Fancy food, five diamonds and jewels of Maine

I recently attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center, where, for three days alongside frenzied foodies and desperate vendors, I ate myself into oblivion with samples of cheese, cookies, Kobe-beef hot dogs, artisan chocolates and ready-to-eat ethnic foods.

I noticed a trend toward less grandiose items such as foie gras and Iberian hams these days, and more toward gourmet popcorns and designer biscotti than a man can eat. It’s the economy, stupid, unless you’re a hedge fund manager, in which case you probably have your own line of salad dressings.

Can anyone lend me a corset?

AAA—affectionately known as Triple A by anyone who has ever had a service truck come by to put out an engine fire and provide a free tow into Baker, Calif.—recently awarded its annual Five Diamond Awards. This is the gold standard in the hotel and restaurant industry, and Las Vegas is blessed with several award designates, including Guy Savoy (Caesars Palace), Joël Robuchon (MGM Grand), Le Cirque and Picasso (Bellagio) and Alex (Wynn), for which this honor is an ironic and sad farewell. Kudos to Mandarin Oriental, awarded five diamonds in the hotel category in its first year of operation. Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist, the hotel’s top table, is also a five-diamond restaurant from where I sit.

A second Monstah Lobstah, a New England-themed restaurant owned by a fellow from Maine, has opened at 9310 S. Eastern Ave. (at East Serene Avenue). I stopped in for breakfast, where I opted for a lobstah omelet and a bowl of seafood chowdah. There are live lobstahs in the tank, in varying size sold at market prices.

But 9 in the morning is just too early for this New England boy to pick meat out of a shell. Besides, the only way I eat the monstahs are in a casserole, topped with breadcrumbs and butter. The dish is called Lazy Man’s lobster where I come from.

Finally, imagine my surprise when I walked into P.J. Clarke’s in the Forum Shops at Caesars and saw the legendary chef Larry Forgione helping out in the kitchen. This is a New York City bar dating from 1884, with good pub grub such as shepherd’s pie, classic hamburgers and an “off-the-hook” bread pudding, to parrot the words of the actual head chef, Natalie Young.

Forgione, who pioneered New American Cuisine at An American Place in New York City during the wild ’80s, is consulting until the spring. I’d love to eat at his son’s two-Michelin-star restaurant, Marc Forgione in the Big Apple, the next time I head east.

Hungry, yet?

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