Mediterranean Salad at Gaetano’s

Since this dish isn’t always on the menu, diners often discover it when they see restaurateur Gaetano Palmeri enjoying the salad at the bar during his break. As long as he has the ingredients in the kitchen, he’ll gladly whip one up for you, too. The zesty, chunky delight consists of avocado, roasted bell peppers, Roma tomatoes, Kalamata olives, sweet red onion and fresh buffalo mozzarella mixed with baby greens and extra virgin olive oil. $12.95, 10271 S. Eastern Ave., No. 111, 361-1661.

Chile Verde at El Jefe’s

The chile verde recipe, straight from Mexico City, is one of the best you’ll find in the Las Vegas Valley. It is savory—with pork shoulder slow-roasted in a tomatillo, Arbol chile sauce—and crunchy, thanks to a topping of battered julienne onions. Zucchini and potatoes also give the dish its unique flavor. And it goes down especially good with a margarita during happy hour (3-6 p.m. daily). $15.95, 9925 S. Eastern Ave., 453-5333.

Thai Beef Salad at Lemongrass

Glancing at the menu of this pan-Asian restaurant in Aria isn’t as much fun as staring up at the bamboo shapes suspended from the ceiling, but eating from it certainly is. The chef, a young Thai native who worked at Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental, hasn’t so much Americanized his menu as personalized it. And his yum nua (Thai beef salad), composed of basil, lemongrass, meltingly tender beef and yes, grapes, is world-class. $22, Aria at City Center, 693-7112,

Western Sundae at Luv-It

Frozen custard differs from conventional ice cream thanks to egg in the base, and this downtown mainstay still beats pretenders like Nielsen’s or Sheridan’s to pieces. The Western is composed of vanilla custard topped with a thick fudge sauce and lots of salted pecans. Some people are intimidated by the fact that Luv-It is a kiosk in a dodgy part of town. One taste, and doubt is banished forever. $5.25, 384-6452,

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Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse

By Max Jacobson

I’ve known the irrepressible Emeril Lagasse since he was executive chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Despite the fame as a Food Network star, his own (short-lived) situation comedy and countless cookbooks, he remains one of the least pretentious and most revered people in the food world. He also one of the most generous: His annual Carnivale du Vin, hosted by the Venetian this year, featured most of America’s best chefs in a fundraiser for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, which has funded millions for kids culinary, art and education programs in the Gulf Coast.