Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cooking for Christmas - NOT

I cook all the time. And because of the range of specialty diets in my household, I'm often cooking different meals at the same time. I love to cook. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the challenge and have become a home cook master of specialty diets.

But I don't want to spend my holidays in the kitchen.  

On Christmas Eve, we'll have pizza from a local pizzeria. We'll eat off paper plates and use paper napkins and drink from paper cups. I don't want to do the dishes. I want to open presents and play with toys.

For Christmas dinner, it's sandwiches. I'm sort of cooking, but will actually cook on Friday. I'm making Italian beef. It can then be reheated on Christmas evening. We'll have some fruit for a side dish.

There are hundreds of articles on holiday cooking, and you can learn how to cook elaborate meals including prime rib, crown rib roast, turkey, ham, duck, goose and all manner of side dishes and desserts. But try and find an article on not cooking for Christmas.

So for the holidays, I'll just wing it. I'll make a batch of cookies and that's it for me. This holiday, I'm putting my feet up and giving my kitchen the day off.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wolfgang Puck and Kerry Simon: Celebrity Chefs and Dining in Las Vegas

The city of Las Vegas, Nevada is all about indulgences: gambling, entertainment and food. Lots of food. From Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, featuring southwest flavor with a New York twist, at Caesar's Palace to Tom Colicchio's high-end Craftsteak restaurant located in the MGM Grand hotel, anyone visiting Sin City is sure to find just the kind of food they crave.

We recently returned from our annual weekend trip to Las Vegas and this time around we ate at Wolfgang Puck's Bar and Grill and at the KGB - Kerry's Gourmet Burgers. Both were culinary experiences to be remembered.

Wolfgang Puck is the master of California cuisine. We're not talking sushi and sprouts, here; Wolfgang Puck is all about comfort food and classic dishes such as pizza, burgers and steak.

We had our Saturday brunch at Wolfgang Puck's located at the MGM Grand hotel. My husband had a meatball pizza (so off his diet!) and I had the Cuban style roast pork sandwich. Our son had an order of French fries.

The French fries were exceptional, served with a rich and tangy ketchup sauce. A simple plate of fries was elevated to a gourmet delight.

The pizza was a perfect combination of bread, sauce, cheese and meat, perfectly flavored with ribbons of fresh basil. The crust was crisp and light, the sauce sweet and tangy and the cheese golden and gooey. The meatballs, cut to just the right bite size, were so beautifully seasoned and textured, they excited the tongue with each encounter.
The Cuban style pork sandwich was served on a toasted bun that boasted grill marks but was still soft and sweet. The shredded pork was infused with spices; each bite was a like a chorus line of smoky spices dancing across my tongue. The melted gruyere cheese complemented the pork perfectly. It was neither too rich nor too wimpy.

Pizza, pork and fries can be a meal of greasy fat that sits on your stomach for days. But Wolfgang Puck's California touch made the meal lighter, fresher and left us feeling sated, rather than sluggish.

The night before, on Friday, we had a late dinner at the KGB. We kind of stumbled across the place as we wondered through the hotel in search of another restaurant, and it was a happy accident indeed.

The KGB -Kerry's Gourmet Burgers- is Kerry Simon's (an Iron Chef winner) casual restaurant located in the Harrah's hotel. He plays the KGB theme up; the decor reflects 1960's KGB idealism in a kind of anime way. But it is the burgers and shakes that makes this place the burger and fry joint to visit in Vegas.

Succulent. Tender. Meaty. Juicy. Both my husband and I had the All American burger and the preceding adjectives are almost insufficient in describing this classic sandwich. It was just the right burger for a late night dinner.

My son had a milkshake that was so rich, so creamy, so decadent, it was practically pornographic.

But that's what Las Vegas is all about: decadence and indulgence. Our forays into celebrity chef dining was a bit expensive, and the food a detour from our low-fat diet (my son did stay pretty much gluten free) but it was well worth every calorie.