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STRIPLVDINING - STK - Sunday Brunch Club

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STRIPLVDINING

STK – SUNDAY BRUNCH CLUB
By Vegas Food Nerd

I was invited to visit STK and experience their Sunday Brunch Club. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation and were told we had to wait outside the restaurant while they finished prepping. Ok, that wasn’t so bad. I always enjoy the opportunity to peruse the menus of the other high-end restaurants that circle around the dining level of the Cosmopolitan.  

When we arrived back for Brunch there were about two to three other parties, including ourselves. Then the staff of appropriately casted Vegas “beautiful people” waltzed around all of us for about 10 minutes before any of the parties were finally placed at a table. I was originally told going into this experience that we were going to be served a tasting of the whole menu. Instead were informed that we could pick one appetizer to share, one entrée each, alongside either a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa. A bit of a letdown, but hey, this was on them, so why not take advantage.  

We both opted for Bloody Marys, and our server told us we could go up to the bar and customize them with extra treats, such as pickled veggies, peppered bacon, and my new obsession, blue cheese stuffed olives. That was kind of fun. Every table when service starts gets warm coffee cake bread on a board with a Sweet Crème Anglaise sauce to dip the baked delight in. The bread seemed to be a hit at every table, including ours. We started things off with their Niçoise Salad. The tuna was perfectly cooked and the hard-boiled quail eggs were adorably small and good. The potatoes were presented well, but very underdone. They also seasoned them with sautéed onions, which wasn’t that bad, but we had specifically asked our server to take the onions out of our salad if there were any in the dish.  

For our main entrees, my friend ordered the Steak and Eggs, and I ordered their Pork Belly Eggs Benedict. I had been waffling between ordering their Short Rib Hash, and the Benedict, but my lifelong and not so healthy obsession with hollandaise sauce won me over. Our food came, and while they both looked good, the execution was very disappointing. We were in a restaurant called STK, and the steak was Meh Meh, not very good. It was slightly overcooked and didn’t have very good flavor at all. The eggs and potatoes were just ok, too. My Eggs Benedict was a very similar experience. The hollandaise sauce was good and my eggs were poached well, but the pork belly underneath them was very thick, chewy, and hard to cut. Underneath the pork was a bao bun, which is a light, fluffy bread, that didn’t seem to pair well with the thick chewy meat on top of it. For those that know me, it’s pretty hard to make a Benedict I don’t care for, but STK was the first.  

I know that I am lucky that I was invited to try the place, and for free at that, but as we sat there nursing our Bloody Marys and tallying up the cost for the experience if we had paid for it ($144 breakfast), we did a double-take. The Strip is widely known to price gouge tourists while on vacation, but this was over-the-top. As a rule, The Cosmopolitan is one stop I usually take visiting friends, and have never had a bad meal, until now. It’s pretty sad to leave the place and wish you’d just gone to a Denny’s.  

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LAS VEGAS FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
If you haven’t marked your calendar already, do it now for the upcoming Las Vegas Food and Wine Festival at SLS Las Vegas. Many of the events are already completely sold-out, as we go to print. So if you miss your chance this go-round, I’d suggest you get on their mailing list for next year at vegasfoodandwine.com. The grand master of the whole weekend-long event running from Sept. 15-18 is the highly-esteemed Chef José Andrés. Alongside him, hyping up the foodies into a real frenzy, are Chefs Charlie Palmer, Frank Pellegrino Jr., Francois Payard, Brad Kilgore, and many more. It’s going to be a wine tasting, spirits tasting, food tasting, live chef demonstrations, and dessert tasting experience that you will surely brag about to your friends. Tickets start at $50 each for Regular Admission and $100 for VIP at each event.  

vegasfoodnerd.com • Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

STRIPLVDINING - Bottiglia Cucina & Enoteca by Vegas Food Nerd

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BOTTIGLIA 
Cucina & Enoteca 
BY VEGAS FOOD NERD

Henderson has been blessed with this new Clique Hospitality Italian restaurant located in Green Valley Ranch Resort Spa and Casino, just steps from the casino floor.  

When you turn the corner and walk into this new dining destination, you hear and feel the word “pretty” when you see the space.  

Tall ceilings, lots of crisp, white touches all over the room, and an adorable scooter that every girl that has seen in the classic film, Roman Holiday, has always wanted to own. There are seats adorned with fairytale-like floral patterns, and a big, airy Hamptons feeling environment in the place. The open kitchen is large and square, and plopped right into the middle of the restaurant, giving diners the chance to view and watch the action right from their seats. They had this fun-looking area with couch seating arrangements on one side of the space, and while they appeared very comfortable, I wouldn’t want to have to try eating pasta sitting in a space like that. I’d recommend grabbing a seat at the bar where you can drool over the beautiful copper pizza oven and watch all of your foods get created. 

Once we were seated at our very pretty high-top table, I secured a spot where I could watch the bartender and all the chefs at work. They brought us out their perfectly plated breads with a really nice, not too sweet, honey butter. Along with our bread, our hosts introduced our table to two of their salad options: a Chopped Salad and their Buratta and Tomato Caprese. The Chopped Salad was very good, but if there is a cheese that can change your life, it would be buratta. It makes fresh mozzarella feel like the wallflower I was in middle school. They accented the life-altering dairy treat with marinated heirloom tomatoes, aged balsamic, and pistachios (insert swoon noise here). Our salads were served with a Sangria Bellini, and a drink called La Bella Vita, made with Prosecco. The cocktails in presentation were gorgeous with fresh flower accents—just a bit on the sweet side for me. My waiter was gracious enough to supply me with a good Pinot Grigio for the rest of the meal.  

Next, our hosts treated us with a sampling of some of their favorite appetizers to share at our table. The Char-Grilled Octopus was in a blood orange vinaigrette with a black garlic yogurt sauce that put off everyone at first, but it was love at first bite for pretty much everyone at the table.
 
The Beef Carpaccio, with a perfectly round poached egg in the middle with hearts of palm and cherry peppers, just melted on your tongue in a perfect mix of flavors. Their take on Crispy Calamari was a happy, deep fried taste, lightened up with fresh lemon and a light marinara sauce. And finally, they served us a Zucchini Flowers, breaded, lightly fried and filled with a lemon ricotta stuffing—a table favorite, to say the least.

The next round was their pastas and entrées. First up was their Baked Gnocchi Arrabbiata, baked with buffalo mozzarella in a spicy Calabrian Chili and San Marzano tomato sauce all served in blue stoneware, which helped to keep this dish hot the whole time that we shared it. It was a tasty take on one of our Nonna’s favorite treats. My favorite pasta dish that they served us was the Sausage & Rapini, served over a big rigatoni with ricotta and a tomato chili sauce. The flavors all complemented each other so well, and I would highly recommend ordering this plate of pasta. They brought us another signature dish, Lobster Fra Diavolo, and as much as I like my crustaceans, for me, this wasn’t incredible. It was presented with the head of the beast staring straight at you, which for some was too much, but I of course dug in, and just wasn’t knocked out by it. The other entrée that they brought for us to sample was the Pan-Roasted Halibut served with a farro risotto, carrot purée, and peas. The halibut was cooked perfectly and the sides and sauces that adorned it just made me really happy.  

A meal just isn’t complete without dessert, right? Well, at this point most of us were groaning with full bellies, but when they bring you fresh, Lemon Poppy Seed Donuts with a blueberry dipping sauce, you are going to eat it and be glad that you did. They followed it with a Strawberry Limoncello Pannacotta that was a light, refreshing experience that I will either be ordering or trying to recreate at home very soon.  

SOUTHERNERS, REJOICE—CRACKER BARREL IS COMING
My family used to drive every summer from Michigan to Florida, and the only restaurant we could generally get our folks to pull over and sit down to a meal at was Cracker Barrel. Not Waffle House, though those dotted the highway just about as frequently as the grit-slinging Barrel did. Nostalgia is big when you are talking about food. When this place finally opens outside of the Silverton Casino, you can bet this Nerd will be there, getting a plate of some sort of gravy-covered, chicken fried, grits on the side, biscuits with it, type of dish. I will have my head down, really conflicted about whether to order the fried apple or the hash brown casserole on the side. Or maybe just both. Yeah, both. All my potentially redneckian friends are welcome to join me.  

Now go eat something.
 
vegasfoodnerd.com • Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

National Ice Cream Month - Baskin-Robbins by Vegas Food Nerd

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HAPPY NATIONAL ICE CREAM DAY
BY VEGAS FOOD NERD
 
Baskin-Robbins Loves Ice Cream.  I know that is a shock to hear, right?  Well, in honor of National Ice Cream Month (July) they have introduced three really fun treats for customers to enjoy. 
 
First up is their USO Patriot Pop flavor, which is a red, white, and blue-looking and tasting blend of cherry, lemon, and blue raspberry-flavored ices.  It’s light and refreshing, and when you go to Baskin Robbins today, they will donate $.75 for every sale of their USO Patriot Pop floats to the USO, in honor of the USO’s 75th Anniversary. 
 
Their new flavor of the month is OREO Birthday cake.  It features chocolate cake-flavored ice cream with Birthday Cake OREO cookie pieces, frosting bits, and a candy confetti ribbon.  You can enjoy this one in a cup, cone, or as a milkshake. 
 
Their latest and probably my favorite ice cream creation that I’ve had the opportunity to sample is their new Polar Pizza.  We were lucky enough to try a variety of mash-ups of the pizzas—and they were all good.  My personal favorite was one with a chocolate cookie base, Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream, and crumbled Heath bars.  Yes, I died and went to heaven.  Polar Pizzas are so fun.  Guests can customize them any way they want online and pick up at their local Baskin-Robbins.  Sorry, ice cream cake.  I think I just found something I like better.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Can we still be friends? 
 
For more information go to www.baskinrobbins.com or just go get a float today.  It benefits a good cause, and you will get a unique and refreshing summer treat.  It’s a win-win situation, people.  Now go and eat some ice cream.

STRIPLVDINING - Sint Maarten by VegasFoodNerd

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STRIPVDINING

SINT MAARTEN NERD TRAVEL GUIDE
By Vegas Food Nerd

This lucky Nerd got the chance to travel to the island destination of St. Maarten recently. This Caribbean island has the distinction of having the most restaurants and diverse cuisine than any other white, sandy isle in the Caribbean. So of course, before embarking on my long journey, I did a bit of research to determine which of this half Dutch, half French island’s restaurants might turn me into full-on happy geekness.  

LA CROISSANTERIE – MARIGOT
Our family has been visiting St. Maarten for a long, long time, and when we go, the main priority stop on each trip is La Croissanterie. Fresh baked, warm, flaky, buttery and life-changing, their Croissants are half the reason you book your return flight to this place. This time I got to sample their Ham and Cheese Croissants, and they were leaps and bounds better than the ham and cheese ones I used to buy at the old food court in my hometown.

LE BISTRO NU – MARIGOT 
Located on the French side of the island, this tiny, easy-to-miss spot offers authentic French cuisine served to you by Frenchmen who can barely speak English, and that is a very, very good thing. We happened on this spot one night and were served a meal that I will remember for a very long time. The Escargot, in particular, were the best that I’d ever had. They served it in a stoneware type of bakeware, and it kept the delicious, garlicky-parsley swirled delights blistering hot, until we of course devoured them all. Then we shared a Hot Goat Cheese Salad (goat cheese is very big in St. Maarten) followed by a perfectly crisped and savory Duck Confit. BistroNu.com
 
ANTOINE’S – PHILIPSBURG 
A favorite of our family for quite sometime, Antoine’s is located just off the beach on the Dutch side of the island and is a dream for gourmands everywhere. Now under new ownership by an impossibly adorable French couple, many of the original menu offerings are still available. Trust me on ordering the Veal Farfalle, and their Grilled Caribbean Lobster, and plan on a lingering meal, so that you can have one of their dessert Soufflés. AntoineRestaurant.com  

THE STONE RESTAURANT – SIMPSON BAY
One of the most unique dining concepts that I’ve experienced lately was this small, out-of-the-way destination. Your food, ranging from seafood to steaks is served to you on the hot stones that they were cooked on. Only mistake we made was to order most items at a medium temperature. Your food continues to cook as it sits at your table, so if you happen to try this fun and inventive spot, be sure to order your items medium rare to rare, so that it doesn’t overcook while you dine. TheStoneRestaurant.com

IZI RISTORANTE ITALIANO – SIMPSON BAY
This modern take on some good old red sauce joint is another delightful find on this tiny island cluttered with restaurants. You get to pick your sauce, pasta shape in Fresh Homemade, Regular Semolina, Organic or Gluten-Free pasta, and add any extra sides desired. Our Gnocchi Bolognese was a melt-in-your-mouth delight and a big standout of the meal was this Salad that featured a Crepe filled with a honey almond goat cheese stuffing. Our Caprese Salad was on point, and when our Fettuccini Alfredo showed up, we groaned with that overloaded delight that you want pretty much every meal to end with. I don’t want to give too much away, but trust me, if you are in St. Maarten on your birthday, this is the place to visit. IziRistoranteItaliano.com
COCO BEACH – ORIENT BAYThis beach bar spot is located on some of the softest and whitest sand beaches in all of St. Maarten. Grab a few chairs and hope you get our favorite attendant, John, who will bring you any libation (the Mai Tais are killer) or food offering you’d like. They have these crispy Pizzas that really hit the spot once you decide you’ve overloaded with the saltwater and heat. CocoBeachSXM.com

THE RESTAURANT THAT HAS NO NAME – ORIENT BAY
I’d hate to pull an Anthony Bourdain and not disclose one of our favorite eating spots that we found while visiting paradise, but this restaurant we found just outside the nudist resort on Orient had just opened one week prior to our visit. A charming yet persuasive Frenchman encouraged us to sit down in this idyllic setting facing the gorgeous blue ocean, and we did. We weren’t sorry we had some of the freshest Mussels with White Wine and Garlic. Not too big, and not too small—if you are going to have mussels, this is the place. Well, maybe not as good as the tiny place my husband and I found in Portofino, Italy…but pretty darn close. 

SUNSET BAR & GRILL – END OF THE RUNWAY
This spot is probably one of the more cheesy and typical tourist destinations on the island. That being said, it is also something you have to witness at least once. Don’t bring the kids at night because this place gets crazy, like Spring Break crazy. During the day, it’s a much calmer and chilled out vibe. We sampled their Angry Fish Tacos, Cuban Hero, and their Chicken Goat Cheese Wrap (yes, more goat cheese). We paired that with a couple orders of their Crispy Fries and shared a few cold ones while we watched the airplanes fly in and out of the Princess Juliana Airport. It’s a loud, crazy experience that you will be glad you went to at least once. SunsetSXM.com

CHEZ RAYMOND – BAIE ROUGE
Get to Baie Rouge by 11:00am and you can secure yourself some prime beachfront space and service. Before leaving on this trip, I learned that St. Maarten is really famous for lolos. Lolos are makeshift, cheaper restaurants that are tucked away somewhere, either in an outdoor marketplace, or in this case, tucked in a corner at Baie Rouge. The smells coming from this lolo were incredible. We were about to order plates and plates of stuff from them until we learned that they only accepted cash, and couldn’t cash our bigger bills. So sadly, I didn’t get to experience the legendary lolo flavors. ~Au Revoir, St. Maarten... Until we meet again.  

CHEF LUCKY THAI
The city of Las Vegas is filled with many catering options available to all who visit and/or are looking to host a unique event at their own home. I’ve had the opportunity to eat at some of the swankiest dining hotspots, and see some of the “Top Chefs” spin around the kitchen and create dishes that make this Nerd swoon. One thing I’ve never witnessed is a chef under-the-gun, like those reality shows that are on Food Network hour after hour. I did however get to see Chef Lucky in action and on the clock. She is a powerhouse and determined. She’s cooked for me a couple of times, and her committed dedication to giving the client what they want and when they want it is mind-blowing. When I was given the chance to watch her cook and create her gorgeous fruit and vegetable sculptures, she kept her head down—literally, kept her head down with a look so fierce that Ru Paul would be jealous, and managed to deliver her tasty Thai Fried Rice without a hitch to all who attended the event. If you are looking for a Thai catering experience in Las Vegas that will always deliver, Chef Lucky should be your first call. She calls other Thai hotspots in town (the ones that other food critics have hailed as supposedly ‘best of the city’): “Just for tourists. My food, I know is better.” Cheers to that, and Chef Lucky, rock on! ChefLuckyThai.com

vegasfoodnerd.com • Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

STRIPLVDINING - Charlie Palmer Steak "CutOfTheWeek" by VegasFoodNerd

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CHARLIE PALMER STEAK
"CUT OF THE WEEK"
by Vegas Food Nerd

Our town is nothing if not inundated with steakhouses. Hip ones, classic ones, and twisted circus ones litter the Las Vegas landscape. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Four Seasons Hotel is Charlie Palmer Steak. The gem of a steakhouse is quiet, refined modern luxury for the carnivore inside us all.  

Dining insiders have long known about Charlie Palmer Steak’s somewhat “secret” menu called “Cut of The Week”. Each week Chef de-cuisine Stephen Blandino selects a new cut of meat that he pairs with a “Bottomless Wine” selection that expertly accompanies each course of this three-course menu, all for a very reasonable price point at $58 per person.  

My husband and I have wanted to get to Charlie’s and try this “Cut of the Week” menu that we pull up online each week, to see what the chef has cooked up. The weekly menu reading usually results in one response from each of us: a low sort of guttural “yummm” noise.  

Finally, we got the chance to taste for ourselves and invited a couple of friends to join us on our meaty quest. My husband and I ordered the “Cut of the Week”, and our friends opted for the legendary offering from the restaurant, which is their Porterhouse for two, with their also pretty-esteemed Truffle Gratin Potatoes. Our meal began with a fresh, peppery Arugula Salad paired with fresh California mozzarella cheese. The kalamata olives and their briny flavor added a nice balance to the sweetness of the balsamic vinaigrette, and the cheese was just divine. The wine with this course was a crisp, clean Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand that we enjoyed very much.  

Next came our main courses. The Porterhouse was delivered to our friends along with their Au-Gratin Potatoes and a side of Sautéed Spinach with spring garlic. The porterhouse arrived in a beautiful two-handled pan with a pair of tongs to serve this cut of meat that was large enough to satisfy any hardcore carnivore. Fred Flintstone would approve.  

Our Pork Chops from the “Cut of the Week” menu came out at the same time and had the same impact on the table as far as the presentation. It was served with a Morel Mushroom Ragout. It was the most tender pork chop I think I’ve ever sampled. It melted in our mouths, and our Spanish wine that was paired with it complemented the chop to perfection. On the side we were served Rapini with Parmesan, and Smashed Potatoes. Our sides were good, but they just couldn’t touch the Truffle Gratin Potatoes that my friends so generously shared with me. They were rich, cheesy, and food coma-enhancing.  

No menu is complete without a sweet finish, and Chef Blandino ended our menu perfectly with a White Chocolate Bread Pudding, which pretty much sent us over the edge as far as our food coma was concerned. The luxurious dessert was served topped with a Blackberry Lavender Ice Cream. We capped off the night with a couple Espressos and Cappuccinos.  

Charlie Palmer Steak is a quiet, dark spot, far removed from other steakhouses in town that are closely positioned only a few steps from the casino chaos. It’s an indulgence I recommend you try very soon. I will continue to check the “Cut of the Week” menu every week, and I will be back.  

VegasFoodNerd.com
Follow me at: 
@vegasfoodnerd

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