The dinners, drinks and guests of the holidays—plus fish… lots of fish

The holiday season means a wealth of special dinners, including last week’s white truffle dinner at Piero Selvaggio Valentino at the Venetian, always one of the year’s most memorable feasts. I’ll have to cut back on the Christmas cookies.

Chef Luciano Pellegrini dazzled me as well as local celebs such as Robin Leach by shaving several pounds of the prized tuber onto dishes the likes of egg and ricotta ravioli with Parmesan fondue, and amazing slabs of Wagyu. If you plan to buy your own white truffles, the market price might deter you. They are up to a modest $3,000 per pound this season.

I also got to speak—and eat—with globetrotting chef Alain Ducasse, in town to unveil new dishes at Mix, his Mandalay Bay restaurant. I’ll be writing about our encounter soon. His executive chef, Bruno Riou, new in town, does a mean pepper-crusted bison.

Celebrate at home, meanwhile, with a bottle of Ellis Island Egg Nog, one of the best libations anywhere. It’s pale yellow, hooch-laced and addictive, made from a secret recipe Gary Ellis is wont to divulge. The beverage is $6 a glass or $30 for a one-quart bottle at Ellis Island Casino or any Village Pub Restaurant.

January 9 should be an exciting day for our food scene when Rick Moonen of RM Seafood welcomes guest chef Stephanie Izard of Chicago’s Girl & the Goat restaurant for a five-course dinner. She’s just authored a book, Girl in the Kitchen (Chronicle Books, $30), which she is promoting on a nationwide tour. The dinner ($150, 632-9300) is at 7 p.m., with proceeds going to local charities Share Our Strength and Three Square.

Catfish Alley, meanwhile, has opened quietly at the Hawaiian Marketplace (3743 Las Vegas Blvd. South). The restaurant is co-owned by eight Motown celebrities, including Gladys Knight and Otis Williams of the Temptations, and specializes in Southern fare such as fried catfish and other soul-food specialties.

And speaking of fish, you have only three nights on which to enjoy chef Geno Bernardo’s Feast of the Seven Fishes menu at Nove Italiano at the Palms (942-6856). These are reasonably priced dishes ($9-$16) that the chef enjoyed with his family at Christmastime.

Dishes include Uncle Frankie’s lobster, pan-roasted smelts with lemon and salsa verde, and Littleneck clams al forno with pancetta, lemons and sweet peppers. The menu runs through Dec. 24, and I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas Eve.

Hungry, yet?

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“Christmas in your mouth.” That’s the only fair and accurate way to describe the effect of mixologist Jamie Boudreau’s delicately layered shot, the Bitter Bike. The shot is named for the way harvested elderflower blossoms are transported in late spring from Alpine mountaintops to the St. Germain distillery, where they are combined with eau-de-vie to make a delicately sweet liqueur. Before he handed off the role of St. Germain brand ambassador to RM Seafood’s J.R.



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