Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vegas Uncork'd: "Better by the Bay" with Charlie Palmer & Alain Ducasse

(Also at TWHT/RateVegas)

@mandalaybay_LV beach is almost ready 4 its @vegasuncorked cl... on Twitpic

#CharliePalmer working on his pig @mandalaybay_LV @vegasuncor... on Twitpic

Yep, our feet were really in the sand last night @mandalaybay... on Twitpic

Ah, dinner on the beach! When I left Orange County, I wondered how long I'd have to wait to enjoy another romantic meal so close to the ocean. Well, I did not have to wait any longer!

OK, so Mandalay Bay's "beach" is far from the real deal, but it's still the best pool complex on The Strip and the ideal spot in Vegas for a beachside barbeque dinner with superstar chefs Charlie Palmer (of Aureole & Charlie Palmer Steak) and Alain Ducasse (of Mix in Las Vegas). There were whole pigs being roasted, lobsters being grilled... And even cookies and ice cream! Damn, who needs some stinky litter infested California beach picnic when one can have this??!!

So today, I'll be giving two reviews in one: Charlie Palmer's classed-up all-American dishes and Alain Ducasse's South of France inspired dishes. Let's start with the good ol' US of A.

My grub from #CharliePalmer table @mandalaybay_LV @bonappetit... on Twitpic

Super #CharliePalmer lobster close-up! Yay! @mandalaybay_LV @... on Twitpic

The pork was amazingly succulent and easy on the mouth. The heirloom tomato salad done almost caprese style with mozzarella hit all the right tangy, creamy, and even sweet (just a little) flavor notes. Oh, and how could I forget the grilled chicken flat bread! The sweet BBQ sauce worked surprisingly well with what tasted like jack cheese on a slightly crispy flat bread crust.

So what about the lobster? Well, I enjoyed its sweetness paired with the potato-garlic stuffing... But for others, not so much. A couple sitting at my table were "lobster purists" from The Northeast, and they did not appreciate anything taking away from the naturally sweet lobster flavor. So you may or may not like Palmer's twist on half grilled Maine Lobster, depending on how strongly you believe in New England lobster preparation tradition.

I also tried the steamed Carolina Clams with "spicy broth" served in a sourdough bread bowl. And while it wasn't terrible, I'd have to say it was the weakest Palmer dish in my book. The bread was great (disclaimer: I LOVE good, artisan breads!), but the clams did nothing for me.

Whatever. Other than the clams, this was a solid dinner that I thoroughly enjoyed. Oh, and Chef Palmer himself was such a gracious host! There was plenty of food for everyone last night, served with plenty of smiles.

"Burger Boss" Randy Lewis #CharliePalmer & moi @vegasuncorked... on Twitpic

#AlainDucasse w/ some great veggies @mandalaybay_LV @bonappet... on Twitpic

But wait, there's more! Remember that we didn't just have one celebrity chef doing BBQ for us, but two... Famed one-man international culinary powerhouse Alain Ducasse also joined us, and he had plenty of his own tasty offerings for us to try.

The herb stuffed ravioli brought a variety of garden flavors to explode in my mouth. The stuffed baby eggplant was simply irresistible, along with the stuffed cherry tomatoes. And that onion tart, oh that onion tart! I am still savoring those sweet caramelized onions.

And how about the bouillabaisse? The traditional Provencal fish stew got kicked up more than just a notch by Chef Ducasse with lovely herbal flavors all over and delectable little garlic croutons.

#CharliePalmer peanut butter ice cream & choc chip cookie @ma... on Twitpic

But wait, there's still more! Let's talk about dessert. Charlie Palmer kept it simple, yet oh so sweet, with an assortment of hand churned ice creams, chocolate chip cookies, root beer floats, and strawberry short cake. Now the short cake didn't do much for me, as the "cake" was actually done biscuit style and didn't have too much flavor. However, that was quickly forgiven and forgotten when I tried the cookies with some banana brownie ice cream! My goodness, why can't I have this more often!

I then looked for Alain Ducasse's dessert options, but I had looked too early. Apparently, he waited to clear the dinner options before bringing out the sweets.

Lovely Patron cocktail @mandalaybay_LV @vegasuncorked #AlainD... on Twitpic

Oh, and before I forget, there were a number of great wines and Patron tequila cocktails served last night. I was really digging the deconstructed mai tai on the cocktails end, and the California Muscat blooming with orange flavors when it was time for some dessert wine.

So who won? Who lost? Come on, we had two amazing chefs cooking for us... We all emerged winners out of this one! Chef Palmer was so charming throughout the night, and it was amazing to see Chef Ducasse in person working his magic. For me, this was the perfect ending to my absolutely fabulous Vegas Uncork'd weekend. :-)

(And don't forget, I have plenty more Uncork'd goodies for you at my Twitpic@atdleft and my Twitter@atdleft.)

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