In the new Las Vegas, you can go anywhere you like in the blink of an eye. At Bellagio, for instance, you can luxuriate in a Venetian doge's palace on the banks of Lake Como, while at The Mirage you'll find yourself sunbathing on a lush Polynesian island. And while it may be only an illusion, the world-class food that you'll eat at both resorts is very real. But you can't get to Vegas from New York by fantasizing. Between here and there, you'll face crowded airports, painfully un-comfortable flights, and jet lag. Definitely not the way to go when celebrating the Beard Birthday Fortnight. That's why Julian Serrano of Picasso in the Bellagio and The Mirage's Alessandro Stratta of Restaurant Alex Stratta will be coming east to cook for us.
These chefs are no strangers to making diners' fantasies come true. Stratta comes from a long line of restaurateurs and hoteliers, who opened their first lodge in the Piedmontese mountains nearly a century ago. The youngest Stratta graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and subsequently trained under Jim Dodge, Alain Ducasse, and Daniel Boulud. At Mary Elaine's and The Terrace Dining Room (both within Arizona's renowned Phoenician resort), Stratta collected a shelf-full of awards, including last year's American Express/James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest.
Serrano arrived in Vegas from San Francisco's Masa's, consistently one of the nation's highest-rated French restaurants. The San Francisco Chronicle gave it four stars; reviewer Michael Bauer described Serrano's cooking as "gutsy but refined, qualities...that separate truly great chefs from the pack." Now, this 1998 American Express/James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Chef: California runs the stoves at Picasso, where his artistry on a plate competes with the resort's collection of world-famous paintings. Suffice it to say that his cooking is holding its own.
At Beard's House this month, you won't find the Picassos, the erupting volcanoes, or the pirate ships that America's most exuberant town offers its visitors. But you won't need the razzle-dazzle. In our very ordinary townhouse (albeit one we happen to like very much), Serrano and Stratta will realize your wildest fantasies, one plate at a time. You can bet on it!
Maine Lobster and Green Apple Salad
Ahi and Avocado Crisps
Sweetbread and Date Bouchées
Terrine of Foie Gras