A great French bakery, man-friendly cupcakes and a hot gourmet room

Life is sweet this week in Vegas. The sensational new Patisserie Manon, at 8751 W. Charleston Blvd. (586-2666), gets my vote as the best French bakery in town. It belongs to a French couple, Jean-Paul and Rachel Ladeyn. He does the breads. She does the cakes.

The Black Forest cake, a huge, high rectangle of chocolate, cherries and whipped cream in layers, is amazing, and so are the macaroons—with the mint chocolate one especially getting my attention. Man does not live by bread or cake alone, though. There are also quiches, croissants and hot dishes such as beef Burgundy and cassoulet, sold by weight.

I was also surprised how much I enjoyed Gigi’s Cupcakes (1150 E. Flamingo Road, Suite 105, 735-9783), a bakery near the UNLV campus. I have never gotten the fuss about cupcakes. In general, they’re just too girly for me. But these cupcakes are da proverbial bomb. I tasted several, including German Chocolate, Wedding Cake, Peanut Butter Cup, Red Velvet and my favorite, Grasshopper, a chocolate cake base slathered with mint frosting. They are all $3.50.

Meanwhile, Elspeth Reeve, in a recent article for TheAtlanticWire.com, writes: “Chocolate industry experts say that in just 20 years, chocolate will be as expensive as caviar. African farmers, who produce a huge chunk of the world’s chocolate supply, are abandoning their farms because the work is so backbreaking and the pay so miserable.” That hasn’t curbed demand for chocolate, though, which is rising sharply as emerging nations such as China and India develop Western-style sweet tooths. “The biggest hope,” writes reporter Anthea Gerrie, for The Independent, “is a Nestlé project to replant 10 million trees over the next decade.” By 2030, chocolate may exist only for the very rich.

Finally, if you’ve had your fill of leftover turkey, head over to the Charcoal Room (515-4385) at Santa Fe Station where executive chef Raymond Mansour is cooking with gas. Start in this elegant room with seared lump crab cakes, bacon-wrapped barbecued shrimp or an excellent chopped salad enriched by ripe avocado and lots of bacon.

Steaks are cooked in an 800-degree mesquite charcoal broiler, and you can have them with add-ons such as a gorgonzola crust, Oscar-style (crab, Béarnaise and asparagus) or shrimp scampi-style (cooked in butter and garlic). There are a slew of good side dishes to cut your teeth on. Two not to miss: French green beans and creamed corn au gratin. The large, eclectic wine list is well put together and reasonably priced.

Hungry, yet?

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Luciano Pellegrini


Luciano Pellegrini

By Hayley Sparre

Luciano Pellegrini, executive chef of Valentino at the Venetian, came to the United States in 1985 from his native Italy to work for accomplished restaurateur Piero Selvaggio. A winner of a James Beard Award, he has been at Selvaggio’s Valentino in Las Vegas since 1999.