Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vegas Eats

This post is dedicated completely to eats in Vegas.

Whenever we make trips, friends and I rely heavily on Yelp to help find great places to grub. There never seems to be shortage of new places to try. 
Here are just a few of recommendations, from my non-definitive and ever evolving list of good Vegas grubbin. 

Grimaldi's  Pizzeria
I've said it once, I'll say it again--best New York style pizza this side of the coast. I've tried their different combinations, but my favorite is still the marinara pizza with pepperoni, onion, and garlic. Pizzas are cooked in a coal brick oven; they come out fresh and hot, never overly greasy or heavy. I especially like the fresh mozzarella cheese they use...it's all about the stretchy cheese.

If you're on their mailing list, and happen to be celebrating your birthday in Vegas, stop by and they'll give you a free pizza.

Lotus of Siam
Located off the Strip
953 E. Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89104
P: 702.735.3033

Have I heard correctly that the Owner/head chef used to cook for the Thai King? I love that she still cooks at her restaurant and pops out to greet guests and make sure everything is tasting delicious. 
My two recommendations special to this restaurant are Garlic Prawns and Soft Shell Crab Drunken Noodles. Oh, and I heart Papaya Salad. (no dried shrimp, please.)

Burger Bar
Located inside Mandalay Bay
P: 702.632.9364
Choose a burger built by Hubert Keller, or build your own. Add on options are extensive--you can even get truffle mushrooms if you're willing to shell out the dough for it. I'm not as crafty with my choice; I usually get the sliders with sweet potato fries. Nom, NOm, NOM.
Salads and Veggie Options available.

Jean Phillipe Patisserie
Go here for indulgent desserts and a curious looking chocolate fountain. Crepes, French pastries (which I've yet to try), gelato and sorbets. They also have expensive packaged candies and chocolates if you need to pick up a gift.

Hot day + Frozen Hot Chocolate = Magical
This drink in particular comes out in a huge glass, topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The perfect indulgence for a hot day, that leaves me swinging my feet as I drink it. Note: it can get packed inside the restaurant, but they have a to-go window just outside that serves a limited menu, but most importantly serves their frozen hot chocolate.  

Located inside Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
P: 702.414.6203
I've yet to eat at the restaurant, although I've heard it's great. I make the trek wherever I'm staying to get a pistachio macaron everytime.

Hash House A Go Go
Something very Vegas about the place...nothing spectacular about the decor, but probably because the food is decadent, flashy and over the top. I had read good things about Andy's Sage Fried Chicken and Bacon Waffles (yup, none of this bacon bit business; those are huge strips of bacon in the waffles) so I shared that with Abe--I have no recollection of finishing it. It's presentation is impressive--it's served more like a towering sculpture, more than morning breakfast. It was tasty and rich, maybe too rich for my blood, but definitely worth a try.
Deals available via Restaurant.com 

5030 Spring Mountain Rd, Suite 2 
Las Vegas, NV 89146 
P: 702.367.3511
This place came highly recommended by my friend, Brian (a sushi snob in his own right). The dishes are the opposite of Hash House--refined, clean, light. After many failed attempts, we finally scored a reservation and got to see what all the hype was about. They have a really unique menu that serves a combination of yakitori, fresh fish, and mixed specialities (things like poached egg with Uni and Salmon Roe, Kobe beef with garlic, a house-made agedashi tofu). It's worth the visit if you can get a table. Make sure to call early (they start taking reservations at 2pm), otherwise you could be eating late (they're open till 3a.m.), but hey, you're in Vegas afterall.

What are your favorite eateries/must haves in Vegas? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

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P.S. Speaking of Yelp, check out these videos via Cup of Jo. So awesome.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kentro Greek Kitchen

Genre: Greek| Location: Fullerton, CA
Yelp page

I'm always inspired to cook after eating at places like Kentro--places that introduce me to dishes and ingredients that I've never tried (not just a different variation of something I get all the time). I expected the usual Mediterranean menu walking into Kentro, but was confronted with a chalkboard menu full of things I've never heard of--Melitzanosalata, Saganaki, Tiropites? Am I the only one that thought hummus and kebabs were considered Greek food?
In short: Kentro serves strictly Greek food, strictly yummy Greek food...
There are so many little things I adored about this place. From the casual style dining, high top tables, chilled water served out of Italian glass bottles into little cups, to an ambiance that encouraged a relaxed, long, drawn out dinner. You order your food at the front counter and take a number (a la Panera Bread or Corner Bakery), which could suggest fast dining-esque food, but everything we had proved otherwise. Here's a few things I've tried...

Octopus {charbroiled with pickled vegetables, latholemono (Greek oil + lemon sauce)}
 Calamari Saganaki {with tomato, garlic, feta}
Brizola {rib-eye 8oz., cooked medium, briami, tzatziki}
Mousaka {bolognese, eggplant, potatoes, bechamel} **Favorite
Roasted & Pulled Chicken Pita {w/red onions, tomatoes, arugula, dijon aioli served with Kentro fries} **Favorite

{Manouri flatbread} **Favorite
This was my favorite plate (along with the mousaka and chicken pita), and the only one I might try to re-create at home. Baked crisp flatbread, topped with manouri cheese (a Greek cheese similar to feta, but creamier and less salty), dried oregano, dried mission figs, arugula and drizzled with honey and extra virgin olive oil. Overall, great service, food, ambience. Highly recommend it!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

green grape + lime frosty

It's been hawwwt these past few days. And though sweating straight out of the shower may not always the most pleasant feeling, I love how amazing a cold drink or slice of watermelon is when the temperatures get high. Can't beat it. Here's a simple, incredibly refreshing concoction I learned from the wonderful catering folks at Whole Foods to help you cool off.
Just blend:

1 cup of green grapes
1/2 lime (rind and all)
1 cup of ice
To make it a frozen cocktail, blend with tequila. Serve with coordinating green straws and stay cool friends.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

fresh lime chiffon cake

This was my second attempt at making this cake. The first was over 1 year ago for Abe's birthday...and I failed miserably. My cake was about 3 inches thick, dense, and had this really weird spongy texture. I'm kind of embarrassed now as I'm reliving it...only because I still served it up at this really nice restaurant and to good friends who ate it obligingly (sorry guys!).

Anyways, the first time I tried this cake (made by my baking guru, Karena), I savored each delicious bite.... then greedily took the leftovers home to eat for breakfast the next day. The delicious memory paired with round cake pans I scored on sale at Sur La Table, inspired me to give it another try. Yes, it was quite dramatic. I followed the directions to the T and used a KitchenAid mixer this time (instead of a hand mixer) to whip the egg whites into a fluffy cloud mass with stiff peaks. Big difference.

Cakes came out perfect. Light, fluffy, fresh, not overly sweet. Balance was restored. Wounds healed, baking cajones slightly given back, etc. etc. It's a nice divergence from the usual chocolate or vanilla cake, not to mention it's from Cooking Light (so don't feel too bad for cutting yourself a big ass slice). Labor of love? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

To make the filling, combine:
1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cake flour
2 cups sifted cake flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
3 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Garnish (optional):
Fresh mint sprigs 
Fresh blueberries 
Lime wedges

To prepare:
1) First prepare cake pans. Coat the bottom of your 8" round cake pans with cooking spray (no need to spray the sides). Line the bottoms with wax paper and dust with a little bit of flour. This whole process helps the cakes pop out of the pan when they are finished baking.

2) Lightly spoon 2 cups cake flour into measuring cups and level off with a knife. Sift into a large bowl and combine with 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk ingredients until combined. 

3) In  a separate medium bowl, combine oil, 1/3 cup lime juice, 3 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon rind, lemon extract, and egg yolks; stir to combine. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and mix until smooth.

4) Now for the fluffy egg whites. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer on high until foamy. Add cream of tartar until soft peaks form, then add the rest of the 1/4 cup of sugar one spoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Gently stir in 1/4 of the fluffy egg whites into the flour mixture; gently fold in the rest.

5) Divide cake batter in thirds and pour into prepared pans. You can break any air pockets by cutting through the batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool cakes in pans for about 10 minutes; then remove from pans, remove wax paper, and then cool completely on a wire rack.
To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread generously with lime filling (about half). Repeat step, topping it off with the third cake layer.  Spread with frosting--I used this recipe, omitted the chocolate, and added 2 tablespoons of lime juice, which really adds a nice light freshness. 
Garnish with mint, blueberries, lime wedges, or leave as is.


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