Thursday, August 1, 2013

Food adventures in Las Vegas

Las Vegas has its own fair share of strange and unusual foods.  There are so many cultures and groups in the Las Vegas area that you can find almost anything, to suit almost any taste.  While some places stick to staples like Honey Pig's Korean food or Hot n' Juicy's steamed and spicy foods, other places are going back with classic or traditional items and trying to see if something could be done differently.

What I have here, are two separate instances of something that is so familiar and so simple but then re-envisioned to be something new and exciting:

First off, located about 5-10 minutes away from the strip, is a small store, located in a strip mall.  The store is called Popped and it is in there that they make, serve and sell popcorn.  Now, there are many flavors like classic cheese or caramel but then there are new flavor combinations like Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel; frozen.  (Did I just say "frozen"?  Yes, frozen.)  While the popcorn is tasty, what they do at Popped, is make the popcorn and then bathe it and mix it into liquid nitrogen.

Now, what are the pros and pluses for mixing your popcorn into liquid nitrogen and then eating it?  Well, first off, when you eat it with your mouth open, you can see smoke or vapors come out of your mouth or nose. That seems to be the first thing and perhaps the coolest thing. The second thing is that when the hard, (and sometimes destined to be lodged into your gums or teeth), kernel gets frozen, and then you eat the popcorn, it isn't so hard anymore but disintegrates in your mouth.  Every piece that you pop in your mouth is cold, then tasty and then gone, as if the whole piece could melt away.  There are no little pieces of popcorn getting stuck: anywhere.  I have to say that while my kids were too busy pigging out and making them breathe out smoke like baby dragons, my wife and I were enjoying the easy to eat popcorn.

The next thing that I thought was revolutionized, was the food at the airport.  I think it was the LA airport, but as American Express members, we were allowed entrance into their special lounge.  Inside, we were looking for food and I was expecting the same dribble that you can find at other airport lounges.  I was surprised when I saw the following:

Okay, for those who don't watch food network shows, Scott Conant is the chef who always is on the panel on the show Chopped.  He is a famous restaurateur and has written several cook books.  So, not only does he do television shows, but he apparently makes food for the airport lounge.  What did the food look like?

So, what do we have here?  The braised beef was tender and juicy and flavorful.  The polenta was rich, creamy and buttery.  The gravy or sauce was flavorful and bold.  The cheese shavings were salty and sweet. The dish was small, tapas style, but for a buffet line, for anyone to eat, at the Euro-style lounge, this was a huge wake-up call.  Now, I admit that outside of the lounge there were the regular places that you could stop, pay $10 for a hamburger or $3 for an apple.  But the lounges used to only serve coffee and warmed nuts.  This is a huge upgrade and considering that this dish tasted as good as some famous restaurants I have eaten at, that is a huge plus.

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