Vegas Days 1 & 2: Spago, “O”, François Payard & Dorie Greenspan

Here we are in Vegas, in our hotel room at Caesar’s Palace, and I have 30 minutes to tell you everything we’ve done so far before today’s epic schedule, the highlight, of course, being my battle with Dr. Melfi….

Let’s start with the flight on Wednesday. We flew JetBlue and I’m normally a very good flyer, never getting sick. But for whatever reason, this particular flight turned me a dark shade of green. I was sitting in a middle seat in the very back and the combination of warm air (the plane wasn’t particularly cool), the guy on my left dominating the armrest, The Real Housewives of New York City on Bravo and then the sporadic but jarring turbulence (the plane dipped many times and then shook and then dipped again) by the end I was as close to puking as I’ve ever been on a plane. Craig looked worried but I kept it together, taking deep breaths and finally feeling better once we deplaned.

Walking off the plane at the Vegas airport is an immediate immersion into the Vegas experience: there are slot machines, giant posters for shows and concerts and weird ads for restaurants you’d never want to visit. The people waiting for their luggage were slightly older, a bit larger, and what’s probably a decent representation of a big cross-section of American society. Sort of the same feeling you get waiting in line at Disney World.

After getting our luggage, we almost got into a shuttle that’d take us to our hotel but I convinced Craig to get a cab instead since I thought the shuttle would stop at 1,000 hotels and I would go crazy. So we went to the side of the airport with the cabs, and the line was 8,000 people long. Craig gave me a dirty look but the line moved fast.

Ok, skip the boring parts, Adam. We got to the hotel. We checked in. And then, starving, we dove into the Caesar’s Palace food court looking for a place to eat.

The first place we saw was Spago. Now most people wouldn’t think to eat a fast, post-flight meal at a restaurant of this calibre, but this was the Vegas version of Spago and it ended up being the perfect thing. Craig and I shared this Caesar:


(Picture taken with my iphone.) It was tasty, though not as good as the one I make at home (a derivation of the Pearl Oyster Bar Caesar, recipe in Amanda Hesser’s book.)

The best, though, was the sandwich Craig ordered: a roast beef panini with roast beef so tender it practically dissolved once it hit your mouth. I had a pulled pork sandwich that was very good.


But Craig clearly chose the winner:


Ok, here’s where we walked around and saw all the hotels–The Bellagio, New York, New York, etc. Then we were tired and we took a nap.

Talk ensued, though, about how Craig really wanted to see “O,” The Cirque Du Soleil show with a giant stage that fills with water. I saw the show when it first opened when I came to Vegas with my family in college and I absolutely loved it. So after our nap we went over to the Bellagio and after learning the show was sold out, we got in a standby line for the 10:30 show. It was 7:30. We stood for 3 hours, taking turns, chatting with our line neighbors and sure enough at 10:27 exactly we got two tickets in the orchestra. And Craig was blown away. When the show ended, he turned to me and said: “Awesome.” So if you come to Vegas, definitely see “O.” Tonight we’re seeing the Beatles show, so more on that later.

Now then yesterday being our second day in Vegas, we started downstairs at our hotel were François Payard has a bakery. Payard is the celebrated New York pastry chef and here at the bakery Craig had an excellent croissant and I had a terrific (though way too expensive) yogurt parfait:




It was all excellent and full and ready to start our day, we walked in the opposite direction from the Bellagio, towards The Mirage and Treasure Island. Our destination? The Apple Store. I needed those geniuses to fix the airport in my computer because the wireless was going in and out.

We went there and they claimed to fix it (though the internet keeps dropping out) and then we walked over to the Wynn (probably the prettiest hotel in Vegas) and then The Venetian (which has a fun canal running through it) and we tried to go to Bouchon for lunch but quickly learned it was only open for dinner. There, though, on the roof of the parking garage where Bouchon is located is a lovely pool area where Craig and I sat and had a liquid lunch: he a gin and tonic and me a Pina Colada.


We knew we’d be having a big dinner at Guy Savoy, the first official meal of Vegas Uncorked, the reason we’re here. Also my director Matthew and producer Rachael were en route and so I figured it’d be better to be really hungry for dinner.

Alas, when the time came for Guy Savoy we were delivered bad news: something got screwed up with the reservation and we were BUMPED. I was really upset because Guy Savoy is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Vegas, Colman Andrews, in Gourmet Magazine, said it was better than the one in Paris. Where were they sending us instead?

Back to Payard where we’d had breakfast! At first I was irritated: isn’t Payard just a dessert place? Would we just be eating dessert for dinner? But after being told this’d be a full dinner with wines and everything, I was calmed. And there was a great surprise in store, once we arrived there, a surprise that’ll delight all you food blog lovers and cookbook readers and Julia Child fans. Who did I see when I walked through the door? The one and only Dorie Greenspan!


It was a real treat to finally meet Dorie, who was there to introduce Payard before the dinner. She’s just as sprightly and delightful as you’d expect her to be, and all four of us (Matthew, Rachael, Craig and myself) loved hearing her talk about her experiences as a cook (she’s self-taught!), cooking dinner for Jacques Pepin (she told him not to watch her hold a knife), and transporting short ribs from Payard’s kitchen to her house, all the juices sloshing over the trunk of her car.

So Dorie Greenspan made the whole evening worthwhile. Well, her and the food was pretty stellar. Here’s Rachael, Matthew and Craig toasting their Chartogne-Taillet “Cuve St. Anne” Merfy Montagne De Reims Champaigne (say that ten times fast):


Here’s Dorie introducing Payard:


And here’s what we ate. The Amuse Bouche was Tomato Gelee with Monk Fish & Tomato Salsa:


I really liked this and so did Craig, but Matthew couldn’t stand it. He took one bite and said: “No, not for me.” It was certainly an old-fashioned dish, something right out of my Jacques Pepin technique book, but that’s why I liked it.

The appetizer was Asparagus Salad, Artichoke and Tamarind Dressing:


Craig and Matthew LOVEd this. I just really liked it. I don’t know what Rachael thought; oh yeah, she doesn’t like dill.

Our entree was Braised Short Ribs, Mashed Potatoes and Baby Carrots:



But the best part of the whole meal was naturally the dessert, this boing a Payard joint. First up was a duo: seared pineapple with thyme and coconut sorbet and slow baking apple, cardamine streusel, Granny Smith Sorbet:


Amazingly good and just so beautiful to look at. Look at that pictures, isn’t that a work of art?

The grand prize winner though for best bite of the night was the Milk Chocolate Payard Candy Bar with Gianduja & Caramel Glaze (served with the Palet d’or, hazelnut succes, marquise chocolat and crispi wafer):


See that thing at the bottom of the plate? That is the greatest candy bar you will ever eat in your life. If you ever have a chance to eat it–if you come to Vegas or go to the one in New York–please do. The secret to it, I think, is a healthy dose of salt which revs everything up 18 notches. Everyone gushed over this one.

Ok, I’m late for my next big event so I hope you enjoyed this post! More to come soon…


Adam in Vegas

11 thoughts on “Vegas Days 1 & 2: Spago, “O”, François Payard & Dorie Greenspan”

  1. I am happy for you, but jealous as I absolutely love Vegas! Stayed at the Venetian, ate at the Winn and Bellagio and saw “O” when I was there. Didn’t see Dorie, lucky you! Hope the rest of your trip is grand, good luck tonight.

  2. You are so lucky to escape the nastiness that Ny is right now! I love how Dorie is nest in your hair!

    And Ps the best candy bar you can get is the hazelnut dacquoise at The Modern here in NY!

  3. Ok, this is probably totally gauche, but I heard that if you have to visit a buffet– the best one is the Gourmet Buffet at the Bellagio. So, if you are ever starving and need lbs of food stat (doubtful, considering your trip), tell me how it is…

  4. I have a friend who just started dancing in the Beatles show! The Cirque broke their own rules to take her in (she’s only 17) and she’s simply amazing. Hope you have fun and I’m looking forward to reading more of your yummy Vegas adventures!

  5. It was SUCH fun to meet you — even if I felt as though I’d known you already. Funny that we had to travel almost 3,000 miles to finally catch up with one another.

  6. It was SUCH fun to meet you! I can’t believe we had to travel almost 3,000 miles to catch up with one another, but it was worth it.

  7. I spent some time in Vegas last weekend… it wasn’t as culinaringly (word?) exciting as yours for sure! We had disappointing meals. The trip was focused on drinking and clubbing. Next time, it’s all about the food for sure!! How exciting to have met Dorie :)

    On a good note, we won $270 on video poker!

  8. this post trips me out. I work in the forum shops and walk by many of the places you have been.

    If your not busy stop by over at ted baker, its in the “new” section of the forum shops with the spiral escalator, we serve free booze, so could i interest you in a Newcastle or a gin martini?

    show up tomorrow in the afternoon and i will pour you and craig one.

  9. Next time you get bumped [which we hope does not happen], and you are stuck for something of the beaten track, check out the Lotus of Siam at 953 East Sahara. It is in a strip center and you enter from teh back in the parking lot.

    It is especially good Thai.

  10. Second best typo of your entire blog: “But the best part of the whole meal was naturally the dessert, this boing a Payard joint.”

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