Food has always been a passion of mine. Please join me as I hit spots around the world in search of great meals.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Foodie Guest Post by Human Head

Another guest post by one of the funniest writers I know.


“Have you guys ever been here before?” asked the older man, as his smaller wife looked on in silence.

“No, but I’m very much looking forward to it,” I said.

It was true. The anticipation was so great it must have been some kind of trigger for my lurking OCD, because I made the reservations six weeks in advance. I’ve only been to California twice in my life, and neither trip found me anywhere close to The French Laundry. In fact, I can admit (although not proudly) that at the time I didn’t have the slightest inkling what The French Laundry was, let alone have the sense to point myself in its direction.

Thanks to the constantly improving one-stop shop that is Las Vegas, our last night in town would bring me a step closer to rectifying such a missed opportunity. The rest of the elevator ride to Bouchon was spent discussing with the nice couple the various places we’d been during our trip; standard conversational fare for happy Vegas tourists who manage to avoid the dreaded financial hole people are trying to describe when they use the word “down.” As the doors opened, the man mentioned that they hadn’t made reservations. I thought perhaps that they were simply victims of their own short-sightedness, and feeling a sort of kinship with those that seek out something better than standard fare, I offered to check and see if it would be possible to get them added to our reservation and they could dine with us. The man looked genuinely surprised and pleased at the offer.

“No, thank you. We mostly just wanted to get a look around, sort of scouting for our next trip. But thanks so much for the offer; it was very generous of you.”

“No problem at all. I just wanted to make sure that no one misses out on a great meal,” I said as we stepped up to the hostess and quietly but amicably ended our brief acquaintance.

Looking around while Rachel sorts out reservation business with the hostess, I don’t feel badly saying things about the upcoming “great meal” as though I know all about it, even though I don’t. Such is my confidence, equal to that of my anticipation.

The restaurant was packed to the rafters, and I breathed a silent thanks to my OCD for making the reservations when I did. I had no real evidence that it would have made too much of a difference if I reserved only a week out, but the fact that it was our scheduled time and there would still be a small wait left me relieved at my over-preparedness. We were offered a seat at the bar until our table was ready and my internal pressure gauge slid a few bars to the left. A couple of cocktails before our meal would keep it sliding until it reached zero, just what the doctor (or hostess, in this case) ordered.

The Foreign Legion kept catching my eye as I scanned endlessly up and down the drink menu. It was an odd name for a drink, quite obviously the reason that I kept stopping on its description; Grey Goose, Tanqueray 10, Drambui, and Amaretto. As I kept going over the ingredients, I couldn’t stop recalling that movie that I liked, Legionnaire, with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Being a sucker for crappy action cinema makes me odd, I guess, and the odd drink with the odd mix of ingredients seemed a perfect match, plus I was happy that I managed to break my normal standard of the “very fucking dry” martini.

“The Foreign Legion is an odd drink. Are you sure that’s what you want?” asked the tiny bartender with short blonde hair.

“Define odd.”

“Well, it has Drambui and Amaretto. I mean, c’mon….that’s odd. And a lot of people don’t like it.”

“Sounds good. I’m gonna go for it. And I’ll have a French Margarita”

With a tiny shrug she was gone, leaving me wondering what this odd concoction would taste like. I was sure of one thing; the first sip was sure to leave me feeling either bold or extremely foolhardy. What made it “odd”, for god’s sake? I just hoped that it wasn’t anything near to its namesake, as any similarity in taste to that of a multinational group of soldiers would be understandably unwelcome.

I took my first sip as the bartender eagerly looked on. My face must have given away crucial intel, because she took on a distinct “I told you so” look. Odd was really the only word for this taste, coming in somewhere between leather and a spicy cologne, if either of those things had any ability to taste good. And make no mistake; it did taste good even though it was truly unlike any other drink I had ever consumed. But what’s this? Pickles? In my drink? I took a bit of the pickle, then another sip. My drink had completely changed, leaving me with the feeling that I was the unwitting victim of some devious switcharoo. The pickle was the key.

“How come you didn’t say the pickles were the trick to this?” I asked as the bartender came back our way.

“It’s more fun to see people figure it out.” she said matter-of-factly.

The tiny shrug again. I couldn’t argue though, it was more fun this way. The pickle discovery improved Rachel’s outlook on the drink, bringing her opinion from the depths of “not so much” back up to “not too bad, but I wouldn’t want more than a couple of sips.” She was happy with her margarita, itself a good choice with its ingredients of Grey Goose, Hornitos, Reposado, Cranberry, and fresh lime and sour. If I was a margarita kind of guy, I imagine would have had about seven of them.

Finishing the drink and congratulating myself once again for breaking with my initial standard, I determined that further straying was in order. I decided on The Bouchon, the signature cocktail. The bartender’s face lit up a bit as she went off to mix the drink, and I wondered why. She came back with the drink and a bit of lemon and orange peel on the side.

“Check this out. Take a sip without the peel.”

I did. It was very good, like a kind of a sweeter martini.

“Now, taste what the natural oils from the peels do.”

Holy hell. As was the case with the Foreign Legion, this drink had also done a complete 180, though it’s hard to describe just how, exactly. It was as understated as the Foreign Legion was bold. Sweet, but not enough to make a person tire of it or lose sight of the fact that it was very much an adult drink. Citrus without being too much so. Everything it was supposed to be without being too much. I could keep going, but I still don’t think I would get it as right as I should.

Make it a point to order any or all of the above, you won’t be disappointed.

Shortly after receiving my second Bouchon we were seated. While I know that it is probably a bit disappointing to some, I enjoyed the fact that the menu was printed on simple, unpretentious paper wrapped around the napkin. We concentrated on the selection of appetizers while the waiter recited the featured items and asked us if there were any questions. We had none and decided on the Huitres (oysters) and Pate de Campagne (country style pate), and then fretted endlessly over our choice. We didn’t want to miss anything great, but these thoughts soon fled as the bread arrived, sans plate.

I asked Rachel, “Did they just serve the bread directly on the table? Is that right?”

She was too busy doing the “I’m so happy I can’t talk right now” seat dance, so I decided to let it go and join her (in eating, not dancing). I quickly found that, like her, one loses the ability to puzzle over such trivialities with a mouthful of perfect bread. If I had the ability to make bread like this for myself, I would be very fat and very happy for the rest of my days.

The arrival of our appetizers distracted us from the sure dismay that was creeping in as we finished the last of the bread. Both of us knew that tonight would take a certain manner of iron will; we would have to stave off the desire to consume one delicious item exclusively throughout the evening. Our gastronomic future was much too enticing to get cripplingly distracted at this point.

I started on the oysters and made an effort to concentrate, but my knife kept on like a divining rod, pointing itself insistently towards the pate. I should have known; as a resident of the restaurant, the knife obviously knew what it was doing. Any pate I ate previously in my life paled in comparison to this masterpiece. The temptation began asserting itself more forcefully. I wanted to keep ordering and consuming the pate until I burst, forsaking all other menu selections. I was now locked into my own mental happy dance.

As I returned to the oysters, I noticed that three of them (half of the order) were pure shite, not even large enough to be properly called “small”. This wasn’t too upsetting, as I wrote it off to what must have been a generally overwhelming crush experienced by the kitchen. We would just tell the waiter and he would correct it. Speaking of, where the hell is the damn waiter? My spidey-sense began tingling from the moment he initially appeared, but I had wrote it off which was obviously a mistake. I’ve spent enough time at the tables by now to know I should trust my reads. My water was nearly empty and my cocktail was had hit bottom long ago. Rachel was getting low, as well, and I realized we hadn’t seen him in almost 20 minutes. As we waited, I tried to remind myself again that the place was crushingly busy.

With the 20 minute mark a healthy distance in the rearview, our waiter finally reappeared, and as Rachel related our small problem with the oysters, along with the larger problem of the drink situation, the waiter got a look. The look. As lowly consumers, we were inconveniencing him. Taken aback, I noticed that it was the same look he adopted when we decided to stay on our already defined path of cocktails in lieu of a bottle of wine.

You pretentious little asshole.

Remaining calm, we ordered our entrées and waited to see how this would be handled, although his abrupt manner the entire time pointed to “not well.” A few minutes later, our water was again in good standing, replacement oysters arrived—two of them. Contrary to what Meatloaf may have sang in days long past, two out of three in this case is bad, and making the problem worse, nearly another 15 minutes had passed without a cocktail resurgence. Our waiter, who looked like the product of a Cary Elwes/Charlie Sheen/Midget fusion, standing there with that damnable look on his face, finally sent me over the edge.

I headed to the bar to have a smoke while I tried to think of some way to accomplish what does not come naturally—complain without carpeting an undeserving recipient with f-bomb’s. Rachel, having worked in fine dining for some years and knowing my difficulties with diplomacy in such times, relieved me of the task. Our entrees arrived and on the way back to the table Rachel informed me that it things should be getting better shortly.

Thanks to Olivier, the assistant general manager, we didn’t see the waiter very much after that.

Rachel had the Gigot d’ Agneau (roasted leg of lamb) and I went with the Steak Frites. The simplicity of the presentation was the very reason that some may require a mental reset, as it was a sharp departure from the decorative “fusion” plates that permeate the modern restaurant scene. Mr. Keller doesn’t beg for attention with these dishes. He knows their value and seems content to leave it at that. Like many of the best things in life, you never see this food coming; there is wonder contained in the simplicity and elegance.

The lamb tasted as it would in a perfect world, and the steak was such that it commanded all of my attention and added blissful fuzz to my periphery. Then there were the fries, which were the evening’s biggest surprise. Through various periods of my life I have carried around as many erroneous assumptions as the next guy, including the assumption that there wasn’t much anyone could do with fries once they reached a certain height. As I took the first bite I found myself pleasurably shocked at the fact that my previous assumption couldn’t have been more wrong. The humble fry had indeed been elevated, and after another few bites the “how” of it all ceased to matter.

Throughout our entrée, a cadre of wait staff ensured that previous mistakes were rectified and then some, a testament to the management. They returned the service to expected levels and kept going, reaching a point that seemed far, far away from reality. It became service heroine. Imagine the best service you’ve ever had, double it, and you still wouldn’t be close. Their goal is to make sure you have the best dining experience possible. If it’s not you need only let them know; they will take care of the rest.

Dessert is something I don’t normally partake in, but asking me to leave Bouchon without dessert would be akin to asking that I leave my house without cigarettes. Such a thing should never happen, and yes, I am aware that I am a hopeless addict. However, in a departure from my thus far long-windedness, I will be sparing with my words about the tail end of the meal. After all, if I haven’t convinced you by now to make Bouchon your highest priority, you’re not going, no matter how much drivel I spew concerning their sweets.

While all of the desserts are wonderful (yes, I said all), if you’re only going with one item it must be the Fromage 3-piece tasting portion, and request that the sommelier pair you up with a dessert wine of his choosing. I promise you it will be worth every penny and every moment.

Thomas Keller and Bouchon are leather-bound classics in an MTV sodden world. If you’re tired of the gloss, bright colors, and superficiality of it all, come take refuge in this haven of the real.


Rereading these words, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve spewed forth too much gush. Whether I have or haven’t is pretty irrelevant at this point, I guess. I can’t help myself.

Going in, my anticipation was great, and my confidence matched it. It’s very possible that my expectations far exceeded what was appropriate. Leaving Bouchon, my satisfaction dwarfed them all.

With regards to our next meal there, I left the same way I entered.

“I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Foodie Guest Post by Anthony

We have another Foodie Guest Post…by Anthony!!

Anthony guest post

Friday, January 13, 2006

Another Guest Post by Human Head

Welcome to another post by the HUMAN HEAD. If you read below you can see another post that he made on his trip to Vegas. And for us foodies, we know that you have to hit more than one place while in Vegas. Thus, Mr. Head takes us on a great journey in the Paris Hotel and he's starting to get his writing MOJO back which is great to see after his little break from writing. I will just let him take over from here. Enjoy!!

On Sunday, after a very rough all-nighter, we spruced up and decided that a nice lunch was in order. Paris was on the way to the Aladdin (where some serious shopping would be in order, my husbandly duty for the trip), and since it’s a casino we rarely spend much time in, we decided some dining exploration was in order. Enter Mon Ami Gabi. (geez, could I say "in order" just a few more times?)

Since the weather was nicer than anyone expected, the patio was packed and I questioned whether we would be able to get a spot. I also internally questioned whether or not I actually wanted one. The looks on most of the faces dining there said that these people thought they were seriously upper-crusty because they were out on the patio. The restaurant was obviously nice, but from the outside looking in, the vibe I got from the clientele seemed pretty unwarranted. However, the attitude of a few customers shouldn’t be a primary dissuading factor, so in we went.

Time for some cocktails! If I’m going to endure a shopping gauntlet, I’m damn sure going to have a drink or two in me. Looking at the cocktails made me a somewhat apprehensive as they seemed a bit expensive, more so than usual. $11 for the Gabi Martini, which was just a Grey Goose martini with bleu cheese stuffed olives. I figured that if nothing else it had the olives going for it. Per usual, I stressed very fucking dry, and the Mrs. decided on a Sidecar.

The Sidecar was very good; it wasn’t amazing, but still delicious nonetheless and properly made. I wish I could say the same of my martini. Starting off the litany of things wrong with it, it was very small. Was there a shortage of Grey Goose that I missed? Was there a sudden wild fluctuation in the vodka market that shot the price up to $75/bottle? I’ve been in many finer establishments where I received 50% more drink for about 15% less money, and thus begins the Mon Ami Gabi stock plummet and I haven’t even tasted anything yet. Let’s do that, shall we?

Well, that could have been better. Obviously, swearing during my order didn’t properly communicate how seriously I take the “dry” quality of the martini’s I order. Perhaps next time I’ll bring a sign and hold it as though I’m attending a sporting event, or I could have it painted on my torso and rip my shirt off in a Hulkamaniac rage when I order. Maybe then I can get the point across. I suppose I could have just told you that there was entirely too much vermouth, but this was a serious fuck up for such a pricey drink. Stock is plummeting, folks. I simply sighed and tried to enjoy my bleu cheese stuffed consolation prize.

Our wait to be seated having been surprisingly short, Mon Ami Gabi finally scored its first points, post martini debacle. The sun was such that, at our table, it was shining directly into my eyes. I know, that’s what sunglasses are for, but even so, it was annoying and I began looking for a way to remedy the situation. Like a true sign from above, the couple at the table directly behind us left and I quickly grabbed the server to see if we could hop tables. I expected at least a slightly annoyed look, as this request was going to be a bit of a pain in the ass. Without blinking, she informed us that it would be no problem and began transferring our bread and drinks. Nice.

Speaking of the bread, our baguette also helped Mon Ami Gabi make up a couple of lost points, at least to the point where I wasn’t raving pissed. It was better than average if one is considering the big picture of bread, but when the focus is narrowed to establishments that purport to be finer, it was only slightly above par. Pleased, but not excited would be the best way describe it, I suppose.

In odd contrast to the pricey cocktails, the food was reasonably priced. Craving meat, I decided on the Hamburger with Brie and Mushroom, while the Mrs. went with Croques Monsieur, a sandwich with ham, jarlsberg, gruyere, and béchamel (a white sauce, made by adding hot milk to a roux of butter and flour). My burger, much like my drink, was far south of where I thought it would be. The Croques Monsieur was quite good, and I tried to rest easy in the fact that at least one entrée lived up to the “fancy” factor that Mon Ami Gabi was obviously trying to give off. It was perfectly warm and soft, and the flavors of the sandwich melded together exactly as I had hoped.

Service during the meal was very good, and given the ease of the table changing situation earlier in the meal, we were very pleased with this aspect of the restaurant. In fact, I would say that it was the only thing that was consistently great. By this time, you surely must have noticed a theme running throughout this piece, and if not, I’ll take this opportunity to lay it out for you. Don’t worry, I was going to anyway.

Good, but not great. Worth the time, but lacking the power to encourage me to make a second trip unless it’s wildly convenient. Throughout this entire review I’ve been trying to think of something more summarily specific as to the “why”, and I think I’ve got it. I could have cooked this meal. Since I’m approximately a million miles away from being any kind of professional chef, I expect better from a place like this. If you’re looking for a number, I would give it a 6.5 out of 10, overall. Severely underwhelming.

If you’re looking for a really nice lunch, head over to Olives in the Bellagio instead.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I don’t like to bash places because I feel that every owner puts his heart and soul into an establishment. Yet, when you read so many positive reviews about a place that the owner cares about his/her customers one can get rather excited. Yet, when this caring filters into the realm of disturbing one’s meal, well it can bring that warm environment that everyone talks about to a sudden halt.

Maybe it’s because I know so many owners, chefs and owner/chef of places that I sometimes lose perspective on how people really enjoy knowing the Captain of the Ship. I agree there is something neat about walking into a place and impressing a friend by knowing the chef or owner. Yet, when that chef or owner hovers over your meal and continues to pummel you with information it can get nauseating, this was the case with Italian newcomer: Aroma on East. 4th Street.

Vito was in constant supply of telling me about my wine and other wines that would go with my meal. I didn’t mind the distribution of knowledge bestowed upon me, but I already had a full glass of wine in my hand. Thus, why keep pushing other wines on me?


If haven’t gotten the groove of a place or seen a dish on another table that looks interesting I tend to stay very basic. I use my basic test because it’s a measuring stick to see if I would like to visit the place in the future and try something more adventuress.

Spaghetti with Meat Gravy

My spaghetti arrived in a small to medium sized bowl which I didn’t mind if the taste would have been outstanding. Yet, I was really disappointed to find that the home made pasta was dry, barley warm and very al-dente (I mean hard). I don’t mind if people use celery, carrot and garlic as a base for their gravy, but please don’t leave chunks and chunks of the carrots and celery in the sauce, they are suppose to breakdown a lot more than what was presented here.

Maybe this wasn’t their best meal since they were constantly trying to push the suckling pig on me. Note: Only recommend a dish to a customer one time or else he/she thinks it’s rotting in the fridge and you are trying to get rid of it.

Friend’s Meal

My friend’s salad on her fixed meal had no flavor and was just spinach leaves together with no real excitement. I have been to sushi corner joints that take more risks on their salads than Aroma. I would have thought this was a place that would take more inventive on pushing one’s palate than just a bit of cheese and walnuts on the salad, I say it again, no imagination.


Although the desert was rather lacking a sweet flavor, I have found that many Italian places don’t serve super sweet deserts as we eat here in the states. Not to mention there was this dark super rich choloclate stuck to the bottom of the slice of cake (seemed like it was there to keep it in place more than taste) which threw me off a bit to be honest.


I thought the bill was o.k. but it was still very much overpriced to be honest for the sub-par food. I think the total bill was about 95.00 dollars and although that isn’t that much, one can do the same or better at Babbo to be honest.

In closing, I know what I’m saying is contrary to what most people are saying. I’m not high brow what so ever, but I do eat out just about every night here in the city so I have a diverse palate. There is a chance that I could have paid a visit on the wrong night. They do have a cool drawing and if you win you get 100.00 dollar gift certificate.