Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen in "White Christmas" (1954)
VEGAS VARIETY, Part
NOTES FROM THE WINE
by John Mariani
Frank Sinatra's Private Plane
Those who in the
past have tried every which way to pass off Las
Vegas' dining scene as everything from lacking
in breadth and depth to merely copying what
other cities have already done simply haven't
eaten around town in the past five years.
third Asian restaurant of note--not at Aria but at
Wynn Las Vegas--was the most spectacular, a riot of
red and gold colors, and a dazzling backdrop of
falling, lighted waters. This is Mizumi,
where there is also a teppanyaki room as well as a
sushi bar, but I just put myself in the hands of
Chef Devin Hashimoto, who was out as much to please
me as to impress me, which are sometimes mutually
exclusive. I told him how many dishes I’d like
to try and how long I wished to be at the table, and
it was all wonderfully orchestrated, beginning with
live ama ebi
sweet shrimp with a hot peppery yuzu kosho
vinaigrette, foie gras torchon powder, and osietra
caviar—quite a beginning.
In Part Two of this story, I will write about two new restaurants off the Strip
NEW YORK CORNER
When you open a steakhouse just nine miles from Peter Luger in Great Neck, Long Island, and eight miles from Bryant & Cooper in Roslyn, you’d better deliver beef every bit as good as those stellar competitors do, and offer something more in terms of atmosphere and service.
The brand new Polo Steakhouse in Garden City delivers on all counts: superb, mineral-rich USDA Prime steaks, a luxurious dining room and lounge, and first-rate service from a staff that is far more interested in your menu choices than you’ll find at the ever-brusque Peter Luger. Polo is located within the Garden City Hotel, which doesn't look anything like it did when it opened in 1874. But you may get a faint sense of Gilded Age bravura in the steakhouse, decked out as it is in tufted red leather chairs and brown sofas, acres of polished mahogany, and silver and gold artwork. Even on a fairly slow night, the noise level can be higher than expected; on a full night, I fear it will need some buffering.
The tables are broad and convivial enough for any size party, and beverage director Frank Caiafa is serious about crafted cocktails and building the wine list, which has a ways to go to match a cellar like Bryan & Cooper’s.
Polo’s chef is Michael Mandato (below), a Long Island native with 30 years kitchen experience, including most recently as executive chef of the Taj Boston hotel. He has crafted a menu that intelligently stays within the American steakhouse genre while adding items you won’t find so easily elsewhere. And they don’t skimp on portions here.
are the requisite array of oysters and shellfish,
available in a seafood tower for $50 or $95. Our party
enjoyed a delicious amuse bouche
of onion soup gratinee. I’ve grown re-acquainted
with the charms of iceberg lettuce—actually, one
charm: its crunch—and it went great with crumbled blue
cheese, grape tomatoes, bacon, toasted corn and shaved
red onion (below).
A lobster salad, abundant with big chunks of the
crustacean, was well melded with avocado, haricot vert
beans, tomatoes and dressing, and there was nothing to
improve upon with the hearty, creamy lobster bisque.
And so we turned to the meat. (I’ll happily go back another time and go fishing, but we were four guys in a highly carnivorous mood that night.) There is no better standard for a steakhouse than a strip steak; here, curiously appended on the menu with the designation “Kansas City,” which is the same as a “New York” cut, so why the Midwestern reference? Anyway, this was one of the best steaks I’ve had all year, its perfect texture, both chewy and tender, and its minerality proved its 28 days of dry aging was no lie. So, too, a bone-in ribeye was well marbled throughout the muscle, and, owing to a bone attached to the filet mignon, that cut stayed juicier and got a bit more flavor than it otherwise might. Four Colorado lamb chops secured that state’s reputation for the best anywhere. With these meats came sauces of green peppercorn, Bearnaise, and the house brand.
Creamed spinach was very good and truffle salted steak fries had flavor but could have been crispier. Grilled asparagus came with a citrus salsa, while four-cheese macaroni and cheese was wholly delectable.
Dessert is well worth putting some room aside for, particularly the lime meringue pie, which will feed two easily.
You might then retire to the lounge for a nightcap, especially if you have a room at the hotel, and enjoy the live music.
One caveat: the main course meat prices, ranging from $57 for the strip steak and $65 for the ribeye and filet mignon, are as high as you’ll find anywhere in the U.S. Consider that Luger charges $46.95 and $47, respectively, while Bryant & Cooper charge $47 and $50. That’s a discrepancy you’ll have to decide is in the rest of the details at Polo.
one way, Luger and Bryant & Cooper now have real
competition in that neck of Long Island with the
opening of Polo; put another, Polo is setting a higher
bar for those other two to meet.
Polo Steakhouse is open daily; Appetizers run $12-$24, main courses $32-$65.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
MANY BRUNELLOS, SOME
Barolo and Barbaresco from the
Piedmont and Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany are
generally regarded as the best red wines of Italy.
The two Nebbiolos from the Piedmont have long been
exalted over all others, while Brunello from Tuscany
is a relative newcomer, having attained recognition
only in the last half century. Montalcino, in the southern toe
of Tuscany, is one of those mountaintop towns
seemingly cobble-stoned together to guard the valley
below. Although it is less than 25 miles south
of Siena, its climate is dryer and hotter, more
Mediterranean than the cooler atmosphere of Chianti
wineries struck our interest at recent tastings in New
La Gerla (right), which has two vineyards
spread over 28 acres on hills around the city, was
built and is still run by its founder, former
advertising executive Sergio Rossi (below). In 1976,
Rossi was able to acquire land and an ancient
farmhouse from the Biondi Santi family and
established his winery two years later. Rossi produces
a Riserva and a standard
Brunello, as well as a lighter Rosso and Birba, a less
powerful version of Brunello. As with many of the
better producers, his top-of-the line Brunellos are
aged long beyond the mandated two year minimum.
Rossi exercises extreme selection, hand picking in small amounts from each vine for his Brunello and Riserva. The Brunello, 14.5% alcohol, sells at about $45 for the ’08 and $53 for the ’09, and is projected to mature over the next decade. The Riserva ages for a minimum of five years in cask and a year in bottle before being released, usually one year after the standard Brunello. La Gerla Riserva ’07 retails for about $80 and Rossi gives it a 20-year frame for good drinking.
La Gerla and the other wine on our list that day, La Fiorita, are moderately priced among a field of high fliers in Montalcino and, enthusiasts argue, are good values when compared with similar wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. La Fiorita was founded in 1992, making it practically an upstart in that area, but the wine has quickly earned a reputation for quality. The two producers share the winemaking expertise of Vittorio Fiore, one of the most highly respected of Tuscan oenologists.
was established recently by a well-credentialed winemaker Roberto Cipresso (left). He had worked at several leading wineries in the region, including Case Basse and Polio Antico, and in Argentina at Achaval Ferrer. In 2011, the ebullient and attractive American-born former adult film actress Natalie Oliveros joined him. A charmer, her beauty and warm outgoing personality have helped open doors for the brand. La Fiorita produces a Brunello, a Riserva and Laurus, a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. La Fiorita’s 2007 Brunello, a full-bodied red with violets and red fruit tones on the nose, is a powerful wine with dark fruit and strong tannins, retailing for about $55. The standout 2006 Riserva, sourced from a single vineyard and aged in bottle for an additional year, is more complex, with flavors of red and black berries, tobacco and vanilla and an intense, spicy long finish. Listing at about $89, it is a lush wine, the most delicious Brunello I have ever enjoyed. The 2008 Laurus offers those same flavors of plum and cherry, but is less complex and much more approachable at a young age. It is priced at about $24.
Their vineyard sites are the main difference between La Gerla and La Fiorita.Fiorita’s Poggio al Sole vineyard is primarily tufa—porous limestone—and clay. The soil and altitude of the vineyard give the wines volume and structure, ripe and fragrant tannins and the minerals are reflected in the wines. Fiorita winemaker Robert Cypress stresses the soil in his approach. His second vineyard, Pian Bosselino , sits at nearly 1,200 feet above sea level, twice the height of Poggio al Sole, The air at that height, he feels, adds color and salinity to the wine.
La Gerla grapes grow on the northern, colder slopes of Montalcino and reflect the site in their freshness, and fruity characteristics. More recently, La Gerla added vineyards in the warmer area of Castelnuova Abate and developed wines with more ripe notes and a freshness that makes for pleasant and seductive quaffing. The change, observers feel, has added even more appeal to the La Gerla wines. Both producers have put to rest the old feeling that Brunello was a wine fit only for warriors and the lengthy aging period of the past is strictly history at these wineries.
ACTUALLY, THAT'S NOT QUITE
WHAT WE BLOODY IDIOTS LOOK FOR IN CHAMPAGNE
ACTUALLY, THAT'S NOT QUITE
WHAT WE BLOODY IDIOTS LOOK FOR IN CHAMPAGNE
"Meanwhile, if you want a truly gorgeous, watermelon-like pure as driven snow, estate bottled rosé for the winter you're a bloody idiot if you don't go to Chambers Street to purchase the Esquisse from Christian Ducroux."--Alice Feiring (left), The Feiring Line 12/2013
AND ISN'T CHRISTMAS REALLY
AND ISN'T CHRISTMAS REALLY
In March 2014, for the first time ever, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group will partner with the Institute of Culinary Education to offer an immersive, ten-week Wine Course covering the major wine regions of the world, with insights from the perspective of some of New York City’s most beloved restaurants. USHG Wine Director and Master Sommelier, John Ragan, will lead the course along with wine directors and sommeliers from USHG restaurants including Union Square Cafe, The Modern, Maialino, and more. This course provides an opportunity for serious wine lovers to pursue the same rich and dynamic education that has previously been available only to staff of USHG restaurants. Register now online ($1,750 for ten classes) at http://www.ice.edu/ushgwine. (Course details: Tuesday evenings, March 25th—June 3rd, 2014, 6:30—9:00pm, at the Institute of Culinary Education.)
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I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: OUR 30 FAVORITE PLACES IN 2013
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