Carnevino – Closing of a Steakhouse

This week here in Vegas all three of Mario Batali’s restaurants closed.  All three were on Sheldon Adelson properties and even though Batali removed himself from the business, all three closed their doors on Sunday evening.

While all three restaurant closings are sad, the saddest closing for me was Carnevino Italian Steakhouse. Fellow upstate New York homie, and my pal, Chef Nicole Brisson will retain her position within the Bastianich organization, opening Eataly Las Vegas in December. But Carnevino’s closing is especially sad for me because Chef Brisson helped change the way I feel about eating at a steakhouse at Carnevino.

 A Steakhouse was a Boring Dining Option

Growing up in upstate New York, my step father was a butcher. My father-in-law was a butcher and my husband, prior to the military, was a butcher. We ate, and still do eat meat, but going to a steakhouse was not my idea of a good meal out on the town because I cooked it at home. Going to a steakhouse was the second most boring option when dining out, topped only by eating a main dish salad. Mom always encouraged us to “eat something you don’t get at home” from the time we were very young, so my choice was almost always a fish dish, never a steak. Sister Nancy and Friend Sue ALWAYS want the steak and going to a steakhouse is perfect for them. Sister Nancy took me to the NYY Steakhouse in Florida (Yes, that’s New York Yankees for those unfamiliar) and I ordered the veal chop…not steak. In my head, eating at a steakhouse meant overpriced, average meat that I could buy anywhere, cooked to my liking (sometimes) and served with a baked potato and some broccoli. Big fucking deal! I can do that shit at home! Chef Nicole changed that for me and completely flipped the script on what a steakhouse SHOULD be.

I Promptly Shut the Fuck Up and Quit My Mental Bitching

The first time John and I ate there, we left the choices up to Nicole and she sent out her faves (always a pleasure to let the chef choose – but beware, it can get costly). She sent out the tomahawk ribeye, John’s favorite cut of beef, carved table side. My head screamed, “DAMMIT! Where is the fish?” but my face smiled and I said, “WOW!”. And then I ate it…and I promptly shut the fuck up and quit my mental bitching! If you ever have the chance to eat at a premium steakhouse with aged beef, and you have the scratch to do it, just reward yourself and do it. Aged beef is a thing of beauty, and marbling, and tenderness, and funk and…oh man! It tastes like what you always wanted beef to taste like, but didn’t know that you wanted, and probably didn’t even know that taste existed. And don’t even get me started on the mashed potatoes! Whipped with mascarpone and topped with guanciale and a poached egg that gets stirred into the potatoes as if they weren’t rich enough already.

We had our final meal at Carnevino on Saturday the 21st of July with friends Al Mancini, his lovely wife Sue, friend Eric Gladstone, and friend Jason Harris. With four of us at the table all being writers of varying distinction, many photos were taken. FTR – I am the low man on that totem pole of writers. Al had called ahead and reserved a piece of the riserva aged beef. Minimum 6 months in the ice box gave it a texture and flavor unlike anything I had ever enjoyed before. All of the meats were carved tableside and that is a show in and of itself.

THE best mashed potatoes ever. Whipped potatoes with mascarpone cheese, topped with guanciale and a poached egg.


The Pastas – from top L – Pappardelle with short rib ragu, Stinging Nettle Gnocchi, Ricotta Ravioli with aged Balsamic drizzle, Bucatini all’ Amatriciana


Carved Riserva bone in NY Strip Steak. Aged a minimum of 6 months


Carved double cut lamb chops.


The fave of The Hubs – carved bone in Ribeye.

As a parting gift to regulars, friends, and fellows in the industry, Carnevino sold off the aging beef in the meat locker at a ridiculously low price per pound and I happily picked up 25 lbs of 120 day aged beef yesterday. No, I am not sharing it with you. No, I am not having a cookout. This will be savored, relished, cooked only for my family. Never again will I be able to fill my freezer with beef of this quality. Steakhouse quality. The stuff we mere mortals can’t buy.

A sample of what is in my freezer – 120 day aged porterhouse – turning my kitchen into my own private steakhouse.

Even though Carnevino is closed for now (they are hoping to find a new location here in Vegas), I can still, for a short while, enjoy the beef that changed my opinion of eating at a steakhouse. I will, however, have to cook it and carve it myself.

The Best Things I’ve Eaten in 2016

I KNOW it has been some time since I posted, but in my defense, it IS LeAnneuary and I have been trying to learn to use my new photo editing software with marginal success. I was holding off on posting this to edit all the pics and make them look perfect but that may not happen this year, let alone this month. So without further procrastination. Here’s the list of my fave bites of this year.

My dining this year consisted of a lot of tried and true places and dishes with several new places disappointing me. Here is the short list of the Best things I’ve eaten this past year. There were a few standouts as per usual, but on the whole, it was not a year of eating dangerously.

All pictures here are mine and mine alone, except where noted. Some taken with my phone and others with a “big camera”. Many are not watermarked (see above learning curve issues). Each of the things on the list this year are items I would go back to that particular place and order on its own  In no particular order…

Sugarcane – the Tobacco Rum Old Fashioned – Ab Fab – the tobacco bitters are unusual and don’t taste the way you think they might. GO and have it. Trust me. Photo by Friend Lebette.

Tobacco Rum Old Fashioned at Sugarcane in the Venetian/Palazzo Restaurant Row.

Egg Ravioli at Herringbone in the Aria – Chef Geno Bernardo knows what he is doing when it comes to pasta. This is ravioli for breakfast! Inside this lovely pocket of pasta is a perfectly cooked poached egg.

It’s ravioli for breakfast? Hell YEAH!

John and I consider Valentine’s day to be “Amateur Night”, so we almost always stay in and I get out of my comfort zone in the kitchen and make something I don’t usually tackle. This year it was a 3″ thick Ribeye cooked en sous vide and  it came out beautifully! The model linked below is the one I have; watch for sales!

Made at home with the Anova Immersion Circulator

Steak tartare at Bazaar Meat at the SLS – I love a good tartare and this one is exceptional. It comes to the table presented as seen on top. They prepare it tableside and it is glorious! It’s a splurge worthy place, so plan accordingly.

This is the prep for the tartare.

The finished product.

Paccheri Carbonara at Cafe Martorano in Fort Lauderdale – Sister Nancy turned 50 and the party was in Ft. Lauderdale, so I went (of course!). Literally around the corner was Cafe Martorano – the original that launched the Vegas location. I am not a fan of this shape of pasta and of course I am that asshole that asks for something NOT on the menu from time to time. I asked if this could be prepared with a different pasta and I was told no, but I ordered it anyway. Sorry Steve for doubting you! This was PERFECT! Sorry too about the sucky picture!

Seemingly simple, but utterly subtle and delicious. Paccheri Carbonara.

Mashed Potatoes at Carnevino at the Palazzo – Yes, it’s a side dish, but Nicole Brisson takes these humble spuds and makes them amazing super heroes of the table. I don’t even want to know how much butter and other wonderful goodness goes in, I just want to eat them. I seriously considered NOT sharing them with the rest of the table.

Mascarpone and a poached egg make these mashed potatoes a winner.

Truffle Frites at Lionstone Brewing in Geneseo, IL – Stout braised brisket, saison beer cheese, chipotle cream and Lionstone relish top your basic truffle fries. Think of them as the happy bastard child of poutine and nachos. You’re welcome!

Truffle Frites at Lionstone Brewing

Fried Conch at Oh Andros – Nassau, Bahamas  – If and when you get to Nassau, get off the beaten path and find this place. It will be packed. It’s cash only and you may very well be the only tourists. Service isn’t fast because it is all cooked to order, but it is VERY friendly. I love conch, I know it is not sustainable and I only eat it occasionally and fried is my favorite way to enjoy it. This was so big, it was hanging off the plate, and did you notice that OTHER whole fish there? Yeah…WAY too much food. Bring a friend and share!

The biggest Fried Conch I have ever eaten. NO, I couldn’t finish even half of it!

And lastly…

Sheep Ricotta Tortellini at Aureole – Chef Johnny Church has recently taken the helm at the newly renovated Aureole and the menu is amazing. I THOUGHT I was done with foams and all things molecular gastronomy, but this dish proved me wrong. Perfectly cooked tortellini with duck confit, fava beans and a parmigiana foam. ridiculously good.

Filled with sheep ricotta and topped with duck confit? Sign me up!

Up next more info on Aureole and a fab meal I enjoyed there recently AND my wonderful birthday dinner at Bouchon!





(red) Dinner by Mario Batali

This past week John and I were honored to participate in the first ever (red) Dinner by Mario Batali here in Vegas to raise funds for (red), an HIV and AIDS charity. All of the Batali-Bastianich restaurants participated and each had a different menu. We elected to go to Carnevino and I am so glad we did! Interesting conversation and terrific steak and wine were enjoyed by all at the communal table. The only downside? It wasn’t as well attended as I think it should have been. Maybe because it wasn’t well publicized? Maybe because it occurred during Restaurant Week (more on that later)?

Of course Chef Nicole Brisson, the new culinary director for all the Batali-Bastianich properties here in Vegas, served incredible meat from their beef program to give us all a wonderful meal, as seen below. Each course was paired with wine, and while I am no expert, I truly enjoyed most of them. and what could be more (red) than gorgeous beef?

Right now beef carpaccio and tartare are two of my favorite things and this was a stellar representation. 

90 day aged ribeye carpaccio. Yeah, it was THAT good!

90 day aged ribeye carpaccio. Yeah, it was THAT good!


Bone-in NY Strip. perfectly cooked and perfectly rested as you can see.

Bone-in NY Strip. Perfectly cooked and perfectly rested as you can see.

You would think, “Mashed potatoes? Big Deal!” and you’d be dead wrong. These are the stuff dreams are made of. It arrives at the table as shown and then you break the yolk and mix the egg in. The first time I had this, I was skeptical, but this time I cleaned my plate without hesitation. All kidding aside, I could have eaten this and the carpaccio and been totally thrilled with my meal.

Mashed potatoes with a poached egg and guanciale? Yes Please!

Mashed potatoes with a poached egg and guanciale? Yes Please!


Light as air crepe filled with sweetened ricotta and lemon and topped with luscious berries and whipped mascarpone.

Light as air crepe filled with sweetened ricotta and lemon and topped with luscious berries and whipped mascarpone.

This is an event we will definitely attend again and you should too!

(red) works to make an AIDS free generation a reality by providing healthcare to AIDS and HIV positive patients, as well as research and education on HIV and AIDS worldwide.

To learn more about (red) click on the underlined link provided.

The Top 10 Things I Ate & Drank in 2015

Sadly this was not a year of eating dangerously for me. I didn’t sample too many things that were revolutionary, and other than a few things that jumped right out at me, this was a tough year to come up with my list. I usually have to winnow out several to keep the list at 10. In order to make the list I have to say “WOW!  That was fantastic!” when I retell the story or recall the event.

This gorgeous aged ribeye, carved tableside at CarnevinoChef Nicole Brisson spoiled us rotten when we went in for dinner. You can see pics of the rest of the meal here (be sure to scroll through them; this is the link to the first one).

Rare rib eye at Carnevino

Rare rib eye at Carnevino

This is the beauty during service. Carved tableside.

This is the beauty during service. Carved tableside.


THIS fantastic pasta and foie gras dish Chef Christian Dolias (part of the newly formed MiChefs Network – watch them grow!) made with me at my home. TECHNICALLY this was last December, but since it was after my “Best Of” list last year I am including it here. We used rendered fat from jamon de Serrano to cook the foie.  It was sinfully rich and absolutely decadent!

Linguini and foie gras by Chef Christian Dolias

Linguini and foie gras by Chef Christian Dolias

At Velveteen Rabbit you can order a Bronze Bell and it is wonderful. I liked it so much that I created a punchbowl version of it for Thanksgiving this year. Click the link for the punchbowl recipe. This photo is NOT from Velveteen Rabbit.

Bronze Bell a la Aunt LeAnne

Bronze Bell a la Aunt LeAnne

The signature Lemon Spaghetti at Giada was one of my faves this past year. It may be time to go back there…just for this!  It isn’t available for lunch, so make a reservation for dinner.

Giada's signature dish - Lemon Spaghetti

Giada’s signature dish – Lemon Spaghetti

At Vegas Uncork’d this year there were some unexpected bites, but this one was my fave. A foie filled white chocolate truffle from Chef Gerald Chin at Strip Steak. Don’t be mad if you didn’t get one, they were for “select guests” only. It was the best thing I ate the whole night! (PS – a little bird told me my favorite client may be returning to Uncork’d after a two year absence…shhh.)

White chocolate coated foie gras truffle

White chocolate coated foie gras truffle

The crispy fried Pig Ears at Therapy may be a thing of the past until Chef Daniel Ontiveros lands someplace new. They are at once crispy and chewy and oh so delicious. Still, the entire menu there is fantastic; don’t overlook the mushroom tart with the poached egg. You’ll thank me later.

At Therapy - sadly no longer available. Waiting for Dan Ontiveros to land someplace new to have them again

At Therapy – sadly no longer available. Waiting for Dan Ontiveros to land someplace new to have them again

At a Pop Up at The Blau Group’s Made LV, Chef Ben Vaughn created an oyster bread pudding that was out of this world! I am still waiting for him to find a location here in Vegas so I can have this again. I generally do not care for bread pudding (it’s a texture thing), but this was perfect!

A savory, fabulous mouthful as a passed hors d'oeuvre

A savory, fabulous mouthful as a passed hors d’oeuvre

I love saltimbocca, but I had never had one this good before!  Be sure to go to Salute and have this. Also, get the Fettuccini a la Vodka for a dinner and a show. It’s worth it, I promise. Check out the rest of the pics from that meal here.

My fave dish of the night - Veal Saltimbocca

My fave dish of the night – Veal Saltimbocca

My love for potato chips is well documented, but these ones were over the top! House made chips topped with bleu cheese, bacon and green onions were so good that I ate them twice in one week while in Florida at the NBC Sports Grill & Brew at Universal Studios Orlando.

House made chips smothered in bleu cheese and bacon with green onions. These were THE flavor bomb of bar food for the year.

House made chips smothered in bleu cheese and bacon with green onions. These were THE flavor bomb of bar food for the year.

And finally -in Disneyland you can find a great little dining room called Carthay Circle in California Adventure. Make reservations well in advance so you can have these fried duck wings. Sriracha and lime coat these bad boys. You can always have a cocktail in the bar downstairs, but if you want these wings, you gotta have a reservation. They are not on the bar snacks menu. FYI – dear Friend Byron, who designed my logo and now works for Disney, is the one who recommended them to me.

Carthay Circle Fried Duck Wings

Carthay Circle Fried Duck Wings

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