Brunch at Tivoli Village

While we are in Vegas visiting the family, we may not see The Strip, or any shows, but we do know that we want to have brunch at Echo & Rig.  The allure of Vegas has paled after all of these years and so has the glitz, but the family is what keeps us returning there.  Breakfast is that meal that always seems to be so expensive, where every one goes and if they call it brunch, the price just went up, but it means that there will be adult beverages.  We stay at the same casino complex, every year, because it is close to where the kids live and now as a bonus, we can walk over to Tivoli to get a glass of wine, or a fast bite, or even to have brunch.  We have fallen in love with the food and the service at Echo & Rig, and it is the first butcher shop/steakhouse that we have encountered.  One of the tricks is making sure that there is no room in the returning suitcases, so that we don’t buy anymore gadgets for the kitchen, but even I saw a couple of items that I thought were really cool.

We were taken upstairs to the dining area of the shop, but it was still a little too chilly to sit out on the verandah to eat, even with the overhead and the big portable heaters that they had sitting out there.  We still had a nice table looking out on the Tivoli Village, and the manager came over to greet us by name, which is impressive, but she has been with the company since they have opened up.  We had decided not to repeat what we always order, just to try something new.   My Bride ordered the Smoked Salmon Benedict with poached eggs, smoked wild salmon, crème fraiche, red onion, sautéed greens and Hollandaise sauce all on a potato pancake. It was a tough decision for me as I really wanted the Short Ribs Hash, but I went with the Steakhouse Scramble with house-made sausage, filet mignon, onions, bell peppers, new potatoes, sweet tomatoes, white Vermont cheese and scrambled eggs.  Just as our waitress was about to leave with our order, my Bride had a request to see if she could get a half order of Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with whipped butter and house-made blueberry syrup, as she claims that they are the lightest and fluffiest pancakes she has ever had.   We really did not need any other dishes after that meal, it was so filling.

As I said earlier brunch is just a fancy breakfast with adult beverages and we ordered the “bottomless Mimosas.”  They actually bring an ice bucket next to the table and place a bottle of bubbles right there, and as you may notice in the one photo, there are two sizable wine glasses and one very small carafe of orange juice for the two of us and the potential bottle of wine.  Now as for the “bottomless Mimosas” they were true to their word, as the wine goblet was filled as often as the water glass. The fresh orange juice must be dearer than the sparkling wine, because the juice was brought out in a small carafe for us to pour, while the sparkling wine was almost filling the goblet. The first time that we were there we had this wine, I had never heard of the wine that was being poured, but since then I have noticed other restaurants back home touting the same wine for their Mimosas. Wycliff Brut California Champagne is by the William Wycliff Winery which is under the umbrella of the Gallo Winery group. This screwcap bottle of sparkling wine is geared strictly to restaurants and catering companies, so that the consumer cannot check the retail price of the wine or buy it on their own. Since it is part of Gallo, I am sure that they have made sure that they were grandfathered in with the term “California Champagne.” This wine is made by the Charmat Method, which is a more economical way of producing a sparkling wine and since it was being mixed with orange juice, it was more than adequate. Traditionally the wine would be made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and I will presume that all or part of those grapes are being used. All I can say is that it was a great way to start the day off.  The only thing lacking was the pop of the cork.

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P. F. Chang’s

The last time that we were in Las Vegas, my Bride promised one of the grandsons that we would take them to P.F. Chang’s.  I was totally surprised that none of the family in Vegas had ever eaten there.  I wasn’t sure if the kids were more excited climbing on the statues outside or to have the Asian cuisine.  The restaurant was identical in layout, décor and design to the one near our house; and since this is only the second one in the chain that I have been to, I will have to presume that it is their standard.

In the 1960’s Cecilia Chiang had two restaurants, and the second one was in Beverly Hills, California and it was successful.  Her son Philip took over the administration of the business and continued with success.  The first one in Los Angeles was called Mandarette and the newer one was called Mandarin.  Mandarette was a special treat for an Arizona restauranteur named Paul Fleming and he and Philip Chiang created a new restaurant called P.F. Chang’s in 1993 and today there is over three-hundred restaurants across the United States and in twenty-five countries around the globe.  The wok is the star in the kitchen, but the food is all fresh and their credo is “Farm to Wok.” I cannot even begin to tell you about all of the dishes, because every dish was being circulated among the ten of us for dinner and I have no idea, what half of the dishes were, though I did have some cream-cheese filled dumplings and then I had some prawns with chili peppers and black beans.  My Bride had shrimp with Lobster sauce with Asian mushrooms, black beans, peas, egg and green onions.  I just kind of get lost when I am away from the comfort food of the Mediterranean and America, a creature of my era, I guess.

The P.F. part of the association assured that there would be some interesting popular priced wines.  We started with Bodegas Fillaboa Albarino 2015 from Rias Baixas DO in the Galicia region of Spain.  Rias Baixas is a relatively new DO in Spain as it was granted in 1988 and it focuses on Albarino.  Bodegas Fillaboa is one of the oldest estates in Galicia and they have seventy-four hectares devoted to Albarino in twelve separate plots.  Bodegas Fillaboa also produces liquors based on their Albarino that has been converted and distilled into three different brandies.    The wine had a pretty golden color with a good nose and complimented the assorted foods on the table.  The other wine that we had was Villa Sandi Il Fresco Spumante Prosecco NV from the Veneto in Italy.  Villa Sandi was established in 1622 and the main building is stilled used as their administration headquarters.  This was a semi-sparkling wine from the Treviso DO district and I am not that fluent on the rules and regulations for Prosecco.  The wine label reads Prosecco, and the website lists the wine as pure Glera, which is the old original name for the grape, but Prosecco is now a protected label, just like Cava and Champagne.  This wine is made using the Charmat Method which is the traditional way for this region, though they have been tweaking and improving it and the bubbles are getting finer and the better brands are getting a fuller taste.  This wine had a nice pale straw color and a decent finish, and bubbles always work with any dish.  All in all, it was a great family dinner and they all enjoyed the experience.

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Another Day in Vegas

Las Vegas is viewed by some as glamor and by others as Sin City, and by this point in my life, it is just another city.  I have to admit that it was glamorous back in the day, I mean you packed your best clothes to give the casinos your money, and everyone has a method that is sure-fire.  I only know a few people that can do it, and it is a job for them, the glamor has palled years ago, if they are fortunate to continue that style of life.  Nowadays it seems that the casinos are extensions of Walmart, because you see almost every style of attire.  As you go up the pecking order of the casinos, there is a bit more class and distinction, but not like it was.  The city is still fun, if you are looking to make a big hit, or if you want to drop a ton of money to see the few “stars” that command their own auditoriums, but mostly it is like going to see a concert like any other city in the country.  If you don’t want to see a concert, you can go see an elaborate show and there are dozens of them, that will take your breath away with the perfect choreography of the dazzling acts, gymnastics and stages that go from sturdy to aquatic in a blink of an eye.  The casinos love these shows that can go on for years, because there is no orchestra, the music has been recorded, the actors can all be replaced, and no one would be the wiser; and the people will still stream in to see the shows, because they are affordable.  You can also go for the culinary arts, and every great chef, from the tried and true with Michelin accreditation to the new television chefs all have venues in one or more of the casinos.  The food can be spectacular, and it usually is, because Vegas has become a foody paradise.  My biggest beef is that you can be spending five hundred dollars for dinner for two and a couple of tables over, is some “star” from Hollywood that is having the same dinner, looking like he just finished landscaping the front yard, and I am sorry, but that is not the ambience that I expect when I am spending that kind of money.  I am just old fashioned and yearned for another era, just like I yearn for politicians that were like JFK and were proud of this country, and not willing to change my life to make themselves look better.

I know that I ramble, but I really like Las Vegas, even though I guess I am jaded, but I go there to see our children and our grandchildren.  I am now seeing a part of Vegas that didn’t exist for me thirty or forty years ago.  There are real people that live in the city, and they have schools and hospitals, retail establishments and restaurants and bars and theaters, just like almost every other town.  In fact, when we go there these days, we go to grocery stores and our pin numbers that we use at home, work in these stores as well, maybe a different name on the door, but the same corporation behind them.  One of the restaurants that we try to go to, maybe every other trip is the successful chain The Cheesecake Factory and they are all over the country with a menu that is just short of being a novella in size.  There are dishes from most of the continents, and while the food is not spectacular, you know that it will be better than the run of the mill.  Originally it was a treat, because while the owner of the chain was from Detroit, he could never get backers, so for decades he would not open a shop in Michigan, and when he finally did, he made sure it was not in a mall owned by one of the original people that turned him down.  Some people have very long memories, and good for them, that they won’t eat crow, nor serve it.  One of the reasons that I mention a normal day in Vegas, is because we basically maintain our internal clocks, which are three hours earlier than Vegas, so normally when people are finishing breakfast we go out for our lunch, and we try to have a light lunch, so that we can have a nice dinner with the clan.  My Bride and I are officially seniors, I guess, because at The Cheesecake Factory we share a lunch, they are that big.  We split a sandwich the size of which the old Carnegie Deli would serve, and we are happy.

We may split a sandwich, but we will each have our own glass of wine, and why not, because they have a bar and a wine list.  They are so big, they even have their own house labels, but we ventured off from that selection, but on one of our visits, we tried that as well.  My Bride sometimes gets mad at me, because I want her to try something new, but she is happy going with something safe that she knows that she will enjoy.   She enjoyed a glass of M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rosé Cotes-du-Rhone 2017.  She enjoys a good Rosé wine and she has enjoyed the wines from the Rhone since her first glass.  The Chapoutier family has been in the Rhone since 1808 and have transitioned from just a grower to a winemaker and a negocient, and a genuine force in the area and France; not to mention that they have holdings now in three other countries beyond France.  They have also included Braille embossing on their labels for sometime now, since their estate in Hermitage was originally owned by the creator of the modern version of Braille.  The wine is a blend of mainly Grenache, then Cinsault and Syrah.  The wine is aged for three to six months in Stainless Steel and then bottled.  It is a pleasant pink with a slight floral nose, and balanced enough to make it a very easy and drinkable wine that will pair decently with most dishes.  I was looking for something light and easy as well and I chose a glass of Campanile Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2017.  While at first glance, it sounds like the wine came from the fabled canal laden Venice, but it is from the Three Venices, or Trivento in the Sud-Tirol region of Italy.  Pinot Grigio has become such a major wine for Italy in sales and export, that IGT Delle Venezie became Delle Venezie DOC in 2017 and there are several varietals that can use this designation, by far Pinot Grigio is the leader.  There is now a sub region for the district when the wine does not fit the requirements of Delle Venezie DOC and that is IGT Trevenezie.

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Birthdays at Grimaldi’s

World travelers we will never be.  I mean we are getting better, as we can now travel for a week or so, with two suit cases checked, two over-head bags and two carry-on bags.  I am sure the Queen schleps more than us, but we manage.  Half of one checked-in suit case was nothing but birthday gifts, gift bags, tissue paper and greeting cards and envelopes.  Travelling is much harder, and you cannot pack wrapped gifts any more, so we have to work around it.  As most of you know, we tend to celebrate birthday honorees on one day each month with a dinner party; this year we celebrated all the out of town honorees with one dinner, with my Bride recording the opening of each present.  We even found a restaurant that would allow us to bring in a birthday cake, and through our years of going to Las Vegas, we have even found a bakery that we like.

We were only missing one birthday honoree, our big football player jock and high schooler, but we knew that we would see him later, but it would have been grand to have a big family picture done, the first night.  We were all meeting at Grimaldi’s, a famed pizzeria where the original location is located under the Brooklyn Bridge, and yes, all of these Detroiters were going to have a New York style pizza.  Grimaldi’s is an old-fashioned coal brick oven pizzeria.   I was really amazed that the menu was so concise with its offerings, it was pizzas and salads, for the most part, there was over thirty different toppings and white pizzas too, but for an old guy like me, it was the good old-fashioned foldable pizzas that I grew up with, I mean pizzas are to be held and not eaten with a knife and a fork.  The important thing was that we could get all of the grandchildren happy with something that they would eat, I come from an era, where something was ordered and everyone ate it, but that is long gone.  After everyone ate, the few remaining slices were boxed up, and everyone got to open up their birthday present and card, and their Easter cards as well.

Our waiter started us off, passing around the menus and explaining how to order and his suggestions.  When we got to the wine list, he told me, that there were a couple of bottles that I could have at half price, because they were in the midst of having new menus printed and there were a couple of wines, that they were not going forward with.  I figured how bad could a Sonoma Cabernet be, and I was tickled pink with the selection.  We had a couple of bottles of Arrowood Vineyard and Winery Sonoma Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.  Arrowood was founded in 1986 and in 2006 became part of the Jackson Family Wines.  The fruit for this wine was harvested from Knights Valley, Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley.  The wine is a blend of eighty-nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon, ten percent Merlot and one percent Cabernet Franc.  The wine was aged for eighteen months in a mix of oak, with thirty percent new.   This may have been one of the bargains of the year for me, even those that only humor me, by having a glass of wine, had seconds and thirds, because this was just packed with flavor.  The black cherry notes were evident to everyone that had a glass or two, with a nice long finish.   I was really impressed with this wine and really appreciated the bargain, and so did my Bride.

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What Happens in Vegas…

Snow on the palm trees, such an idyllic scene. We go to Las Vegas quite often, and we both went even before we had met, so that is lot of Vegas history and trips.  Lately I am beginning to feel like the character Joe Btfsplk from the old Li’l Abner cartoon strip who always had a black cloud over his head.  Last year we went to Las Vegas and the weather in Detroit was warmer, just a “fluke” everyone said.  This year, our flight was delayed for departure originally for an estimated three hours.  Why you ask?  Las Vegas and McCarren Airport was under snow and they have no equipment for snow removal or for deicing the planes.  They had to do it, the old-fashioned way and let Mother Earth use the sun to melt the snow and ice from the planes and the tarmac.  In case, you don’t know; Las Vegas is in the desert and was a sleepy little outpost until the world discovered that gambling was legal there.

I guess no one told Las Vegas about Global Warming or the city just doesn’t care.  I am from Detroit and we are known for some great winters, but the “dry” cold that I experienced there, seemed to be even colder than the “wet” cold of Detroit, and I only mention it, because when you are there and it is over 100° everyone tries to allay your feeling that your body is melting, because it is a “dry” heat.  I am not a meteorologist, but I have observed some weird things.  I mean there is a viral meme on Social Media that shows Hell freezing over, but that is Hell, Michigan and they actually get cold and icy weather, but Las Vegas is supposed to have silicon enhanced young ladies cavorting in bikinis or less, because of the arid weather.

When we landed, picked up our rental car and started to drive Summerlin, it felt like we were in Detroit, because there was snow on some of the cars, and on the grassy areas that is now part of the landscape of Las Vegas.  Of course, we don’t have snow on the mountains and that looked pretty from the freeway as we were driving.  Later on, after we went and bought some wine for the room, and some noshes as well, we were taking everyone out for dinner, and we only had one non-show, we handed out birthday presents for the year and Easter presents as well.  The wine stories will return, I just had to set the stage, and I never want to discuss the joys of a trip, until I am back.

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Ricossa Antica Casa

As much as I enjoy wine and everything that goes with it, there are times when I can not attend everything that I would like.  At Fine Wine Source they were advertising that they were having a wine tasting with representation from Ricossa Antica Casa, but alas I could not attend.  I was fortunate though that they had a great representation from the winery.  Since the late 1800’s what started as a small provincial distillery became an international brand.  They are now owned by MGM Mondo del Vino.  They are located on the outskirts of Asti in the Piedmont and they are well respected for their Barolo and Barbera wines.

The first wine that I tried from Ricossa Antica Casa was their Gavi DOCG 2017.   Gavi or Cortese de Gavi is from the southernmost part of the Piedmont and is the premier white wine of the region, and it was allowed the DOCG designation in 1998.  The Cortese grape is indigenous to the region and it allows the terroir to be delivered.  It had a nice floral nose, that was very tasty, it was crisp, with wonderful acidity and allowing the flint of the terroir to be totally appreciated and I found it very easy to drink and would be great with fish or seafood.

I then tried Ricossa Antica Casa Barbera Apassimento 2016.  The winery is well respected for their Barbera wines and in 2014 was the first year that they tried an Apassimento method to some of the Barbera wine.  The fruit for this wine was handpicked and laid on racks to dry in a temperature-controlled room with fans for ventilation for a period of four to six weeks.  Maceration of the grapes on the skin lasted for ten to twelve days in Stainless Steel vats.  The wine is then aged in Stainless Steel for eight months with two additional months in the bottle before being released.   This wine had a nose of dark fruits, with a nice dark ruby color with a long enjoyable finish with traces of chocolate.

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A Spatlese and a Moelleux

One of the best things about walking into the Fine Wine Source is the ability to taste some wines to make an educated purchase.  I always try to taste some wines that are new to me, either by district, varietal or winery.  I guess that I am like most people and will always tend to go towards the familiar and the greatness of wines is to discover something new.  I have tried to maintain this concept since I was in high school.

The first wine that I will discuss is a German wine, and I think that even though the language seems similar to English, some people are intimidated by the size of some of the words and some of the wine terms.  I tried Weingut August Kesseler Rudesheimer Bischofsberg Spatlese Riesling 2007 from the Rheingau.  Let me make it easier to read the label; Weingut August Kesseler is the name of the producer.  One of the largest towns in the Rheingau is Rudesheim and the “er” just means that the wine is from Rudesheim.  In the Rudesheim district there are seven famous vineyards that are recognized as a Grosse Lage or the best vineyards that are delineated and of certain size that are known for special notice, and Bischofsberg is one of these famous vineyards.  Spatlese is one of the terms of distinction or ripeness that is part of the “Pradikat” and refers to the level of natural sugar that is found, because the grapes are harvested later and later after the initial harvest and the grape of this wine is Riesling.  I mean most people would not even think of purchasing a twelve-year-old white wine, but the higher up the Pradikat chain, the longer the life of the wines.  This wine was very delightful and some wonderful traces of terroir, that ethereal description that evokes the soil in the taste, and it may sound odd, until the first time you really encounter it, and then you will totally understand it.

The other fun white wine that I tried was from Domaine Huet L’Echansonne, but is normally just referred to as Domaine Huet; and it was Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2016 and the Wine Spectator awarded this wine 97 points.  The Domaine is famed for their Chenin Blanc and has three major vineyards and Clos du Bourg is known as producing the most structured and longest-lived wines.  The juice is both aged in Stainless Steel and small oak barrels and is not aged for long, but bottled quite quickly, but this process for them allows for the wine to live so long and to be so respected.   Vouvray Moelleux wines are sweet wines produced under the Vouvray appellation of the central Loire Valley in France.  Originally Vouvray was recognized for their still wines when they received their appellation, but today about sixty-five percent of the production is now in their sparkling wines, then their still wines and a very small percentage is Moelleux Vouvray.  My notes after tasting this wine was only one word “STUNNING” and I hardly get carried away like this.

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