Winter – a bountiful banquet of beverages and eats: KS, AZ, Las Vegas

The first month of winter began with a holiday season full of frivolity, festivity and feasting. A lot of that great feasting took place at home. Surf and turf Christmas Eve. Christmas ham and scalloped potatoes on Christmas Day. A buffet full of appies to ring in the New Year. And an alka-seltzer punch on January 1st to help bring the first day of 2015 into focus.

Filling up on the basics - beef tenderloin, giant king crab leg and extra creamy mashed potatoes - at home on Christmas Eve.

Filling up on the basics – beef tenderloin, giant king crab leg and extra creamy mashed potatoes – at home on Christmas Eve.

We are a family of foodies who enjoy venturing out to test the abilities of chefs everywhere to see what they can do with many of the same every day ingredients found in our own kitchens and found in the same restaurants over and over. Today, chefs are artists. Incorporating color and texture in plating their dishes has become as important as infusing tantalizing flavors to these same dishes.

Kansas:

Chaz on the Plaza, in The Raphael, a boutique hotel in Kansas City, Kansas, provides one of the finest dining experiences in the Kansas City metro area. The setting – intimate, warm and inviting seating areas orchestrated around the bar. Food and drinks – served by a professional wait staff. This restaurant in the heartland of America integrates a little southern flare to its fare.

Savannah Style Crab Cake - smothered with poached local egg, pea greens and dijon mustard on Chaz at the Plaza, KC.

Savannah Style Crab Cake – smothered with poached local egg, pea greens and dijon mustard on Chaz at the Plaza.

A Maple Manhattan, straight up, with a candied bacon garnish - to wash down that crab cake at Chaz.

A Maple Manhattan, straight up, with a candied bacon garnish – to wash down that crab cake at Chaz.

Arizona:

Sumo Maya, one of my new favorite restaurants in Scottsdale, serves up Asian-Mexican fusion cuisine. While you chew on that combo, let me tempt you with some visuals we experienced in this energized, hip, and modern themed eatery:

Miso Chilean Sea Bass - Sumo Maya, Scottsdale.

Miso Chilean Sea Bass – Sumo Maya, Scottsdale.

Vietnamese Style "Shaking Beef" - filet mignon, upland cress, dark soy, scallions, mirin + serrano chili-lime sauce.

Vietnamese Style “Shaking Beef” – filet mignon, upland cress, dark soy, scallions, mirin + serrano chili-lime sauce.

Another local Scottsdale favorite is AZ88, which is located in Old Scottsdale. Know for their martini’s and unique Christmas trees, the sterile feeling of this modern design restaurant is offset by their hearty-sized ‘must share’ appetizers:

St. Petersburg Potatoes - housemade potato chips topped with sour cream, smoked salmon and crisp julienned veggies.

St. Petersburg Potatoes – housemade potato chips topped with sour cream/cream cheese, smoked salmon and crisp julienned veggies.

St. Germain Martini at AZ88

St. Germain Martini at AZ88

Another must visit is in south Phoenix, at Quiessence at South Mountain, a farm to table fine-dining experience that is all about the food. Set in the middle of working farm, the menu is minimal, the ambience basic, but the flavors are big and the waiters are knowledgeable and friendly:

Potato Gnocchi - Duck Confit, Summer Squash, Corno di Toro Peppers, Garlic Chives, Mint.

Potato Gnocchi – Duck Confit, Summer Squash, Corno di Toro Peppers, Garlic Chives, Mint.

If you want a lot of bang for your food buck – check out the authentic Mexican food restaurant: Los Dos Molinos – with several locations in the valley. Known for their spicy dishes and the pork they slow-cook all day long so it literally melts in your mouth – all washed down with their Kick Ass margaritas. Make sure you have a driver after having one of these two fisters!

OR

Head to Red Rock Buffet at Fort McDowell Casino for all you can eat crab legs. The wait in the long line is well worth the $15.95 on Wednesday and Thursday from 3-9 pm; or Snow Crab Legs for $14.50 on Friday and Saturday from 3-10 pm. Accompanied by a full buffet of other food choices.

Las Vegas:

While winding your way from the Venetian to the Palazzo, you pass by several tempting restaurants. Being a whiskey/bourbon drinker – the bourbon bar at the Yardbird restaurant caught my eye. The bourbon menu isn’t expansive, but it is unique. Try a ‘Yardbird Old Fashioned’ – bacon infused Buffalo Trace Bourbon served over a 2″ spherical cube. And the appetizers have a true southern flare: try the ‘Fried Green Tomato BLT’ – pork belly, tomato jam and house-made pimento cheese.

Fried Green Tomato BLT at Yardbird in Las Vegas. (Picture by ShermansFoodAdventures.com)

For an authentic Italian fine dining experience, check out Zefferino’s. The food prices may seem high, but the dishes are plentiful, the service prompt, and the choices abundant. I had the Caprese salad and the Linguini Gamberi e Capesante and could only eat about half of each.

Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse offers up one of the better steak dinners I have experienced anywhere, and they boast an expansive wine selection to rival any top-notch restaurant.

A great wine to pair with a great cut of steak at Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas.

A great wine to pair with a great cut of steak at Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas.

For a good pizza and casual atmosphere, check out Otto’s Pizzeria in St. Mark’s Square between the Venetian and the Palazzo. You feel like you are sitting outside on the banks of the canals thanks to the sky blue painted ceiling (well kind of.)

Although we spent most of our time in the Venetian, it is well worth the effort to head over to Caesar’s Palace and walk through the Forum Shops. Just like the Venetian and pretty much the rest of Las Vegas it is all over the top – but yet a must see. Sit and have a drink at the bar at the Trevi Italian Restaurant while looking out on Vegas’ version of the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain in the Forum Shops of Caesar's Palace, outside the Trevi Italian Restaurant.

The Trevi Fountain in the Forum Shops of Caesar’s Palace, outside the Trevi Italian Restaurant.

Overall I find the restaurants in Las Vegas like the whole of Las Vegas, overpriced, over the top, but all so entertaining!

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