Archive for June, 2011

Top Chef Masters dinner to benefit Three Square Food Bank

Once again, RM Seafood in the Mandalay Bay has cleared out its upstairs dining room for a greater good.  Runner up and all-around good sport from the second season Top Chef Masters, Rick Moonen, teamed up with the chef that bested him, Marcus Samuelsson to benefit Three Square food bank of Las Vegas.  Three Square does some amazing work to alleviate hunger for those in need, and it is not uncommon for their benefits to be hosted by some of the best.  This time, these big name chefs brought out some of their best talent, including the Foie Gras Ganache that won Marcus the Top Chef Masters competition.

The evening began with a cooking demonstration by the two chefs, and passed canapes, then a brief time for cocktails at the RM Seafood bar.  The dinner itself was five courses, each with a wine pairing.  The first was a very fresh Buratta mozzarella and chilled Maine lobster, with campari tomato and watermelon sauce vierge.  Its light, clean flavors was a great compliment to the next course, the much lauded Foie Gras Ganache.  Imagine a very small version of a chocolate lava cake, but made from an amazing mix of foie gras and spices, so rich and complex that the first thought that came to mind was, “Of COURSE he won.”  It came with toasted almond, balsamic ice cream, and just a bit of coffee cured duck.  A bite of all of these together revealed the great complexity and care taken with these selections.  Complexity almost doesn’t do justice with the great intricacies of this dish.  If I was feeling almost super-humanly hedonistic, I could have eatan a dozen of this course.

 

The third course helped come down from this mini-binge of delight, which was hand-made orecchiette and rabbit confit, with sweet English peas, Parmesan, and pea shoots.  There was a definite old-world style to this, and it did well to showcase the hearty, natural flavors of the rabbit and the pasta.  It went especially well with the glass of Two Hands “Brilliant Disguise” Moscato.  In a similar vein was the fourth course, a hot smoked Arctic char, with an apple horseradish broth, jicama, and petite celery.  This was classic form for Rick Moonen, in that it really played with my expectations.  The apple and horseradish broth was a good marriage between the two, and offset the smoky flavored char.  This course took a break from the wine and instead opted for the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA.  A very great and very hoppy beer, it was a great refresher from the dainty tastes of this course.

 

The desert was, oddly enough, not too far from what was described.  Strawberry shortcake ice cream bar, with “Dipin’ Dots” style frozen bits.  After the whirlwind of flavors I just encountered, I may have been a bit jaded for just strawberries and cream, especially considering the ice cream guessing game you can have for desert downstairs any night of the week.  For those who have never been, just imagine twenty five little scoops of unlabeled ice cream, with flavors you have to guess like corn, thai iced tea, black pepper, etc.

 

Of course, when you are dining with Top Chef Masters, even “just strawberries and cream” is going to be the best around.  It certainly didn’t stop me from finishing off my very full dining companion’s portions.  The night, needless to say, was a great success.  Not only a success for Three Square, Rick Moonen, and Marcus Samuelsson, but for the very lucky and charitable guests, and the Las Vegas fine dining scene as a whole.  Events such as this show that even we in “Sin City” can have a charitable side.

The Black Pearl

When it comes to “Tropical Drinks” it’s hard to improve on the classics. When many try, it becomes either a carbon-copy of an old one, or an overly tart mix to cover up a bland rum. However, once in a blue moon a new cocktail takes the common tools of a Tiki Technician and whips up a drink that anyone would pass up a common Zombie for. This drink was created by an absolute cocktail prodigy from Las Vegas, whom I met over Yelp when he was the head bartender at I ? Burgers. Being a regular staple of the Food and Drink scene here, I felt duty bound to weigh out this new restaurant out. I asked for a cocktail using this new rum I’ve been seeing around, “The Kraken”. It is an almost coffee-black spiced dark rum, most famous for it’s original bottle design and unique nautical style. After a short instant of thinking, he came up with this little gem:

The Black Pearlpost icon

1.5 oz. of Kraken dark spiced rum
1 oz. of light rum (Cruzan, in the original)
2 oz. of pineapple juice
Drizzle of balsamic reduction
Topped with ginger beer

No, I didn’t accidentally add an extra ingredient to this concoction. There is indeed balsamic reduction in this cocktail. More on that later.

Mix the two rums, pineapple juice, and balsamic reduction in a collins glass. Add a generous helping of ice and top with ginger beer. Pull out your trusty swizzle stick (everyone carries one at all times, right?) to mingle the ginger beer with the rest of the drink. Unbutton your top button, belly up to your bungalow bar, and enjoy.

There is something really special about how these ingredients get together. All together, it is only JUST sweet enough. The pineapple juice doesn’t hide the full bodied interesting tastes of the Kraken, and the ginger beer only adds to the spice. Take note that it is important to know the difference between ginger ALE and ginger BEER. While ginger beer does not actually have an alcohol content, it does have a big ginger flavor, and is lacking the sugary soda flavor of ginger ale. I believe the best brand that uses real ginger and has the best balance between sweet and ginger is Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew.

If this drink was only comprised of the rums, juice, and ginger beer, it would be an “OK” drink. Tasty indeed, but nothing too mind blowing. That little tiny drizzle of balsamic reduction is the real ace in the hole. Something about this thick, sweet, tangy sauce gets along with everything. Just to experiment, I’ve tried making this drink both with and without the balsamic. It is hard to place, but the real thing it adds is an amazing mouth-feel. It makes everything just so much darker, smoother, swarthier… It makes one long for a smoking jacket, a sandy beach, and the satisfaction from the ruins of a Bond-villain-esque plot smouldering in the sunset.

This drink was not named at it’s inception, but it was recently put on the drinks menu and titled “The Black Pearl”. I would bet that no one would mind a few of these on a voyage to the Caribbean. Whether making one for yourself, a few for some friends, or a punchbowl for a party, this is one drink that is sure to put a knowing smile on your face.

drink this @ I <3 Bugers – Las Vegas

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