Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bouchon Bakery, Las Vegas Nevada

"In the end, a great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience. We try to make it an extraordinary one by creating a beautiful place, one filled with staff who cares about it as they do about their home, and care for you as the most important guest in it...a great meal is not one that fills you up. A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven't been before."

With quotes like that you know his food is not a joke, and I will admit a bias to Thomas Keller's concepts and food. From peanut butter and jelly to quiche to gnocchi to bread and butter to cookies and cakes the man simply does amazing things with food. The best french toast I've ever eaten, the best quiche, the best cookie....and service that never fails to make you feel like the most important guest on earth. With those things in mind my Vegas vacation entailed two visits to Bouchon Bistro and four visits to Bouchon Bakery for mid-day snacks.

On day one, selections after lunch entailed a Red Velvet Cupcake and Keller's seasonal bread pudding. Consumed in the Venezia Gardens/Pool area outside Bouchon Bistro, I can definitely say the cupcake was the best Red Velvet I've ever consumed. Creamy cream cheese and creme fraiche frosting with a hint of cocoa served over (and throughout) a moist and delectable cake with strong hints of cinnamon and chocolate, plus the earthy taste of the beat sugar used for sweetness and color....sublime. Better than Crumbs, Beasley, Yummy, Sprinkles, and even Doughboy's famous version. Even better than Piece of Cake in Columbus, my previous favorite. After the cupcake I shopped Vegas for a bit and then ate the Bread Pudding rewarmed in the hotel microwave. Sweet but savory, dense yet not "wet," and loaded with cranberry, raisin, and white raisin....awesome. Not as good as the french toast version at Bouchon Bistro, but in my top 5 Bread Puddings, for sure.

Day two selections, after breakfast at Bouchon, entailed two beignets and a Macaroon. A flawless Coffee Macaroon was first and was just as flawless as the Caramel one in New York in June. Airy, crisp, sweet, and flavorful. Not as good as the Macaroons at Pistacia Vera, but close, and much larger. The Beignets selected were small filled donuts stuffed with Vanilla Custard and Raspberry jam. Both were light and flavorful, still warm, and the fillings were potent without being overpowering of the buttery beignets. Personally I enjoyed the unfilled Beignets at Bouchon Bistro better, but these certainly best Dunkin, Krispy Kreme, Bob's, or other "donut" shoppes.

Day three, stuffed after dinner before and planning for Alex in the evening, a single Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookie was chosen. As good as the Cupcake and Bread Pudding were, this was the "bar raiser" in terms of wow factor. Having had the TKO and Nutter Butter while in NYC, I really didn't think cookies could get better. WRONG! I like Carrot Cake and I've had some good ones, but this thing was surreal. Smaller than a hockey puck it literally weighed approximately 8oz and was absolutely loaded with the fibrous texture of carrots, yet perfectly balanced and soft like a cake. Hints of cinnamon and vanilla plus the subtle taste of pineapple in the frosting....I wish this recipe were in the Bouchon Cookbook. Actually...why doesn't Keller share the recipes for all three cookies in his next book?

Day four, after brunch at Bouchon with the transcendent French Toast and unfilled beignets, I opted for a single Banana Nut Muffin which I consumed with the coffee at the Palazzo sportsbook while watching Terrell Pryor ascend to king of Columbus back home. After consuming the muffin I only wished Keller would take Bouchon Bakery nationwide so I could consume all of these things back home. Weighing in at likely a pound, the texture was on par with the carrot cake and the flavor equally subtle yet fantastic. Sticky sweet, topped with a cinnamon crumble, and perfectly moist....I was sad that some of it stuck to the paper, despite being overly full.

Between Alex, Le Cirque, MiX, Craftsteak, Bouchon, and so many other highly regarded restaurants in Vegas I definitively had a GREAT culinary only regret is that I didn't have more room in my stomach. If I had, I'd have certainly filled it with more goods from Bouchon. Impressive goals often lead to impressive results. "Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do." -- Thomas Keller

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