Category Archives: The Wandering Boozehound

STK Las Vegas

If you follow me on my social platforms (especially Snapchat … @susieoz), you’ll know that I’ve been spending some time in Las Vegas for work.  One evening I was able to try out STK at the Cosmopolitan.  Eddie and Angelee, the dynamic duo behind His + Her went along with me to the Chef’s Menu–a smattering of their best dishes–the night before we skipped town.  The NYC transplant offers a decidedly sexy steakhouse feel.

We were greeted by our very friendly server and started with a few drinks to ease into the night.  I was told that the Strawberry Cobbler Martini (Belvedere, strawberry, graham cracker crust) is their most popular drink … which was delicious, but a bit sweet for a dinner drink, so save this one for dessert.  Later on I tried the … Not Your Daddy’s Manhattan (Bulleit Bourbon, Fernet Branca, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth).  It was much more my speed and the Fernet was a surprisingly perfect addition to the traditional manhattan.

(Bear with me through the pictures … the lighting is quite low in there and I didn’t have my camera. 😒)

Our waiter began our tasting with a Caesar Salad, Tuna Tartare, a plate of large shrimp, and a cluster of their bleu cheese pull-apart bread.  The pull-apart bread was nearly irresistible.  They serve it with a cilantro oil that was unreal … Angelee and I all but licked the ramekin it came in.  (Also, since I’m allergic to bleu cheese, they kindly served one portion without the glaze.  So kind!)  I usually don’t mess with salads … who wants to waste the space?  But this one was worth a few bites … especially the housemade croutons.  The Tuna Tartare, served with perfectly crispy taro chips, was fresh, tender, and had a soy honey sauce with it that was to die.  I’d definitely recommend ordering this!

Being a steakhouse, STK obviously had a bomb steak–nice and tender … so tender that we could cut it with our butter knives.  (If I were ordering it for myself, I’d have ordered it medium instead of medium well, but to each her own.)  The Seared Big Eye Tuna (served with wasabi potato, maitake mushrooms, and sweet miso jus) was seared to perfection and nearly fell apart.  We nearly had to flip a coin to decide who got the last piece … and you better believe that the sweet miso sauce was sopped up … and some bread may have been dipped in it, too.  I personally enjoyed the Free Range Chicken (served with polenta fries, smoked tomato whiskey, and green beans) the most because I couldn’t get enough of the green beans.  They had a simple soy-based sauce that made them like crack to me.

For me, dessert after steak is completely unnecessary–I’ve had my awesome meal and don’t need something else to fill me up even more.  However, if you go to STK and don’t order the STK Donuts (sweet potato donuts, maple glaze, candied pecans), then you’re doing it wrong.  These things were little pillows of goodness and I stared the discomfort of a full belly right in the face, defied it, and ate two.

Make sure to make a reservation if you plan to visit STK on your next visit to Vegas … if for anything, for their take on the Manhattan and those GD green beans.


STK Las Vegas
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
(702)698-7990

San Antonio Cocktail Conference 2015 Recap & 2016 Teaser

Each January Texas’ most talented mixologists (and those of us that just really appreciate their craft) gather in Alamo City to learn about new cocktail trends and enjoy some general alcohol-fueled merriment … all while raising money for a great cause!  Think seminars, cocktail demonstrations, liquor tastings, pairing dinners, parties … really, just all the best things.  This year will be the fifth San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) and will take place January 14-17 at the newly renovated St. Anthony Hotel … and you can be part of it.

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I mentioned the charity aspect … which the bar industry seems to be all about.  The SACC donates 100% of its profits to Houston Street Charities and actually raised $115,000 in 2015 for The Children’s Shelter, ChildSafe, HeartGift San Antonio and Transplants for Children.  Isn’t drinking for a good cause the best way to drink?

The only thing that comes close to rivaling the amazing cocktails slung at the SACC is the food that keeps attendees (close enough to) sober during the festivities.  From sampling at the opening event at the Majestic by local restaurants to oyster shooters at the Houston Street Stroll (which is not to be missed), the food is as almost as clever as the libations they accompany.

This year’s schedule will offer the usual seminars on everything from  the usual industry-focused panels to complex cocktail concepts.  (Be careful … you could end up with five drinks in front of you before 10am … you know, purely for “research” purposes.)  Some of the sessions that I won’t be missing this year include:

While the edification is important, one must not neglect the parties.  (Because people in the bar industry somehow have some terrifying ability to drink until 4am and be fresh alive at 9am to lead their sessions.)  All evening events include cocktails (obvi), amazing local eats, and live music.

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While i’ve only attended one year, I will be posting a few tips on how to best experience the SACC.  Stay tuned!

Join the fun this year and purchase your ticket now!  If you can’t make it but want to support Houston Street Charities, go ahead and donate!

Table 10 (Las Vegas, NV)

Las Vegas has a little bit of everything.  It seems one of the first stops for chefs after their home city.  Luckily, Emeril has more than one concept in Sin City from bank-breaking chef’s tables to more reasonable options.  Anyone who has set foot in Las Vegas knows that, while drinks are (sometimes) free, it can be an expensive city.  For that reason, I was delighted to enjoy a meal at Table 10 in the Palazzo and was pleased that they have a four course meal option for just $48.

After a long evening of shopping (one word: Barney’s) and five (or just one) Coffee Bean Ultimate Iced Blendeds, a relaxing evening at Table 10 was just what the doctor ordered.  The staff was incredibly welcoming and the atmosphere was relaxing thanks to the low lighting and dark furniture.  I sat in the dining room, but if I ventured in again alone I’d sit at the Food Bar, no question.  It gives diners a view of the action in the kitchen and shows just how well the chefs know their craft.

I started my evening with a Lagasse Lemonade (Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Southern Comfort, vanilla & pomegranate syrups, and fresh lemon juice) when my waiter told me it’s the most popular drink.  I enjoyed it, but it was a bit sweet for my taste so I got a bit of club soda to mellow the sweetness.  (Win.)

LAGASSE LEMONADE (Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Southern Comfort, vanilla & pomegranate syrups, fresh lemon juice)
LAGASSE LEMONADE
(Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Southern Comfort, vanilla & pomegranate syrups, fresh lemon juice)

Before ordering dinner, I wanted to be good and prepped, so I ordered an Emeril’s Passion (Emeril’s Eagle Rare bourbon, passion fruit puree, Luxardo liqueur) as my second drink.  It packed a punch and, while still nicely sweet, wasn’t overwhelming.  It was JUUUUUST drinkable enough.

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For dinner, I opted for the four course menu which offered some traditional American dishes from seafood to steak and Pea Ravioli.  I started with the seasonal soup, Lobster Bisque with melted truffle butter which was incredibly rich without being overpowered by truffle.  My appetizer was the easiest choice I made all night … Candied Farm Bacon served with warm maple syrup cured in a 10 year old bourbon barrel.  Seriously … that stuff was unreal.  It was all … BAM.  (I just had to.)

I was craving steak that day (I mean … I kind of am every day.) so I ordered the 6 Ounce Filet which was served a perfect medium with light vegetables.  I was so full so it took every bit of my strength not to stuff myself silly … because I wanted to.  Dessert was a tough choice, but I went with the White Chocolate Malassadas coated with cinnamon sugar and filled with white chocolate served with raspberry sauce to accompany my perfectly crafted latte.

Table 10 offers happy hour daily and live music in the bar on weekend nights.   Sit in the large bar area for a lively atmosphere or sit in the dining room for a more intimate meal.  Table 10 also offers a private dining room with the badass glass that frosts with the touch of a button.  (So cool.)


TABLE 10

www.emerilsrestaurants.com/table-10
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The Palazzo 3327 Las Vegas Blvd South, Suite 2900, Las Vegas, Nevada
(702) 607-6363

“Discovering the New York Craft Spirits Boom” Launch

Moving to New York City from a state flowing with craft brews, local spirits, and wines lining either side of the highway through the heart of Texas Hill Country, I didn’t believe there was a land more proud of their distilleries. Texas is a state that wears its pride on its sleeve as a badge of honor; whereas, New York is the kid everyone knew was talented, but now they’re charming everyone with a whole new bag of tricks.

Wednesday night, All the Tastes of New York threw an intimate launch party at Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse to kick off their book, Discovering the New York Craft Spirits Boom by Heather Dolland. The evening featured tastings from over 20 local craft distillers along with passed hors d’oeuvres and first-hand discussion on the importance of “Farm to Glass” movement. Guests enjoyed sips of gin, moonshine, vodka, cider, bourbon, and more… each went down smoothly with a bite of slider and helping of chicken parm. My favorite cocktail of the night goes to a spicy blend of Port Morris moonshine muddled with jalapeño dubbed the “Salma Hayek”. However, I could sip (or gulp) a whole bottle of Sorel, the wheat spirit distilled with hibiscus, ginger, nutmeg, cassia and clove, and sweetened with cane sugar from distillery Jack from Brooklyn.

The book Discovering the New York Craft Spirits Boom dives deeply into the movement “Farm to Glass”, sharing the journey of 30 craft distillers, their journey to success, and what it means to grow locally in terms of spirits. The book is set to release on July 4, 2015 for $29.95 and will be available through retailers such as Amazon.com. You may not be able to get your hands on a copy just yet, but you can read below to gain a little insight into Heather’s background, what this “Farm to Glass” movement is all about, and what you should be sipping on this summer.

Could you give me a little more of your background and how you got into the wine and spirits industry? What interests you most about it? I am the founder and owner of All The Tastes of New York, a startup firm that organizes and hosts themed “food crawl” dining experiences at some of Manhattan’s top restaurants. Launched in 2012, All the Tastes of New York enables groups of eight to 30 participants to enjoy appetizers, entrees and desserts at three restaurants within walking distance of each other.

For more than 8 years, I was also a Brand Ambassador for many premium wine and spirit brands. Working with these brands and creating Food and Wine Festivals to promote them, led to my awareness of the increasing number of distillers in New York State. After getting to know many of these craft distillers, I was inspired to tell their story.

What do you hope to achieve with your book? By writing this book, I will like to aid in the awareness of what it means to be a craft distiller and help support this budding New York industry. Because my business focuses on promoting brands, my desire is that we can grow together.

What is your connection to the “Farm to Glass” movement? Why do you think the importance is behind it? For years we have heard about eating local and the farm to table movement. Now with the influx of craft distillers, we are able to drink local and embrace the farm to glass movement. It’s important to remember that the Farm Distillery Act that passed in 2007 to make distilling easier in New York State, was about allowing farmers to increase the value of their crops. Many of these distillers make Vodka and Gin distilled from New York apples and Whiskey and Bourbon from New York corn. A large number of these distillers come from generations of farmers.

What is your go-to drink and food pairing? I really do not have a ‘go-to’ food and drink pairing. I have a tremendous love of food and drinks. Most of this is the joy of creativity and exploring new tastes and flavors. I rarely eat the same food and drink combination because I thrive on new experiences!

Do you have a favorite spot in the city to grab a drink? One of my favorite spots to have a drink is Middle Branch. A speakeasy in Murray Hill.

What is your top summer cocktail recipe? I am very fond of Tequila and generally spicy cocktails. My top summer cocktail is a Passion Fruit Margarita with Jalapenos.

All The Tastes of New York
allthetastesofnewyork.com
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Discovering The New York Craft Spirits Boom
Pre-order/purchase at Amazon.com

 

Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro (Las Vegas)

Brunch in Vegas.  Perhaps one of the lesser considered meals in Sin City, but one of my new favorites.  On a recent trip, a couple colleagues and I ventured into Morels in The Palazzo.  I love everything French (wine, bread, macarons, kisses …), so I was stoked about trying this place out.  Not only did it have he promise of a great hangover cure (because hair of the dog is necessary in Vegas), but it ups the ante with a view of the strip.

We started with a fancy bloody mary at the stately inside bar.  While they offer a traditional version of the brunch cocktail, they also offer a few remixed version including a Surf & Turf Bloody Mary, complete with bacon (obvi) and a jumbo shrimp.  Their bloodies have a nice flavor and aren’t weak in the least.  If ordering off the menu isn’t your style, you can have them make you one to your specs when you order the bloody mary cart!

We moved outside after our first round of drinks to enjoy the view of the Strip complete with some serious people watching along with some .  I started hacking away at their offer of bottomless mimosas for $25 (damn decent sparkling along with four options of juice).  Soon enough, everyone at the table joined in on the bottomless challenge offering, so they brought us our own bottle of sparkling and carafes of each juice.  (Gotta love that self-serve life.)

The menu offers plenty of French-inspired items and I couldn’t pass up the Mushroom & Gruyère Crepe with cream sauce.  The rest of the table opted for the Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon and the Crab Oscar Benedict–both were amazing.  We all shared bites of our entrees and agreed that I made the best choice (though all were ah-mazing).

Without asking, dessert and much-needed coffee was sent out (the worst, no?)  All three of us were absolutely full, but made room for the Mixed Berry Crumble and Classic Profiteroles.  And damn … I’m glad we did.  The crumble was perfectly warm (you can tell that I didn’t get the picture before it started melting the ice cream) and the  topping was nice and crispy.  The profiteroles sandwiched candied vanilla almond ice cream and came with a side of malted chocolate sauce and topped with house-made whipped cream.

Overall, the brunch was amazing.  All three of us agreed that it was a delightful change of pace from the all-you-can-eat buffets and smokey casinos (not that I’d ever leave either of those behind).  The entire staff was courteous and amenable and the restaurant was beautifully light and airy.  I’d go back in a second to get my hands on one of their steaks (we saw a few go by and … ohhhh my), cheese and charcuterie platters, and seafood towers.  They offer iced seafood and freshly-shucked oysters.

Morels’ weekend brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 4pm, giving you plenty of time to sleep off the haze from the night before.

MORELS FRENCH STEAKHOUSE & BISTRO
www.morelslv.com
3325 Las Vegas Blvd (in the Palazzo)
(702)607-6333

 

Lobby Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental (New York City)

My sister and I remembered the amazing experience we had more than eight years ago at this bar.  We were there with friends and were absolutely floored by the view overlooking Central Park from the southwest corner in the Time Warner building.

The service is impeccable and the drinks are well-mixed.  Order a drink and a couple of their tapas-style appetizers and watch the sun set over the park.  It really is one of the best places to do it in the city.  Just make sure to get a spot by the window!

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Lobby Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental
MandarinOriental.com
80 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023
(212) 805-8800

HOURS:
9am – 1am (Sun – Thu)
9am – 2am (Fri & Sat)

TEA: 2:30 – 4:30pm (Daily)

 

Hilton@Play: Nick Jonas

Hilton has started a new series, Hilton @Play, a partnership with Live Nation, where Hilton HHonors members can experience private events at their properties.  It’s part of an effort to give their hardworking guests the chance to play a little.  (I like it.)  HHonors members have the chance to reserve tickets with their points on the HHonors website.

For their Dallas Hilton @Play event, the brought Nick Jonas to the Hotel Anatole for a private concert.  When you arrived, there was a red carpet experience followed by a VIP-style reception, complete with a live DJ, plenty of food, an open bar, a photo booth, and plenty of people with which to mingle.

The concert itself was so small that everyone got a great place to watch.  Even better, there was a bar inside the venue (sweet) and enough video coverage that you could see every second of the show in full HD glory.

Nick did his thing on stage and, I’m not the crazy Nick Jonas fan like the girls in front, but I really enjoyed the show.  (He is really damn talented, after all.)  The girls went extra wild when he mentioned that Dallas is his hometown — because we do breed talent in the Big D.

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During the concert, they replaced the appetizers and savory food with a smorgasbord of deliciousness for concert-goers to enjoy after the show.  On the way out, we even got goodie bags and the chance to snap a couple pap photos on the red carpet again.

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The Chester (New York City)

I don’t know who Chester is, but I really like that dude.  I was lucky enough to try out The Chester while in NYC this past April and have been haunted by some of the delicious dishes I had since.  The Chester is an unassuming little restaurant in Midtown (with another location in The Meatpacking District in the Gansevoort) with traditional American fare … with a twist.

We hit The Chester up for brunch because we couldn’t have a big a dinner since we were running a half marathon the next morning.  (Seriously.  We’re nuts.)  So we opted for a not-too-late brunch and hit it hard.  Because … carbs are important.  But, their dinner menu sounds absolutely amazing–I mean Orange-fennel Salad, Squid Ink Tagliarini, Eggplant Toast, Pork Belly … ugh, why didn’t we go for dinner?!

Their brunch menu has some of the more traditional options, but who needs traditional when you can have Breakfast Eggrolls!?  They were packed with scrambled eggs and veggies and were fried to a perfect crisp.  We also opted for the Blistered Shishito Peppers (lemon zest, fried garlic, and maldon sea salt).  My sister said that, without a doubt, they were the best shishito peppers she’d ever had. I’d really have to agree.  The garlic added a bunch of flavor and the best little hint of texture.  I went with The Sawdust (Rosemary-infused Ketel One, Moet, lemon juice, and agave) to start light and it was a great choice.

The cocktail menu offered some classic options but mostly slightly remixed options.  The West Side, Roosevelt, and Hellfire were all tempting!

Entrees were a challenge.  I mean … how do you choose between Eggs Benedict on a cheddar scone topped with chorizo hash and Banana Pancakes with rum-caramelized bananas and salted caramel?!  I mean … my mouth is watering and I’m about to look at flights to head back up there right now.  Luckily, someone had recommended their Fried Chicken (sweet tea brined chicken served with blistered shishito peppers and Thai dressing), so I at least had a hint.  The sweet tea brine gave it a subtle sweetness that was irresistible.  When the waitress came to clear our plates, I actually said to her “Don’t look at me … I’m hideous” because I’d gotten so into the chicken that I, quite literally, had it all over my hands and face.

My sister went with The Burger (hanger steak, pimento cheese, and miso-Russian dressing served on a homemade buns with steak fries) and really enjoyed it.  (I actually don’t know if I’ve ever seen her eat as much as I did that day.  No judgement.)

If I had ANY room left, I’d have opted for some of their fresh oysters. They offer a selection of East Coast and West Coast oysters.  (Which look amazing.)

The drinks at The Chester were all unique, yet classic.  Since we had a big race to run the next day*, I followed-up the meal with The Cobblestone (Tanqueray, mint, cucumber, rhubarb bitters) instead of dessert.  It was all I could do to resist the Sweet Ginger (Jameson, mont, honey-ginger syrup, and lemon)

The Cobblestone
The Cobblestone

The restaurant itself was HUGE–especially for a New York City space.  There were two full bars offering both liquor and a selection of local beers–one in front with windows that allowed an open facade for beautiful spring days and one in the back of the restaurant … for less pleasant days.  The Meatpacking space looks a bit brighter and offers a large, wood patio.

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I’ll be hitting up the Meatpacking location on my next visit to The City, so stay tuned for another report!  (Apparently they have a club, The Arthur, hidden inside.*  That’s happening.)

 

THE CHESTER
TheChesterNYC.com
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Midtown
45 East 33rd Street, NYC 10016
(212)201-1228

Gansevoort Meatpacking
18 Ninth Avenue, NYC 10014
(646) 253-2284

*The Arthur: Reservations required after 11 p.m. Contact: info@paigegroupny.com.