.  Highlights were definitely their sausages, Duck rillettes and the service of Megan in the bar.  Next, we moved onto Sepia (, over on Jefferson Street, around the corner from Blackbird.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit this rustic spot yet – run!  Great cocktails were being created by Peter the bartender, including Veronica’s Vacation.


Last stop of the evening was for ‘dinner’, which the group didn’t need since we were already full, to Custom House, (, Shawn McClain’s take on an American Steakhouse.  His command of vegetables along with classic presentations coupled with a busy room make this place a winner.


Sunday morning began with a quick visit to Argo Tea, ( one of my favorite places in the country to sample amazing and fresh varieties of tea.  And the concept was created in Chicago as well!  Then I continued onto the NRA show for meetings and a walk-through with a variety of companies, organizations and universities.


In the late afternoon we headed over to participate in the MFHA/Johnson & Wales Cocktail Reception held at the Mid-America Club at the AON Building.  It was a great event highlighting the contributions of each organization and the people who drive the efforts.


We then continued on to one of our favorite Chicago Restaurants, Naha, ( and a chance to visit with two true professionals – Michael (GM) and Carrie Nahabedian (Exec. Chef).  These cousins have leveraged their abilities and knowledge in creating one of the most respected restaurants in Chicago.  Also, Foie Gras had just become legal to serve again in the city earlier in the week, so the luxury item was prevalent on the menu!  After dinner we caught up with additional friends in the bar and sampled at least another 6 bottles of wine brought by Michael – fun times!


Monday was another day at the NRA show with more meetings, appointments and chance encounters.  We headed out early and were able to enjoy a late lunch at Quartino, ( a great take on an Italian urban restaurant and bar, serving small plates in a boisterous environment.  Since it was the NRA Show and Chicago is one of those kinds of cities, we of course ran into some chefs we knew – namely, David Burke and John Hogan (Keefer’s).  After that we continued to grab a quick drink at Tavern on Rush, still civilized before its post 5:00pm rush.


Later that evening was dinner at Mercat a la Planxa, ( a new addition to Chicago by Sage Restaurant Group from Denver.  It was a classic take on a Spanish tapas bar in a big city environment, a sparkling design located on the 2nd floor of the Blackstone Hotel.  The most outstanding dish by far was the Rabbit Parpadelle, fantastic flavors in a luxurious sauce.  The last stop of the evening was over to the Old Town Brasserie, ( for some wine, a simple place right off Division Street, which should fill a void in that area.


Tuesday was the final day of the NRA Show and my most involved day of walking – learning about new products, running into old friends and taking it all in.  Later on in the evening, I continued out to have some wine and cheese at a very cool concept, ENO ( at the InterContinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue.  One of my favorite features of the venue is that they’ll open any bottle on their wine list under $100.00 to sell you 2 glasses to try – very fun and interesting!


After ENO, I made a quick stop back to Naha to say hello to Carrie and some chefs from Chicago – sharing some great Brut Rose and conversation.  Dinner was with a Las Vegas Group (Tabu Ultra Lounge representatives) over at Keefer’s ( for a classic American cuisine meal with fresh produce (asparagus, pea tendrils, etc.) and in-season Alaskan Halibut, which was cooked perfectly.


So that was Chicago!  Whew…I need a diet.  I actually left out some places on the visit, but wanted to give you all a taste (pun fully intended) of what a great food city Chicago is and the red carpet treatment it gives the attendees for the NRA Show each year.  Next stop on the tour in New York City, so stay tuned and:


Keep eating and drinking!