Las Vegas Sun

October 2, 2014

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Columnist Muriel Stevens: The secret of the $2,000 cocktail revealed

What could possibly make a cocktail worth $2,000? That's what the Guinness Book of Records wanted to know when Francesco Lafranconi, master mixologist at Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, submitted his petition to the Guinness Book of Records.

"The Angel's Share" is the name Lafranconi chose for The World's Most Expensive Champagne Cocktail (it will be officially recognized by the Guinness Book of Records in the new edition) and was officially created on March 5. A copy of the petition was included with a souvenir dinner menu.

This divine libation was introduced at a private home as part of a dinner prepared by Alessandro Stratta, the award-winning chef of Renoir at The Mirage. At a charity auction the hosts had made the winning bid for Chef Alex's dinner. At a second charity event they snagged Lafranconi's extravagant champagne cocktail and had the makings of a grand wining and dining event.

Limited to eight guests, the intimate evening was a treasure of superb food and drink and bonhomie.

Chef Alex presented an amuse bouche -- a poached, farm-fresh egg with osetra caviar, mashed Yukon Gold potato and a drizzle of Manni olive oil. Four courses with different wines followed: Maine lobster with spinach linguine and oven-dried tomatoes, sauteed foie gras with peppered pineapple and aged balsamic vinegar, roasted sea bass with fresh hearts of palm and black truffle and Stratta's renowned braised short rib of beef with horseradish potato puree.

Wines from Spain, Alsace, France and South Australia accompanied each course.

Before and after dinner Lafranconi practiced his own kind of witchcraft and presented an outstanding variety of cocktails, including the Guinness champagne cocktail.

Dessert was a tour de force for Renoir Pastry Chef Jenifer Witte -- a mocha-java savarin with warm caramel sauce. The hosts had advised the guests to arrange for transport home, so everyone was able to indulge, and they did.

The Angel's Share recipe includes vintages and a cocktail glass not readily available, though it's fun to read.

Angel's share includes: Hennessy Timeless, a blend of 11 Eau de Vie, 1900, 1918, 1929, 1939, 1947, 1953, 1959, 1961, 1970, 1983 and 1990 (only 200 bottles of this "masterpiece" are available in the United States); Grand Marnier 150th Anniversary, an opulent and powerful blend of 50-year-old Grande Champagne Cognac; and the essence of wild Bigarade oranges that was created in 1977 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the company. It comes in a hand-painted bottle: Chartreuse V.E.P. (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolonge).

The bottle used by Lafranconi was No. 915 of 1,092 available in the world; Cuvee Dom Perignon -- the vintages chosen for this Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1973 were especially selected by Richard Geoffrey, the house cellar master. Lafranconi says: "It is an unforgettable experience."

The cocktail glass is martini-style and is a special collector's limited edition designed by famed architect and interior designer Adam Tihany for Christofle. Included are a swizzle stick with a half-carat diamond and a mother-of-pearl caviar spoon. Lafranconi's presentation includes one-quarter ounce of pricey golden osetra caviar.

James Beard Foundation 2004 Restaurant and Chef Awards: This could be the year that Las Vegas makes its mark at the James Beard Awards, which take place May 10 at the New York Marriott Marquis. Perhaps this is the year that more than one Las Vegas chef will be recognized.

Of course, being one of five finalists in any category is a coup. This year we have two finalists: Bradley Ogden (Caesars Palace) is in the running for Illy Best New Restaurant. Restaurants nominated excel in food, beverage and service and "are likely to make a significant impact in years to come," according to the Beard Foundation. Valentino at The Venetian's Luciano Pellegrini is a finalist for the American Express Best Chef: Southwest.

Such familiar names as Tom Colicchio, Nobu Matsuhisa, Wolfgang Puck and Piero Selvaggio are nominees in a variety of categories for their restaurants in other cities. All have excellent restaurants in Las Vegas.

Get ready for Canter's Deli: On May 1, Canter's Deli, one of Hollywood's favorite hangouts, will open at Treasure Island (TI). Canter's is known for its savory hot pastrami and corned beef sandwiches -- the meat is cooked at the deli -- and the crunchy, spicy pickles, rich cheese blintzes and matzo ball soup. All of the bakery items are from their own bakery.

The Chicago design team, Jordan Mozer and Associates, has fashioned the Las Vegas Canter's in the spirit of the L.A. Canter's designed in 1953. Ultra-modern hipness, maybe? It will certainly be one of a kind for Las Vegas.

Canter's Deli has always been a family affair and is still a family run business. Alan Canter, the son of two of the original founders, Ben and Jennie Canter, and his three children, Marc, Gary and Jacqueline, and a niece Terri (Selma Canter's daughter) carry on the family legend. Live-wire Gary Canter will be here for the opening and will be a frequent presence.

TI vice president of food and beverage Adam Odegard said: "We are transporting this hip and trendy L.A. restaurant to Treasure Island and recreating Canter's for the 21st century."

Sounds great, Adam, just don't touch the rugala (rolled, filled cookies) or the black-and-white cookie cakes.

Sweet Georgia Brown's: Opening Saturday at 5 p.m., Sweet Georgia Brown's barbecue is a welcome addition to the east side of town. Owned by the family who brought us H&H Southern barbecue, SGB's is an upscale version with no pretense and plenty of good down-home Southern cooking. Sweet Georgia Brown's is on East Flamingo Road in the space formerly occupied by Manhattan Italian restaurant and Cosmo's. According to marketing consultant Tyna Nelson-Dillard, much of the original interior remains, including the handsome sand-blasted mirrors and windows.

The name for Sweet Georgia's bar is still being considered -- King's Row or Flamingo Road. Food is served in the bar and lounge and there's live entertainment Friday and Saturday nights. SGB's is open daily for lunch and dinner. A liquor license is in the works and should arrive shortly after the opening.

Until then diners can enjoy the large selection of flavored iced teas and other refreshing libations. Hours Sunday through Thursday are 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

For reservations call 369-0245; takeout may be ordered by fax -- 369-0295. General Manager Andre Atkinson is a good source of information.

Short orders

Le Cordon Bleu announces scholarship winners: Le Cordon Bleu Odyssey scholarship winners are Alfred "Chip" Miller, Steven Ginsberg, Harry Ghormley and Margaret Nugnes, who received checks of $500 (a second $500 check will be issued when they graduate). All scholarship recipients will be recognized Nov. 5 at a black-tie dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas. The required Mystery Basket cook-off was judged by chefs/restaurateurs Gustav Mauler, Arnauld Briand and Michael Jordan.

Teddy Bear Tea: Tickets are still available for the second annual Teddy Bear Tea and Fashion Show on March 28 at the Four Seasons. Proceeds from the Teddy Bear Tea will benefit the Lied Discovery Children's Museum. This charming event for parents, grandparents and children of all ages will feature a fashion show of children's boutique fashions from Cinnamon Girl, Along Came a Spider, Bellini and The Children's Place, an afternoon tea, art activities and more.

Every child attending will receive a gift. Tickets are $75 per person. Lied Discovery Children's Museum is Las Vegas' only children's museum, and it's wonderful. For tickets and other information call 382-3445.

New wave of restaurants: After a brief interlude a new wave of restaurants is on the way. A New York source says Bobby Flay will shortly meet with Caesars Palace brass and his planning team to get ready for the opening of Flay's Mesa Grill. Flay owns Mesa Grill and Bolo in New York. On hand to tape the planning session will be the Food Network, where Flay reigns supreme (I'm a fan). Look for Mesa Grill in the area formerly known as the Palatium buffet.

Mirage Buffet, a new blow-away version, is said to be the ultimate upscale buffet. It's still under wraps, but an April opening is anticipated.

Transitions: Chef David Feau is no longer the chef at Lutece at The Venetian. Lutece New York has closed. A note sent to me from Feau advises that he will return to New York "to pursue other projects." Feau is a terrific chef. With the restaurant renaissance in New York, he'll be a hot commodity.

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