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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER - The Heat Is On

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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF—
CHARLIE PALMER

AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR

THE HEAT IS ON
By Chef Charlie Palmer

It’s hard to believe, but in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the only styles of restaurant cooking considered review-worthy were French and Northern Italian. These are primarily herb-based cuisines—what I like to call “cool cooking.” Then in the 80’s and 90’s, as the kitchen became more of a global village, emphasis shifted to spice-based cuisine, or what I call “warm cooking,” like Modern Indian and Miami’s famous Latin-influenced “New World” cooking. Although herbs and spices are often grouped together, they are actually very different cooking components with one basic similarity: both come from aromatic plants. Herbs are the leaves, stems and flowers of plants found in temperate climates (generally soft in texture like basil, or slightly woody like rosemary). Spices are the bark, roots, seeds, buds, and berries from tropical zones (generally hard, like peppercorns or cinnamon). Whether a recipe calls for herbs or spices (or how it combines the two) can provide a history lesson that links the origin of a dish to its community roots. However, the great dissimilarity between spices and herbs is in the manner and timing of their usage, which all comes down to one issue: heat. Spices like it; herbs do not.

Herbs: Because their essential oils are diminished by heat, herbs are added towards the end of savory cooking time, as a way of balancing flavor. When heartier stems of herbs are used early in the cooking process—such as making stock or in a braising liquid—they are discarded after lending their essential oil to the liquid and freshly chopped and added right before serving. Spices: Because they are typically hard in texture, spices require heat and moisture to release their essential oils. They are introduced early in the cooking process, playing more of an integral role in flavor development. Spices can produce an almost endless spectrum of flavor—from subtle to complex— providing you know how to treat them. Once you understand that the applying of the right heat method unlocks and maximizes their flavor contribution, every dish you make with spices will be noticeably better.

Whole spices are typically immersed in cooking liquid—for example, whole cloves, allspice or peppercorns in a stock or braised dish, like pot roast or lamb shanks. Place spices in a small square of cheesecloth, draw the edges together to form a bag, loosely tie it with kitchen twine (or use a small pre-made “spice bag”), and place it on a clean working surface. Using the side of a knife blade, press down on the bag and “bruise” the spices. This will crack open the surface of the whole spice (without grinding) and allow maximum flavor to be released as the liquid heats. At the end of the cooking time, it is easy to remove the bag—without straining loose spices from the seasoned liquid—and continue with your recipe. Ground spices—say in a stew or chili—should be sprinkled over the aromatic vegetables (like garlic and onions) as they are being sautéed, allowing the natural moisture in the vegetables to “cook” the spices before additional liquid is added as a way of intensifying their flavor. During this process, you should be stirring frequently to prevent the spices from burning. Dry rubs on meat that is to be seared—like a steak or pork chop—should have the surface of the skillet covered with enough oil to coat (not submerge) the crust. This allows the hot oil to “cook” the spices and prevents the dry rub from sticking.

At Aureole Las Vegas, Chef Vincent Pouessel’s signature Maine Lobster Corn Dog with Tarragon Espuma is representative of our spice cooking style. We add an exotic touch to this American classic with Togarashi, a Japanese 7-spice blend that typically includes red chile flakes, dried orange peel, white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, nori (seaweed) flakes, poppy seeds and ginger. At Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas, one of the most sought-after dishes is Chef Steve Blandino’s 14-ounce Peppercorn Crusted Butcher’s Cut, which rotates nightly and is seared in a mixture of hammer-cracked Szechuan, black, and white peppercorns. This is a steak for those who truly embrace that peppery heat. Here are some of my favorite “warm” cooking style hideouts—all of them undeniably “cool.” —Charlie

Monta / Japanese Noodle House • 5030 Spring Mountain Rd. —This ramen place is right next to Raku, but really flies under the radar. The ramen is unbeatable.

Chocolate & Spice • 7293 W. Sahara Ave. —Megan Romano’s bakery on Sahara is a foodie must-stop while in Las Vegas.  It’s a great break from the Strip and you should definitely try and smuggle some of her Chocolate Nutella Bombes and any of her cookies home in your suitcase.

miX • THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay —After dinner at Aureole, go to Alaine Ducasse’s miX, for a drink at the very top of THE Hotel.  Hands down, miX offers the best views of Vegas with its outdoor terrace and windows overlooking the entire Strip.

Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com

TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER - Steakhouse - The Original "Eating Club"

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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF— CHARLIE PALMER
AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR

The Steakhouse – The Original “Eating Club”
By Chef Charlie Palmer

There’s a reason steakhouses are considered the quintessential American restaurant: They’re incredibly democratic, with food liberty for all. The menus are straightforward, packed with crowd-pleasing dishes, and set up in a way that gives diners the freedom to organize their own meals. Because steakhouses don’t serve composed main course dishes—meaning the chef does not determine what gets served with what—that decision falls to each guest, making steakhouses great places for business dinners, as well as family meals. Everyone gets exactly what they want. And believe me, I have a big family—four hungry boys—and so I know firsthand, how hard it can be to please everyone.

Developed in the late 19th century as “eating clubs,” steakhouses are one of the oldest types of American restaurants. Although you might think of cavernous rooms filled with dark wood and power brokers meeting over slabs of meat and martinis, Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas was designed with something else in mind: I wanted an airy modernist space—something intimate and universally elegant—that would be welcoming to the many women who consider Vegas to be a perfect “girlfriend’s weekend” destination, as well as the astounding number of visitors from around the globe. The incredible cultural diversity of Las Vegas is also one of the reasons I decided to build a bigger menu. While steak will always be the star—it’s Grade A prime—paying the same careful attention to other entree choices—like rustic Slow-Roasted Chicken with Cauliflower, Hazelnuts, Truffles, crusty Pan-Seared Australian Sea Bass with Acorn Squash Risotto, Pomegranates, and plenty of interesting vegetable dishes, so those who forego meat don’t feel forgotten—allows us to please more palates. After all, that’s the reason we’re here.

Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas has a magnetic ability to draw people who feel like celebrating—iced shellfish platter, anyone? And our menu is made for sharing—reflecting a wide range of flavor, so everyone can make a contribution to the communal meal. Vegetarians can group our sides into a meal that covers all the texture bases: Some dishes are luxuriously creamy, like our trademark Parmesan Potato Gratin, while others are fresh from the field flavor, such as Garlicky Broccolini. Then there are specialties in the spirit of the Southwest, like our Salt-Roasted Chiles, a mild yet pungent mixture that changes with the season.

This same celebratory attitude is on display in our eclectic wine list, presented with the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and representing some of the finest producers in the world. In addition to the classic wines from the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Spain, Germany and Italy (that you might expect to find in a steakhouse), we also love to offer wine from little-known producers with a focus on those that produce less than 400 cases, including Napa Valley Cabernet and exciting new Pinot Noir producers from up and down the West Coast.

At its heart, Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas will always be about the basics done big, sidestepping the corporatized chain offerings to have some fun: Our Bison Osso Bucco with Parsnips and Blood Oranges is braised with a touch of Dr. Pepper, and we do a fantastic Maine Lobster stuffed with Ritz Crackers. No kidding. To me, this is the most important part of Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas: It lets everyone put their personality on the table—ours in what we choose to serve, and yours in the way you choose to experience them. —Charlie

Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel
3960 Las Vegas Blvd S. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com 

TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF CHARLIE PALMER - Spring Sides

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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF
CHARLIE PALMER
AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR

"SPRING SIDES"
By Chef Charlie Palmer

This is an exciting time of the year for the chefs at Charlie Palmer restaurants all around the country: It’s Farmer’s Market season (when the local produce starts to blossom and greenery is everywhere). Although many home cooks save their vegetable gusto for the spring and early summer—and rightly so—side dishes are our passion all year long, even during those months when the offerings are slim. “Sides add another dimension to the meal, and can bring a lightness to the plate,” says Stephen Blandino, Chef de Cuisine at Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas, voted “Best Steakhouse in Las Vegas” by the Las Vegas Review Journal. “There are always specific dishes that people associate with steakhouse dining. These are the classics that people grew up eating with steak; they understand the flavor. Our diners are crazy about spinach, which we do in creamed style with a jalapeño bacon undercurrent. And they love their potatoes, so we offer them the best and freshest spiced fries, hand-cut so there are no preservatives, which really lets the taste of the potato come through, as well as potatoes enriched with parmesan (another iconic steakhouse side). However, adding new dishes as the markets bring forth change lets me be more playful in the kitchen and keep our sides exciting.”

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when sides didn’t play such a major role on the steakhouse menu. In fact, in the late 19th century, instead of the steakhouse, there was the Beefsteak, not a food but an event, often hosted by political and fraternal organizations in which men—and only men—sat at long tables in rustic taverns and back rooms and ate nothing but beef with gravy sopped bread. No preliminary shrimp cocktail, no sides of potatoes or greenery. It was all meat, all the time, washed down by copious amounts of ale and some old-fashioned storytelling. Beefsteak clubs were such a part of Manhattan’s past that the Museum of the City of New York devoted an exhibit to their history. The 19th amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, brought the female touch into the social mix and out of that presence came the steakhouse, a more genteel way of devouring meat. Menus were developed to include options that would create a full meal and side dishes took their place, front and center. 

“It’s not unusual for a steakhouse to become famous for its sides, and our diners often make a meal out of their favorites,” Blandino says. “We do our Brussels Sprouts with fish sauce and Togarashi, (a Japanese spice mix that includes red and black pepper, sesame seeds, dried mandarin orange peel and green nori seaweed flakes), creating a great interplay of natural sweetness and salinity. Recently a guest came back three nights in a row, just for that dish. And even when asparagus is out of season, I have to find it. The way I prepare it changes with the season, but a guest favorite is our adaptation of the classic amandine, but instead of adding slivered almonds, we use almond milk foam with rich browned butter and some lemon juice tang.” There are other side dishes that stand out on the menu at Charlie Palmer Steak, like dry roasted chiles—kept in the moderate heat range—an earthy mix of Anaheim jalapeño and small, bright green Pardon chiles made crunchy with sea salt. “I can’t wait until the Hatch chiles come in,” says the chef, talking about the famous peppers grown along the Rio Grande for which New Mexico is famous. And the lobster fried rice, a luxurious combination with fragrant jasmine rice, ginger, scallions and Maine lobster. “Despite our mission to keep interesting sides on our menu all year round, I really look forward to shopping the green market,” says Blandino. “It not only deepens our relationship to local growers. It gives us a chance to show off the season.” —Charlie

Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel
3960 Las Vegas Blvd S. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com 

CASA DI AMORE By Vegas Food Nerd

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CASA DI AMORE
By Vegas Food Nerd

When I think of a vintage Las Vegas experience, instantly – images of Sinatra, Sammy, neon signs, and big, cozy, dark supper clubs are conjured up in my brain. 

That is one small part of living here that can be a bit depressing at times. An historic town we are not. When something gets too old here, we just knock it down and make way for the next big mega resort. That makes visiting spots like Casa Di Amore such a wonderful departure from the standard restaurants that you typically find on the Strip – it is so refreshing in a flashback kind of way. I found this place with a friend, completely by accident – and the minute we walked in the door, we knew we had found a true Las Vegas gem. 

The interior is dark, romantic, and feels like you are stepping back in time immediately upon walking through the door. If you are a tourist, don’t worry about getting there – if you call them and book a reservation, they will send a limousine directly to you to bring you to the Casa in V.I.P. style, right from your hotel. When we walked in and saw this intimate little place and its distinctive clientele, we knew we had navigated ourselves into the right place. Personally, it felt as though we had walked smack into a mob movie scene that Scorsese was directing. Dark leather booths, red accents, Sinatra photos, and other vintage Vegas images decorate the brick-walled restaurant. The night we were there, a rat pack throwback singer was on a small stage serenading the crowd for the night. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised to see Joe Pesci or De Niro walk in and sit right down next to us.

The menu is just what you’d expect. They have succumbed to current dining trends and offer Vegan, and gluten-free options for those following specific diets. That’s where the “trendy” ends, with the rest of the menu featuring good old-fashioned Italian-American family favorites, like Osso Bucco, Lasagna, Antipasto, Pasta, Scampi, and much more. You can even opt to get your pasta served “family-style” in a large serving bowl that you can share at the table. 

Over the course of many visits to this Vegas throwback, I’ve tried several dishes and truly enjoyed many of the menu items. Then, upon researching for this article, I learned that a frequent Monday visitor to Casa Di Amore is none other than Paul Bartolotta (only one of our city’s most esteemed Italian chefs!) Monday is a popular day to try this place, because on that day they offer 50%-off of all wine. The restaurant is also closed on Tuesdays, so remember that when you visit. Now back to the food. 

I’m a big fan of their Chicken Française, a thinly pounded chicken breast with a lemony white wine garlic sauce, served with mushrooms, artichokes, and a side of pasta. And a big judge of any Italian cook is their meatball, so it was a must to order the standard Spaghetti and Meatballs. Were they as good as our Nonna’s? No, but pretty darn good. Another standout for us was the Stuffed Pork Chops. They stuff the chops with Italian greens, mozzarella, sausage, and prosciutto, served alongside their signature twice baked potato and some veggies. 

Basically, you are going to leave here in a food coma. And if you don’t, you’ve done something wrong. Oh, but don’t fall into your coma too soon – you don’t want to pass up their dessert menu. They feature Cannolis, a decadent Chocolate Soufflé, a Spumoni Bombe, Crème Brulée, and our personal favorite, their Tiramisu. 

The service, it is important to say as well, was perfect. They were very attentive and on top of their game. It’s the go-to spot for honest Italian food served with care, while transporting you back to the sixties – a time many in Las Vegas miss and romanticize. As their slogan proudly says: “Vegas The Way It Used To Be” – it is a welcome feeling to sit back and imagine you really are back in that era – and to feel a part of it… just a bit, was a pleasure. 

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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER - April Rains Bring Wild Mushrooms

TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER - April Rains Bring Wild Mushrooms

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When it comes to spring, I have a kitchen saying for all my chefs: "Not so fast."

An essential part of being a good cook means that no matter how much we crave the brighter tastes that come along with warmer weather, we can’t rush the season. Instead, we should respect the unpredictability of this in-between growing period, especially as in some parts of the country, that same mild breeze luring us out of the house in the morning becomes a blustery force driving us home at night. The availability of produce during this transitional season is an iffy proposition, and as we wait for the weather to stabilize, developing a menu that can change with the wind is tricky.


At Charlie Palmer Steak at The Four Seasons and Aureole in Mandalay Bay Resort, we always start with what we know will be spring’s earliest edible arrival—wild mushrooms. The first to appear is the earthy morel, with its brown, spongy honeycomb-like cap. Morels are particularly cherished, as they have a short, specific growing season: just several weeks in the spring. That’s why I believe in eating them every chance I get, preferring to keep them visible on the plate by featuring them in dishes that put their sublimely woody flavor center stage, like the Washington morels served at Charlie Palmer Steak with a Charcoal Grilled 14 ounce Dry-Aged T-Bone Steak and Carolina pickled ramps. With an exotic yet familiar taste, morels are often described as “meaty,” “oaky,” and all those other words typically applied to the brawny red wines that echo their deep, rich flavor and pair so well with this coveted wild mushroom, like so many of the award-winning Napa Valley Cabernets that appear on our wine list.


The next of spring’s wild mushrooms to arrive are golden-colored Chanterelles, with a delicate fluted shape and apricot-like aroma, and then come the thick stemmed and nutty-tasting Porcinis, which typically arrive as spring turns to summer. Although still in the meaty-tasting mushroom family, they have a lighter taste, which we highlight in dishes such as Sweet English Pea Ravioli with Golden Chanterelles, a spring feature on our menu at Aureole Las Vegas. These lighter mushrooms pair easily with fruitier and spicier wines, like Oregon Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley region, a region that we have an excellent collection of in our four-story wine tower at Aureole.


As there have been heavy rains this year, it’s likely to be an early season for morels, and those that we are lucky enough to get, will come from the damp, mossy ground in the coastal forests of Oregon, Washington and Northern California. The dedicated professional foragers who harvest the highly cherished morels often show up in my kitchen, bringing burlap sacks filled with the wild mushrooms directly to us. Knowing the people who source your food is a part of the reviving American agricultural scene, a trend we all benefit from when we shop at our local green and farm markets.


We’ve come a long way since the days when I was a young chef working at The River Café in Brooklyn, known for its pioneering efforts to source and support local food. Although North America is home to about 10,000 different kinds of wild mushrooms, there was a time when we relied on European imports, rather than those that grow across the country. As the season continues to unfold, we will feature the other benefits of spring: those tender young greens, peppery watercress, and pencil thin asparagus that lets us know summer is on the way. In the kitchens of the Charlie Palmer Group, we’re all looking forward to cooking with the best this capricious season has to offer, and I hope you’ll join us to see what spring brings. — Charlie


Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel 3960 Las Vegas Blvd S. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com

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