Crazy Candy-Laced Shakes, Unpretentious Ramen and Ultraviolet Food

The dining scene is getting prettier by the spoonful

Would you wait in a two-hour line for a shake? Maybe—if it’s rimmed with blue and pink chocolate pearls and fancifully decorated with a lollipop, rock candy, whipped cream and cotton candy. In New York, Black Tap lovers are willing to line up for hours for one of its Crazy Shakes. Fortunately, at Black Tap Las Vegas inside The Venetian, which is in the space formerly occupied by B&B Burger and Beer, the line isn’t winding through the casino—yet.

Black Tap’s famous Crazy Shakes menu includes the original Cotton Candy strawberry shake with the aforementioned blue and pink chocolate pearls, pink lollipops and cotton candy; the Bam Bam Fruity Pebbles shake comes with a Fruity Pebbles cereal rim, Rice Krispies treat, a strawberry pop tart and a Laffy Taffy rope. A personal favorite is Sour Power, a black-cherry shake rimmed with sour gummy poppers and topped with a Pixy Stix, cherry gummy, sour ribbon and Nerds. But before you try the shakes, go for one of Black Tap’s craft burgers such as the famous Greg Norman Burger, named after the owner of the Australian ranch that produces the wagyu beef. It’s served with house-made buttermilk dill, blue cheese and arugula.

Ramen Hashi

While winter is upon us, warm up to a bowl of steaming hot ramen. One of the newest spots on Spring Mountain Road is Ramen Hashi (5808 Spring Mountain Rd.). Hashi means “chopsticks,” but it can also translate to “bridge.” Owner Young Kim wants you to experience ramen the way it’s trending today in Japan. For many years, MSG was almost always used when flavoring ramen. The move to eliminate it from ramen recipes has been trending over the past few years. Clearly, the shift is evident. Even Nissin’s Instant Cup Noodles replaced MSG last year with hydrolyzed protein and cabbage juice was added to boost flavor.  While Kim has nothing against MSG (and neither do I), he’s simply offering a healthier version of ramen and says he wants to serve what he wants to eat. Expect everything from noodles to bamboo shoots and broth to be made from scratch. The broth is made with chicken and slow-simmered for nine hours to extract the deep, rich flavor. Watch the noodles being made the proper way with the addition of kansui, which Kim loosely refers to as “seawater,” but really is an alkaline water/potassium carbonate/sodium bicarbonate solution.” The addition of kansui makes it a traditional ramen noodle, giving it its distinct slippery texture and yellow hue. The menu is simple: a choice of three broths—shio, shoyu or tori paitn (a chicken tonkatsu)—which all come with basic toppings. Just grab your hashi and slurp.

Photo by @chefdanielagerson

One of things to look forward to in the New Year  is the Pantone color of the year, which was announced in December. What this has to do with food and drink is everything, as we feast with our eyes first. The color for 2018 is  18—3838 Ultra Violet, a beautiful, saturated, provocative purple that’s symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality and artistic brilliance. David Bowie, Prince and Jimi Hendrix brought shades of Ultra Violet to the forefront of Western pop culture as personal expressions of individuality. Nuanced and full of emotion, Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation, spurring individuals to push boundaries through creative outlets. And because of this, Instagrammer chef Daniela Gerson (@chefdanielagerson), who has embraced this color in her food so vividly on the social media platform, caught my attention. Gerson is a private chef based in San Francisco who mixes food photography into her culinary work. I’m looking forward to seeing purple cauliflower, Okinawan potatoes, purple asparagus, purple carrots, ube, figs and other purple-hued delicacies to play leading roles on the plate this year.