Beard winners, Sedona revised and high-tech ice cream

Kudos to Vegas’ 2011 James Beard Award semifinalists Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam and Mitsuo Endo of Raku (both for Best Chef Southwest), Picasso for Outstanding Restaurant, and its sommelier Robert Smith for Outstanding Wine Service, and finally China Poblano for Best New Restaurant.

There were a few glaring omissions, though.

The Beard Awards are New York-centric, and for the moment, they are the Academy Awards of the restaurant industry. But to bypass Vegas for Best Pastry Chef (we have the biggest talent pool of pastry chefs in the country) shows that the selection process has a long way to go. So on my ballot I’m writing in Vita Shanley of Scarpetta and Kimberly Valdez of the Wynn’s Lakeside Grill, two of my favorite local dessert queens.

On the west side of town, the Corrigan Brothers have scored again. They already have the mega-successful Vintner Grill, Agave and the Roadrunner Bistro chain. Now they’ve hired former MGM food and beverage executive Tony Angotti to re-concept their architecturally stunning restaurant Sedona (9580 W. Flamingo Road, 320-4700) in collaboration with young, creative chef Jason Hrach.

The Sedona menu has morphed from American comfort foods to a more eclectic menu reflecting Vegas’ changing taste, and the Corrigans have created a plush, plant-filled outdoor patio, a smaller version of what they do at Vintner Grill. There is a huge bar area in the soaring dining room’s center, and various small, private dining rooms available on request.

Try the delicious 12-OUR barbecued chicken wings and a fat Reuben on the lunch menu, terrific Creole crab cakes with a spicy rémoulade available anytime, and Day Boat scallops paired with short rib rillettes from the trimmed-down dinner menu. The banana Nutella panini, which is found in the Sandwich section, is actually the best dessert.

Finally, new technology is leading to innovations in, of all things, the ice cream industry. Many local restaurants such as Fleur at Mandalay Bay are already using liquid nitrogen to make cocktails and ice cream at the table, and there are places like Atomic #7 near Galleria at Sunset Mall to compete with them. The Ice Pan at Harrah’s offers yet another process.

First choose a base of nonfat, low fat or whole milk, or organic soy milk. An all-natural emulsifier made from seaweed is added along with the flavor of your choice from an all-natural extract.

The mixture is swirled it around on a super-cold circular pan until it crystallizes—a matter of seconds. The $6 ice creams are low in sugar and have no artificial additives. But add optional toppings such as coconut, almonds or chocolate chips, and don’t bother counting calories.

Hungry, yet?

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By Grace Bascos

Some say it’s a sin to fill up on bread before a meal, but this starter at STK is worth paying that penance later. The soft, doughy bread arrives warm to the table, ready to be pulled apart. Soft blue-cheese butter is slathered all over the top, making for a rich and funky spread that is punched up when you dip a piece into the accompanying chive oil. The combination of the flavors infused through both oil and butter is explosive and decadent. Complimentary, in the Cosmopolitan, 698-7990.