Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Eve, and Other Stuff

Well hello there. Its Mateo, your friendly food blogger here to wish you and yours a festive and safe New Years Eve. Can you believe its another year come and gone? Auld Lang Syne ya'll! I wanted to take a moment and get you all excited about some changes to the Novice Fork in the up coming 2012 calendar year. (I started this website/food review blog/best thing you've ever read over a year ago, and my how time flies!) 

I hope in the coming year Novice Fork can branch out from this one man operation, highlighting foodies and food appreciators around the country (yeah I got friends that can string together sentences), delve deeper into the "cultural highlights" of the many places I've traveled to and will travel to in 2012, and become better about posting about EVERY restaurant I go to, be it a Taco Bell (perish the though) or a 5 star (or fork) French institution. Wait a tick! This is smelling an awful lot like a New Years resolution. Am I going to become a better, faster, stronger blogger? You bet your bippy I am! So look out interwebs, I'm coming for you. 

So a happy New Year everyone, may the coming year bring you nothing but joy, lots of happiness, and a crap ton of good food to eat. And if you wanna, send some info my way, I want to know where to eat next. (Take that Urban Spoon!) The Novice Fork and 2011, over and out. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

City of Sin: an Overview

Greetings intrepid eaters/brave travelers and welcome to another installment of the Novice Fork. Well, tts that time of year, when the world falls in love. That’s right, in case you didn’t know (for some hermit behavioral reason) the holiday season is in full swing. It’s a time when carols are a singing, the Maine Mall is a busy, and the snow begins to fly. (Except this year, on today, December 5th, its currently 52 degrees in Port City. This is an issue.)

I love the holidays for many reasons and they all relate to my interests as a food critic. The food, first and foremost, is always more festive and lavish, the shopping is fast paced and fun, (minus the Black Friday cattle call now employed as a sales gimmick) and the world shines just a bit brighter from all that tinsel… (However a bitch to clean out of a vacuum, take it from me.) I love wrapping gifts for friends and family, I love the feasts, I love Christmas Mass at the Cathedral. It’s all good stuff. But maybe your poor soul is not a fan of the Christmas (or holiday) cheer? Allow me to offer some friendly advice. Get over it. Stop being a Scrooge and smile a bit, sing a carol, wear that ridiculous sweater, and wrap a damn gift, you’ll be glad you did.

So, aside from all this holiday cheeriness and general merriment, I recently traveled to Sin City and enjoyed a week in the desert. Wait, was I in Las Vegas? Heck yeah I was, Viva Las fantastic time out west! Now you, the reader, get to share it with me. Giddy up.

Today I’m going to highlight Celebrity chef and “The Chew” cohost Mario Batali’s Restaurant, B&B Ristorante.

B&B Ristorante
The Venetian 

3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Las Vegas, Nevada 89109 

702- 266 -9977

The Novice Fork gives this celebrity restaurant 5 forks,
for professional service, amazing,
gourmet food, and calm classy atmosphere.

Classy, no?

Why Vegas? Having never been, I was always curious about the adult Disney World, where gambling, drinking, and debauchery is a 24/7 business and where the word “entertainment” takes on a whole new level of enthusiastic tackiness. Having friends with altruistic tendencies doesn’t hurt either and when they invite you along for a week long trip to the City of Sin, you don’t say no.

So I packed my bags (overly so) and jumped on the next plane out of Maine. And what a week it was. I stayed at The Venetian, and what a hotel! It was opulent and totally over-the-top, and yet tasteful at the same time. My room had its own gold velour sectional, a crystal chandelier over the king bed (complete with a canopy) and a bathroom so gilded I thought I was a Medici. This place was awesome. I felt like Scarface.

The strange and awesome thing about Vegas is the total inauthenticity. (Obviously) You have “New York” next to “Paris,” “Venice” complete with singing gondoliers under a fake sky in The Venetian, and even fake palm trees in the airport, complete with plastic coconuts. This environment creates a sense of disorientation that lingers into everything you do. So stealing myself away from the hotel room and from the overwhelming spectacle that is Vegas was difficult, as was not spending 3 hours a day at the resort’s spa, none other than Canyon Ranch, or shopping the many, many malls. But I did have to eat sometime, right?

Luckily, in my hotel alone, there were 20+ restaurants from which to choose. Literally like throwing a dart at a dartboard (with or without a picture of Penn and Teller attached) my friend and I decided upon celeb chef Mario Batali’s restaurant B&B Ristorante. None too surprisingly, this was a fantastic idea.

The review…

When you enter this old school, dark wood paneled eatery the confusion, excitement and chaos of Vegas melts into a quite white noise and you are actually transported to Italy or New York, someplace decidedly less “Vegasfied.” White tablecloths, candlelight, leather bound menu books; this place is classy. The fact that it’s right next door to the casino floor, makes this fact all the more remarkable.  After being watered, and fed an amuse bouche, compliments of the kitchen, our very knowledgeable waiter gave us the complete rundown on the slightly esoteric and very authentic fine Italian menu. (He even spoke Italian himself, bonus points.) The service here matches the high price point for the meal, as it should. Check one for B&B.

The guest, this particular evening, had the option for a prix fixe tasting menu selected by the chef, or choosing menu items a la carte, which is what we did. In true Matt tradition, I ordered the beet salad with local Vegas pistachios (what?!) and baked ricotta over field greens. At $17, this salad was spectacular. (Whether its worth it to you or not is your call.) I followed this with Capellacci di Zucca, a spaghetti similar pasta with almonds and sage in a ultra-light cream sauce. This was simple, delicious and the perfect portion size, paired with a side of roasted root vegetables, this was the perfect, gourmet meal. The bottle of wine we ordered for the table, a fantastic Pinot Grigio sent this meal over the top. Ending with a flight of daily house made gelatos (because I was clearly forced to eat more) made the total experience complete. If you eat here, be prepared to pay, a lot. But when in Vegas, where better to experience this kind of gastro-excess? Trust me, the food more than makes up for the much lighter wallet.

Now what makes this a 5 Fork restaurant, one may ask? It has to do with the fact that the experience was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was an inspired and authentic meal in a strange new land, it provided top quality service and an amazing atmosphere in which to enjoy it. Maybe Mario’s celebrity seduced me, maybe it was the Pinot, but this was a meal I wont forget for a long time. That is worth 5 Forks.  I’ll be back and when I return watch out Mario, I’ll want an autograph.