Croque madame at Kitchen Table. Photo: Anthony Mair.

Tasting Italy Region by Region, a New Backyard Steakhouse, a Brunch Spot Sees Double

Whenever you can have a meal that virtually takes you to a place far away (like 5,800 miles away), go for it. Lupo by Wolfgang Puck presents a new dinner series highlighting a regional menu every month on Friday nights. For February, your taste buds will take you to Lombardy, a landlocked region in Northern Italy, where Milan is the capital. Winters are long but the fertile soil and sunny days provide a place for hardy vegetables, such as potatoes cabbage and radicchio. Choose from four main courses that includes mesquite grilled Iberico “pressa” with creamy polenta, grilled radicchio and chickpeas; Pizzocheri (buckwheat) pasta, braised duck, cabbage and pancetta; celery root and mushroom Casonelli pasta, with braised lamb, roasted tomato and pecorino cheese; Costoletta alla Milanese, crispy veal chop with arugula and lemon. And for dessert, Crema di Cioccolato, nougatine, blood orange coulis and Lambrusco sorbet. Ask for Jenn Boyer, general manager and beverage director, to recommend wines from the region. She’ll likely pour you Franciacorta, Italy’s most prestigious traditional-method sparkling wine that is made in Lombardy. In March, look forward to taking your palate to Veneto, as they make their way down the Adriatic Coast.  Here is the where the famous Prosecco bubbles and the luxurious Amarone della Valpolicella come from.

If you’re looking for backyard dining with waterfalls and mature trees, then consider checking out Hawthorn Grill inside JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa. The opening of Hawthorn Grill marks the first new restaurant in five years, signifying new beginnings at this resort and, can I just say, I embraced this space because it’s not the Strip for a change. There’s optional free parking, too. Nature is just steps away from the glass-encased dining room. A lounge area near the entrance is a cozy gathering place.  Chef Joseph Swan, formerly of the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, oversees Hawthorn Grill as executive chef. The team at Blau + Associates served as consultants on the project. Find casual eats such as spinach and artichoke dip with Boursin cheese (the fast-casual version of the simple French cheese with herbs, served with pita chips) and the bone-in kurobuta pork chop, which has been cured for 24 hours after infusing in fragrant seasonings, such as fennel seeds and ancho chiles, then cold-smoked to perfection. For a hearty cool-weather dish, which also happens to be entirely gluten-free, the braised short rib, served over an angelic and pure parsnip purée, topped with crispy shallots and Brussels sprouts hits the spot. And while you’re in your comfort zone, try the s’mores churro, which comes to the table stacked like wood, with a milk chocolate and caramel ganache and housemade vanilla bean marshmallow torched to gooey dippin’ fun.

One of my favorite breakfast spots, Kitchen Table, is opening up a second location, Kitchen Table Squared at the Gramercy, this coming spring. Originally from El Paso, Texas, chef Javier Chavez is known for his specialty breakfast items that tantalize the taste buds with the undeniable flair of European and Latin flavors. Kitchen Table Squared will have all the signature breakfast and brunch items of Kitchen Table in Henderson, with the addition of delectable menu items at dinner. Picture elements of culinary engagement that include a raw bar to add dimension. Highly regarded breakfast and brunch offerings, such as chilaquiles, monkey bread, empanadas and pork huevos rancheros from the original Kitchen Table will remain but added will be baristas serving Kitchen Table–branded coffee roasted and grinded on site daily. Roasted rack of lamb will be one of the new signature dinner entrées.

Marisa savors with all five senses.  Read more at or visit her blog