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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

STRIPLVDINING - Morels & BaskinRobbins by VegasFoodNerd

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STRIPLVDINING

MORELS 
WINE PASSPORT PROGRAM
By Vegas Food Nerd

Located just off the lobby of The Palazzo Resort, Morels is a French Steakhouse that is easy to walk by without noticing it. While it does compete with big names like Delmonico’s, Cut, and Carnevino, Morels has a patio with views sure to make your date swoon with delight.  

And now they have introduced a new Wine Passport program, giving guests the chance to sample wines from around the globe, one glass at a time, due to their new 24-bottle Enomatic device that uses an inert gas preservation method to keep bottled wine tasting fresh for up to a month after opening.  

For $5, guests purchase their own passport, which looks and feels like a real passport, with the exception of its burgundy-colored cover. The new system enables the restaurant to serve wines by the glass that they usually had to sell by the bottle, which in the past only gave vino connoisseurs a chance to drink vintages from around the globe. When a customer tries a new wine, that selection will be stamped in their passport. For every 10 stamps, a free offering will be given out. And if you do indeed drink your way through all the selections in your passport, then the restaurant will enter you in a drawing to win a magnum bottle of Bruno Paillard Champagne. It is a loyalty program sure to make Paul Giamatti smile and wink.  

If weather permits, enjoy your selections on their spectacular patio, which has some of the best Strip views. And do indulge in their rich cheese selections and charcuterie, as well. On the night we visited and collected a few stamps in our passports, their cheese selection was just pure creamy decadence. I am still in a constant crave mode for blue cheese, and goat cheese. They also had cheeses to enjoy with a nice drizzle of honey, making for sweet and salty delight, which just helped to elevate the taste of the wines that we were enjoying for the evening. General Manager Louis Hirsh said: “We were excited about selling bottles of wine because we have such a good inventory, but we were leaving something on the table with our by-the-glass wine with such a good system. We invested in this great system, and we just wanted, no pun intended, to squeeze more juice out of the grape, so to speak.”  

—Take my advice and bring your date right at dusk to enjoy a beautiful desert sunset as the lights of Las Vegas Boulevard begin their nightly dance for you.

BASKIN ROBBINS
BY VEGAS FOOD NERD


Custom-make your own ice cream sandwiches. Yes, you heard me right! Now in Las Vegas area locations of our favorite home of “31 Flavors,” you can choose from warm cookie ice cream sandwiches or your own ice cream doughnut sandwich. First you choose your cookie flavor, along with your favorite Baskin Robbins ice cream flavor, and they will hook you up Coolhaus-style, with your own creation to devour. For the doughnuts: they split the doughnut in half, put your favorite flavor in the center, add a healthy drizzle of hot fudge, and put the other half of the doughnut on top.  

When I was given the opportunity to try these new yet gluttonous creations, the girl at the counter was sweet as could be, finding out what my favorite flavor was (Pralines ‘n Cream, in case anyone was wondering), and my cookie selection (Chocolate Chip). She then walked to the back for a few moments and returned with both a doughnut ice cream sandwich and the cookie sandwich, at the same time.  

It was a good thing that it was a pretty quiet day at this particular location, because thankfully, there weren’t too many people there to see me two-fisting a couple of ice cream sandwiches. An innocent passerby only had two things to assume about seeing me in that position: either I was having a really good day, or I’d hit rock bottom and was drowning my sorrows in ice cream. At that point I only had one other option—and that was to dig in. The cookie was good, gooey, and tasty. Surprisingly though, my favorite sandwich was the doughnut one. These new creations are good, messy, and fun. If you decide to get one, I’d suggest one at a time—or bring a friend in on the fun and share the experience.

vegasfoodnerd.com • Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

STRIPLVDINING - David Chang Brings Momofuku to The Cosmopolitan by Vegas Food Nerd

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DAVID CHANG BRINGS MOMOFUKU TO THE COSMOPOLITAN
By Vegas Food Nerd

MOMOFUKU

The Cosmopolitan is widely known for its cool vibe and modern feel, but for most, it is known for its food offerings.  

Celebrity chefs, José Andrés and Scott Conant, have outposts of their wildly successful restaurants, Jaleo, and Scarpetta there. And now the renegade chef, David Chang, will be bringing his Momofuku restaurant, along with Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar to the resort.  

David Chang has a standing column in GQ magazine, and in the last year or so, he happened to write a lot about Las Vegas. His frequent visits had me guessing that he might be thinking of jumping into the city, along with the throngs of other high profile chefs that have made our town a new culinary destination.  

Chang, in the culinary world, has created a mad genius type of persona, famously banning all social photos of food inside the restaurant when it first opened in NYC. He has since rescinded this ban, but the ban itself created an almost mythic vibe to the restaurant, causing swarms of New York diners to wonder: ‘Just what was this guy cooking up in there?’  

Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar supplies all of the desserts at Momofuku, and her “Crack Pie” and “Cereal Milk Ice Cream” have been written about countless times in assorted magazines and food blogs. Chang helped to elevate Korean cuisine in such a way that it appealed to hip foodies. The noodles and signature dishes he serves have gained praise from icons like Anthony Bourdain. His Sam sauce (a Korean chili sauce) sells online to other chefs, and home cooks, alike.  

There is just one small problem with Chef Chang setting up shop here in our fair city. He famously coined the term “normcore” food in one of his columns in GQ about Las Vegas, calling the food in our city “monotone” and nothing special. He theorizes that the drones of tourists who flock here are just in full-on party mode and so happy that they don’t notice how basic the gruel is that they are shoveling in.  

Them’s fighting words, Mr. Chang. It’s no secret that New Yorkers cling to their dining scene with a fierce and cocky pride. So it’s not really a surprise that his attitude towards the Las Vegas dining scene is less than stellar. But now that his restaurant is hitting our town, all we can say is, “Bring it on, son—and it better be good.” Momofuku is slated to open later this year at The Cosmopolitan.

STRIPLVDINING - SUSHI ROKU by Vegas Food Nerd

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SUSHI ROKU
By Vegas Food Nerd

I was recently invited to check out the Happy Hour menu at Sushi Roku. My husband and I are big lovers of Japanese cuisine, and couldn’t wait to check out the restaurant. Combine that with a huge appreciation of the idea of Happy Hour, in general (great drink specials paired with small bites—what’s not to like?) and you have a happy food nerd, indeed.  

Their Happy Hour runs from 5-7pm Sunday through Thursday, and on Fridays and Saturdays it runs from 4-6pm. The restaurant is located on the third floor of the Forum Shops located adjacent to Caesars Palace. Usually, as a Las Vegas local, the idea of going to anywhere in Caesars’ vast footprint of a resort sounds like a big hassle and a lot of steps on my fit bit. We were told to park at the valet closest to Joe’s Stone Crab, and to my surprise, on a Saturday, there was virtually no wait, and when we picked the car up at the end of our meal, it was hands-down the fastest I’d ever seen our car come up at a valet in town, ever.  

Once inside, all you have to do is ride the fun, spiraling escalator to the restaurant. Tucked in a corner next to an art gallery we found Sushi Roku. The space in which it is located is just incredible. It has an ancient yet modern feel, with warm dark colors, wooden accents, and these cool cement tiles that cover square-lit accent towers that decorate the restaurant. Then, as they took us to our table, we rounded the corner to see a mouth-dropping view of the Las Vegas Strip, which stretched from The Linq all the way down to the MGM Grand. Add to that view the table where they seated us (a huge black couch of a booth that sat directly in front of the windows) and you have all you need to create a setting that screams romance. All of those things added to our dining experience, as the sunset and the lights of Las Vegas shone their colors. Our host for the night was John, and he expertly ordered and guided our tasting for the night. Upon his suggestion, we started off with a very popular cocktail from their once sister restaurant, Boa Steakhouse, called the “Boa 405.” The drink was Vodka with fresh Strawberries, Lemon Sour, Balsamic Vinegar, Simple Syrup, and believe it or not, fresh cracked black pepper. It was the perfect combination with great flavors, but not overly sweet. Then the food started to come: small dishes, hot and cold paired, as our now very trusted host saw fit.  

The first course was the hot Miso Eggplant Dengaku with their Tuna Carpaccio with Sesame Soy and Garlic Chips, and their Albacore with Garlic Ponzu and Crispy Onions. All excellent dishes, but the eggplant stood out—it was hot and savory with a touch of sweetness and just melted in your mouth. The fish that was served with it was so fresh and tender—each bite was killer. Next up at our table was their Mushroom Tempura with a Creamy Truffle Miso sauce, Miso Glazed Popcorn Shrimp Tempura, and their Hanabi Spicy Tuna served on Crispy Rice. The Mushrooms were decadent and full of flavor, and the Popcorn Shrimp were bathed in a scrumptious sauce that still left enough tempura crunchiness. The Spicy Tuna (raw fish) was accented perfectly by the warm, crispy rice cake that it was served on. Before our next dishes were served, our amazing waiter, Greg, suggested we try another signature cocktail, their “Salary Man,” which was a perfect combo of Dewars 12-Year Scotch, Daiginjo Sake, Simple Syrup with a Raspberry Cilantro mash (Yes! Thank you, Greg). It was really good. Then they brought us a Bacon-Wrapped Cherry Tomato from their Robata Bar, with their Crispy Chicken with Cilantro Mayo, and a dish from their dinner menu: Chilean Sea Bass with their Truffle Miso sauce. The cherry tomato was our least favorite dish, as the bacon was a bit underdone for us. It could have used a little more crispness to it. Their take on fried chicken was very good and we liked the combination of the cilantro with the mayo. The Sea Bass was a succulent, delectable offering, served on a bed of Sautéed Spinach that was simply amazing. In what we thought was the end of our tasting, John brought us one of their signature Sushi Rolls they call Makato. It was Yellow Tail, with Shrimp Tempura, Seared Tuna, surrounded by a spicy creamy sauce and accented with two Tempura Green Beans on the side. It was a delightful luscious combination of flavors. Bottom line: We were slowly entering into a food coma; a very happy coma.  

As we slowly decided it was time to come down from our foodie high and head home, Greg appeared again. This time tempting us to sit back down and experience their Mini Chocolate Volcano with a Caramel Crème Anglaise, and their Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Holes paired with their Vanilla and Chocolate Crème Anglaise sauces. Both were served warm and were a delightful way to end our meal. The ambience and flavors all melded together to make for a romantic and sensual way to spend a night out on the town in Vegas.
vegasfoodnerd.com • Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

Photos: “Boa 405” by Sullivan Charles. “Hanabi Spicy Tuna” by Claire Thomas

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