Two Gems from the Gem State…PAZAZ™ Style!

In the panhandle of Idaho there are two things you can almost always count on. First there is the unbriddled beauty that rears its head around every corner. Then there is the other not quite so positive aspect, which is the service in most restaurants. Apparently training the service staff in most cases is an after-thought.

We were at a very nice restaurant in Sandpoint Idaho called, “41 South”. Before we even got our appetizers the server had dropped two “F” bombs. The GM (a young man from Vegas) was so high, chewing on his lip with his hand shaking from side to side so violently that the wine really had no chance of ending up in the glass. He quickly disappeared while blurting out something about allergies… never to be seen again.

However, every once in a while you stumble upon a real gem with beautifuly crafted food, a wonderful winelist and service to match. These are the restaurants you want to recommend and visit the next time you’re in that neck of the woods.

Terraza Waterfront Cafe is just such a restaurant, located on the beautiful lake Coeur ‘D Alene, Idaho.

The cuisine represents a montage of Latin American cuisine. From the Andean peaks, Amazonian rainforest, Patagonian glaciers, Inca ruins, and the exciting night life… welcome to Terraza Waterfront Cafe.

The menu checks the creative box with Elote Cakes made from corn, queso fresco, and cilantro. The Peruvian Ceviche (which is gluten free) is comprised of albacore tuna, shrimp, and rockfish. The Roasted Beet Salad was the best I’d ever had. The dish included tamarindo citronette and spiced pepitas, The Taco Plate which gives you a choice of three different tacos, or the same kind if you prefer, includes Crimini Cauliflower with chili spices, salsa roja, salsa carbon, and cilantro. The Carnitas is infused with salsa verde, shaved cabbage, pickled onion, and cotija. Finally there is the Chicken Taco with salsa cruda, sweet onion, cilantro, and manchego cheese.

Rounding out the lunch menu is Grilled Fish with a chili lime spice, salsa pina, jicama slaw, and crema. The Carne Asada lights the taste buds on fire while the Argentinian Chorizo is a sausage lovers dream. I of course have gone vegan so I have to live vicariously through others when it comes to their fish and meat culinary experiences.

As wonderful as the food, service, cocktails, and wine selection are, the location is even better. Easy to access in a very up scale neighborhood (looks like the homes on Balboa Island in California) the peaceful waterfront, boating, and general ambience is captivating. So when your in Coeur D’Alene make sure you set aside an afternoon to enjoy this very special restaurant.

The other must go to town and restaurant is the town of Wallace Idaho and the Blackboard Marketplace restaurant. Wallace is the only town in America where every building is listed in the historic registry. This happened because the government wanted to put a highway through the town and the miners and other locals found a way to stop them with the historical registry designation on everything.

Another unique aspect to the town of Wallace is a manhole cover in the center of town which proclaims Wallace, “The Center of the Universe.”

The Blackboard Marketplace includes unique shopping, dining, and a relaxing experience which feels like the old west meets the creative new west. One wall in the restaurant has a blackboard with chalked figures of famous movie stars. Other notable conversation pieces include old mining equipment and two televisions that are playing old 50’s and 60’s black and white shows. But its really the quality of the food and the timely service that bring people back again and again.

The dinner menu includes well crafted dishes such as the Beef Tartare. This dish is filet chopped and served raw with capers, bacon aioli/egg/crostini. The Ahi Tuna has an Italian herb crust finished with a white balsamic vinaigrette/lemon aoili/capers. Unusual but equally tantalizing is the Lobster Corn Dog with a corn/saffron citrus aioli. Entrees include a beautiful hand-crafted Lasagna with bolognese, mozzarella and Parmesan. If you love Osso Bucco this is the place with the braised lamb shank served in a red wine demi’glaze accompanied with a potato puree.

On a side bar I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a side tour that was the highlight of our trip to Idaho. The Sierra Silver Mine Tour, Inc. is a must see tour. Marty takes you inside the Sierra Silver Mine and actually fires up the equipment and explains the procedures for safety and mining the oar. This was by far one of the most informative and valuable experiences in understanding an important part of Western United States history.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking”, Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to www.pazazshop.com to purchase these AMAZING tools.

Two Gems from the Gem State…PAZAZ™ Style!

Remarkable Idaho Restaurants

In the panhandle of Idaho there are two things you can almost always count on. First there is the unbridled beauty around every corner. Then there is the other not quite so positive aspect, which is the service in most restaurants. Apparently training the service staff in most cases is an after-thought.

We were at a very nice restaurant in Sandpoint Idaho called, “41 South”. Before we even got our appetizers the server had dropped two “F” bombs. The GM (a young man from Vegas) was so high, chewing on his lip with his hand shaking from side to side so violently that the wine really had no chance of ending up in the glass. He quickly disappeared while blurting out something about allergies… never to be seen again.

However, every once in a while you stumble upon a real gem with beautifully crafted food, a wonderful wine list and service to match. These are the restaurants you want to recommend and visit the next time you’re in that neck of the woods.

Terraza Waterfront Cafe is just such a restaurant, located on the beautiful lake Coeur ‘D Alene, Idaho.

The cuisine represents a montage of Latin American cuisine. From the Andean peaks, Amazonian rain forest, Patagonian glaciers, Inca ruins, and the exciting night life… welcome to Terraza Waterfront Cafe.

The menu checks the creative box with Elote Cakes made from corn, queso fresco, and cilantro. The Peruvian Ceviche (which is gluten free) is comprised of albacore tuna, shrimp, and rockfish. The Roasted Beet Salad was the best I’d ever had. The dish included tamarindo citronette and spiced pepitas, The Taco Plate which gives you a choice of three different tacos, or the same kind if you prefer, includes Crimini Cauliflower with chili spices, salsa roja, salsa carbon, and cilantro. The Carnitas is infused with salsa verde, shaved cabbage, pickled onion, and cotija. Finally, there is the Chicken Taco with salsa cruda, sweet onion, cilantro, and manchego cheese.

Rounding out the lunch menu is Grilled Fish with a chili lime spice, salsa pina, jicama slaw, and crema. The Carne Asada lights the taste buds on fire while the Aregentinian Chorizo is a sausage lovers dream. I of course have gone vegan so I have to live vicariously through others when it comes to their fish and meat culinary experiences.

As wonderful as the food, service, cocktails, and wine selection are, the location is even better. Easy to access in a very up scale neighborhood (looks like the homes on Balboa Island in California) the peaceful waterfront, boating, and general ambience is captivating. So when your in Coeur D’Alene make sure you set aside an afternoon to enjoy this very special restaurant.

The other must go-to town is Wallace, Idaho and enjoy a meal at the Blackboard Marketplace restaurant. Wallace is the only town in America where every building is listed in the historic registry. This happened because the government wanted to put a highway through the town and the miners and other locals found a way to stop them with the historical registry designation on everything. Another unique aspect to the town of Wallace is a manhole cover in the center of town which proclaims Wallace, “The Center of the Universe.”

The Blackboard Marketplace includes unique shopping, dining, and a relaxing experience which feels like the old west meets the creative new west. One wall in the restaurant has a blackboard with chalked figures of famous movie stars. Other notable conversation pieces include old mining equipment and two televisions that are playing old 50’s and 60’s black and white shows. But its really the quality of the food and the timely service that bring people back again and again.

The dinner menu includes well crafted dishes such as the Beef Tartare. This dish is filet chopped and served raw with capers, bacon aioli/egg/crostini. The Ahi Tuna has an Italian herb crust finished with a white balsamic vinaigrette/lemon aoili/capers. Unusual but equally tantalizing is the Lobster Corn Dog with a corn/saffron citrus aioli. Entrees include a beautiful hand-crafted Lasagna with bolognese, mozzarella and Parmesan. If you love Osso Bucco this is the place with the braised lamb shank served in a red wine demi’glaze accompanied with a potato puree.

On a side bar I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a side tour that was the highlight of our trip to Idaho. The Sierra Silver Mine Tour, Inc. is a must-see tour. Marty takes you inside the Sierra Silver Mine and actually fires up the old mining equipment and explains the procedures for safety and mining the ore. This was by far one of the most informative and valuable experiences in understanding an important part of Western United States history.

JEAN GEORGE – Chef and Restaurateur

If you don’t know, I’ve worked for this world class chef for the last 11 plus years. I work at Jean George Steakhouse, located in the Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

I’ve worked in great restaurants all over the country, including California, Nevada, Florida, and New York; and every one has taught me different valuable nuances about food and wine.

I can tell you this… the more you learn about food and wine the more you realize how little you know. What I mean by that is with wine and food there are so many foods and wines associated with countries.

Then there are regional wines and dishes, villages, and finally family crafted wines and recipes. This list is virtually endless and so is the journey to prepare food, craft wine, beer, and liquor to ultimately create an experience by which all others would be judged.

Certain people are built for certain professions. At the age of 16 Jean George Vongerichten was cooking at a three-star Michelin restaurant (the highest accolade a chef and his or her restaurant can achieve), L’Auberge de L’ll generally considered Alsace’s best restaurant. He remained there for four years and then went on to work with iconic chef Paul Bocuse at Eckart Witzigmann (in Munich), and finally with Louis Outhier of L’Oasis, on the French Riviera.

It was Outhier’s genius that set Jean George on his true path by sending him to the United States and Asia as leader of his “flying squadron” of chefs. Ultimately Jean George cooked for four years in Asia spending time in Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong. As he now says, “The flavors of lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, and coconut milk, changed my life.”

Now Jean George has 40 restaurants in 11 countries including the Bahamas, Brazil, China, England, France, the French West Indies, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Morocco. His ability to translate his knowledge to the front and back of the house (with a great team that travels well) makes a statement about his recipe for success.

The real beauty of a great chefs repertoire is the simplicity in which they execute the dish. This enables the quality ingredients to stand for themselves. At the heart of any composition is a melody that is highlighted by the orchestration conducted by the maestro that makes the senses dance.

Letting the ingredients speak for themselves is the key to great cuisine. Not relying on fancy presentation or exotic garnishes to embellish but the weaving of culinary components into a symphony of flavors to create a memorable dish is the pronounced goal.

If you’re in Las Vegas please stop by our restaurant, “Jean George Steakhouse”, to experience a great steak with some memorable appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. One such appetizer is the Kobe Carpaccio. We are one of only nine restaurants in the country that has the real Kobe beef from Kobe Japan. The Kobe Carpaccio is Kobe beef that is sliced very thin draped over a cheese truffle fritter topped with a Perigord Black Truffle and surrounded with a four leaf balsamic vinegar. Four small pieces… ridiculous.

Jean George was hooked by the restaurant business when he was young, plucking chicken feathers for dishes in a fine French restaurant. I was hooked when I was 16 years old by the restaurant business (front of the house) when I realized the beauty of providing great service to appreciative guests to create an unparalleled dining experience. The key to anything you love is to become proficient at it learning the variables that knowledge can provide and then communicate that information in a simple yet articulate manner.

I have been blessed to be in the restaurant business virtually my whole life. From serving, writing wine lists and menus, to becoming a chef and a sommelier… the love I have for the restaurant business I feel is a gift.

This coming year, midway through, will be the last time that I will provide the dining experience to the guests I’ve come to love over the course of a lifetime. But what I’ve learned about life…it’s about beginnings and endings.

Let’s see how the next chapter unfolds.

Living in the Moment, PAZAZ™ Style!

living in the moment
Living In The Moment

Las Vegas has been described as an adult playground and I couldn’t agree more. Last night captured the essence of the “Las Vegas Experience” and dialed it up to the tenth degree.

I look around at this place I’ve called home for over seventeen years and I feel blessed to have come here as Vegas has transformed into a dining and entertainment capital of the world. No where else can you experience the kind of quality entertainment and food in such a contained area.

“The Strip” has become synonymous with world class culinary, music, and of course the genius of Cirque du Soleil. The “Cirque” shows include O, Ka, Mystere, Michael Jackson, Zumanity, Luxia, and of course The Beatles, Love.

As I was growing up I was a huge Beatles fan. My dad took me to see the movie “Help” in 1965 when I was but a small child. I remember the excitement generated by their first appearance on Ed Sullivan and watching the screaming girls jumping up and down and even sometimes fainting over the “Fab Four”.

Now, years later we’ve gone to see the Cirque du Soleil show, Love, many times. In addition to that my daughter has gone to Liverpool and taken the “Fab Four” taxi ride as she (through me) has become a huge fan of the band. Chelsea even bought me a coffee cup in Liverpool inscribed Strawberry Fields, “Nothing is real”, which I treasure as I live vicariously through her international experiences.

Last night Nancy, Chelsea and I left this planet and became a part of a parallel universe where ” Nothing is real”. The evening started with dinner at Jean George Steak House at the Aria. It just so happens that I work there but non the less the service, food, and wine were superb.

Our dinner at Jean George was the perfect introduction to an experience I will never forget. After dinner we navigated through the many obstacles (mainly people) to achieve our objective which was to see Paul McCartney at the T-Mobile Arena. Our seats were on the main floor and the concert was even more than I had hoped for.

The arena was buzzing with the anticipation of a performance from one of the greatest rock musicians of all time. With such a storied career Paul is not just a musician he is a legend. We sat with the energy around us increasing in velocity as the moment of Paul’s appearance grew closer.

At 8:30 Paul sauntered across the stage he knew this audience was ready for an epic performance. The evening started with “A Hard Day’s Night” and included such Beatles classics as “Hey Jude”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Something”, and “Back in the USSR”, among many others.

I can’t remember a concert that transported me back in time while I was living in the moment of an experience I will never forget.

I only hope that as I write these blogs our lives will center around the moment we’re in, blessed by the people we’re with, enriched by the experiences we share.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking” kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to pazazshop.com to purchase these “AMAZING” kitchen tools which include the Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat , Heavy Duty Aluminum Baking Sheet Pan, and the Steel Mesh Cooling Rack.

Southern Utah… PAZAZ™ Style

The beautiful topography of Southern Utah captures the nuances of nature in the form of multi-colored rock formations that dance across canyons sculpted by rivers, streams, and creeks.

As the alpine glow transmits different brush strokes of color, the time and the direction of the sun wave a magicians wand to play with the optics transmitted by seasonal change.

Driving north of Las Vegas to this land of enchanted vistas you pass through the Virgin River Gorge located between St. George, Utah, and Beaver Dam Arizona. This long canyon is carved by the Virgin River in Northwest Arizona. The Virgin River rises on the Colorado Plateau creating both the Zion National Park and the Virgin River Gorge.

Each mile brings me closer to my favorite restaurant destination located in St. George Utah. This town was named in honor of Mormon apostle George A. Smith also known as the “potato saint” because he urged early settlers to eat raw, unpeeled potatoes to cure scurvy. Smith didn’t participate in the town’s settlement but chose the first pioneers to enhabit this area.

Besides the natural beauty there is one restaurant that stands far above the rest in consistent food quality high-lighted by spot on service. This restaurant,”The Painted Pony”, is a text book example of caring owners finding a formula and staying within the boundaries of their expertise.

A warm greeting begins the experience expedited by prompt service. Then, the server questions the direction the guest wishes to be taken through the land of culinary delights.

For me, one of the menu items that stands above the rest (in the appetizer category) is the organic beet napoleon. Organic beets topped with julienne crispy beets with a layer of goat cheese in between to create the desired napoleon affect. This dish is served with a balsamic dressing garnished with beet leaves and fresh herbs. This dish should be paired with a Sancerre (sauvignon blanc) from France.

The entree course is a Hawaiian fish called “ONO” which means “delicious” in Hawaiian. Place the “ONO” (a delicate white fish) onto the PAZAZ™ baking mat inside the PAZAZ™ cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees. The slow cooked fish should be in the oven no longer than 6 minutes to create the desired med-rare composition. The rest of the formula to compliment this fish that melts in your mouth consists of couscous with roasted Brussel sprouts in a citrus beurre blanc. The fish is then topped with an apricot chutney to complete this flavor explosion. I love to pair this dish with an Argentinian white wine varietal called Torrontes.

Completing this meal is a classic bread pudding in a creme anglaise paired with an ice wine from Niagara-on-the-lake in south eastern Canada called Inniskillin.

When you find yourself in Southern Utah don’t forget to stop at this amazing destination restaurant, “The Painted Pony”, fueled by the expectation of a meal produced by chefs that care, expedited by professional servers in an environment that calms the spirit and enhances the experience.

This post is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking” kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to pazazshop.com to purchase the amazing Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Heavy Duty Aluminum Cookie Sheet, and the Steel Mesh Cooling Rack. Bring PAZAZ™ into your life!!!