Saturday, October 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: CraftSteak, Las Vegas

CraftSteak is Tom Colicchio's steakhouse in the MGM. It's got serious company/competition, because MGM has a collection of restaurants laid out by the best of the best: Emeril, Wolfgang, Robucheon. CraftSteak has a gorgeous interior. Rough leather seats, spacious layout. The service was impeccable. Our waiter was extremely knowledgable, gave me a number of great recommendations, and didn't try to get me to buy the most expensive thing on the menu.

Which...I considered buying the most expensive thing on the menu. CraftSteak features some of the highest quality steak that you can get in an American restaurant. As the waiter informed me, the Japanese rate beef on a 12 point scale. American beef usually rates a 3 on this scale. CraftSteak offers Grade 7 and Grade 10 beef, in a number of cuts. The most expensive of these is a $150 Grade 10 filet mignon. Which I deeply considered ordering. You only live once, right?

Well, the waiter talked me down. So I went with a Grade 7 skirt steak. I also ordered the quail to start, and Brussels sprouts on the side. Starting with the quail, I thought the quail was good. But nothing amazing. I was a little disappointed, because I love quail, and had such high expectations for CraftSteak. And the quail had good flavor, but I didn't feel like they had added anything to it.

Here's my fantastic tip of the day, and you'll do well to remember this. My grandparents were with me, and for their 61st Anniversary, I bought them the dinner and a show package at MGM, which included a 3 course meal at CraftSteak for 2 and 2 tickets to KA. The value on this package is unbelievable. My grandparents' meal started with a bed of fresh greens with a light dressing, a full plate of prosciutto with a bit of fig preserve on the side, and a plate of roasted red peppers. With the starters they also served drop rolls in an adorable little cast iron pan. These rolls were so good! They had been brushed over the tops with salted butter, so they had great flavor. And they were served warm, and stayed that way courtesy of the cast iron tray. A lovely and delicious touch.

I took this little detour to describe the dinner-show package, because CraftSteak served the entrees family style. Which was a wonderful touch, because it allowed us all to share the fantastic variety that the show package provided. My grandparents' meal included baked chicken, hanger steak, a couple of scallops, pureed potatoes, and marinated mushrooms. It was....SO MUCH FOOD! Everything was delicious, but it really was way too much food. I ended up taking it on the plane with me the next day!

In a brief run down, the chicken was wonderful. I never get chicken, because its usually boring, but this was simple, moist, and incredibly flavorful. The scallop was well prepared. The hanger steak was great, with a little char on the outside. And the Grade 7? It was very lightly seasoned, so that it was really about the flavor of the meat. It was perfectly prepared. A great steak.

Oh, and the sides? Awwwwesome. I love Brussels sprouts, and these were pretty fab. They were all small in size, and were roasted until they had a nice crisp outside. The mushrooms were great with the steak. And I loved the potatoes, and was sad that we ended up sending so much of them back, because there was just no more room!

Finally. And this has been a long post to get to the finally. Dessert. They served us a personal size new york style cheesecake with a blueberry compote. The compote was big on the blueberries and scant on the sauce, which I prefer. That dessert was pretty good, although nothing I haven't had before. But the other dessert....MONKEY BREAD! What a great treat! They served us an individual sized bundt of monkey bread, with a side of vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled with caramel. I want that bundt pan! But I could also go for this dessert again, because it was warm, gooey, and delicious. Loved it. And, because this restaurant rocks my socks, they wrote "Happy Anniversary" on the plate! I didn't even tell the reservationist that I was doing this for my grandparents anniversary, just mentioned in passing that I had forgotten to call because their anniversary was the day before I made reservations. How thoughtful! And delicious!

So, CraftSteak definitely gets my seal of approval. Great service, great food, lovely ambiance. Everything you want in a fancy steakhouse!


Roasting: Quick and Easy Way to Make Steak

I've been experimenting with meals that are easy to make for my post work life. This one is great. Easy, delicious, filling, and it takes less than an hour total.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds (toasted and ground), 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, and 1 large clove of garlic, mashed into a paste. Add 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Rub the mixture all over the steak, and set it aside at room temperature.

For a large single serving, I used 4 medium size carrots and a 1/2 lb skirt steak. Rinse the carrots and cut them lengthwise, then chop them. Toss the carrots with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper, and 1 tsp sugar. Spread them on a baking sheet, and roast them for 15 to 20 minutes.

Pull out the baking sheet, stir the carrots, push them over to one side of the baking sheet, and put the steak on the baking sheet. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a meat thermometer read 130 to 135. Stir the carrots at least once during the roast time.

Remove from the oven, and cover the steak with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin before serving.

I also made some couscous (from a box) while the steak was roasting. So everything comes together at the same time.

Great flavor, really easy. Awwwwwesome!

Tom Colicchio's got NOTHIN on me. Well....maybe not. But I'm working on it!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pear Cranberry Crostada Fail

You win some, you lose some. And this was...a draw?

I'm going to have to make this again, so I'll post the recipe at that time. But for some reason I really struggled with this one. I was rushing, and didn't really want to be in the kitchen. I couldn't get the crust to roll out, and got frustrated with it. It was too thick on one end, not thick enough at the other, which became a pretty big problem when I tried to fold up the pie around the filling.

During the baking process, my crust sprung a little leak. Bummer. The filling pretty much stayed in the shell, but, well, this thing was ugly. Franken-stada. See for yourself...

It still tasted delicious. And, thankfully, this recipe made twice as much of the dough and almond cream as it took to make the crostada. So all I need to do is buy a few more pears, and try it all over again. Woot?


I love peanut butter. And now I can love all sorts of other nut butter, because I discovered that it was beyond easy to make. I got this recipe from Fine Cooking, and I cut it in half, but I'll give you the full recipe because I can tell that the half recipe is going to last me less than a week!

2 cups raw pecans, toasted almonds, or toasted and skinned hazelnuts
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 to 4 tbs canola, vegetable, or other neutral-flavored oil
1 tsp honey (I didn't cut this in half for mine, so I might double this next time for a full recipe)

1. In a food processor pulse the nuts until roughly chopped.
2. Add the salt and begin to puree.
3. Add only as much oil as needed to make the nuts break down. I added the oil in teaspoons, usually 2 at a time, and I did it 3 times for a half recipe.
4. Add the honey and pulse to mix.
5. Transfer to a jar. It stores 6 to 9 months in the fridge, or 2 months in a "cool dry place," as if it will last that long!

I didn't puree mine until it was completely smooth, so it was a little bit chunky, but another way to make truly chunky nut butter is to coarsely chop 1/4 cup of the original 2 cups of nuts, and then mix that into the smooth nut butter by hand.

So easy. So delicious. My life has been altered!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Brussels Sprouts! My favorite!

Man, I really love them. And if you'll remember, in August I had some truly awesome ones at Perbacco, a fantastic Italian place in San Francisco.

So, last night I attempted to recreate them. Last time I tried recreating something, it didn't turn out so well. But I had a pretty good beat on these.

So what did I do? I rinsed, trimmed, and halved some fresh brussels sprouts. I melted some butter, and tossed the sprouts in with the butter. Then I mixed together honey and Dijon mustard in about equal amounts (I didn't make very many brussels sprouts, so I used maybe 1 tsp of each) and mixed it in with the brussels sprouts. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted for 20 minutes at 450. I mixed the brussels sprouts a few times, so that they browned evenly.

Totally delicious. Giant win!