Growing herbs in the desert can be challenging–and easy, according to one expert who is well-versed in arid-region gardening. “The deserts of Las Vegas and Phoenix have extreme temperatures,” says Brandi Eide, “not to mention low annual rainfall, which for Las Vegas, is about four inches a year and, in Phoenix, about seven.”
You can’t, says Eide, just sprinkle a few seeds in the ground in a desert climate and expect things to flourish like they would in the rich soils of the Midwest or California’s Central Valley. But with a bit of effort, you should be able to grow plenty of mint for those mojitos and enough basil to make a freezer’s worth of pesto.
Eide should know. She’s the botanical garden supervisor at the 180-acre Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, where, among many things, she cultivates the vegetable and herb gardens. Eide has also held similar positions at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, the Phoenix Zoo and at UC Berkeley’s botanical gardens.
She has a few tips for desert dwellers who want to grow herbs in either garden beds or in pots.
Eide starts with soil, believing that good soil creates happy plants. “Desert soil is mostly minerals, “ Eide explains, “so if you’re planting something in your garden, the soil needs to be amended with some well-draining nutrients, which you can bring in by the truckload for gardens or get by the bag for pots.”
She steers away from anything that contains too much peat. “Peat is hydrophobic, which means it dries out quickly and isn’t a good thing for the desert. Plus, I don’t think it’s a very sustainable resource.”
Proper watering is also important for growing herbs. “If you’re growing herbs in a pot, water enough so that it drips out the bottom. That helps flush the salts past the herbs’ root zone. You want to keep the pots moist, but not soggy.”
For herbs grown in the ground or a raised bed, Eide recommends deep–but not necessarily frequent–watering. “You want to make sure that the water gets down several inches below the soil surface to encourage deep root development. That helps the herbs tolerate the heat. If you just sprinkle water on the soil surface, the plant’s roots will stay near the surface and be more vulnerable to the heat.
When to water? Herbs will give a warning sign when they need a drink with droopy, collapsed leaves. “Try not to let things get too far. It stresses the plant.”
Eide recommends feeding herbs with organic fertilizers during their growing season. “If you fertilize just before the onset of heat or frost, it stimulates new growth and those tender shoots are vulnerable to temperature extremes.”
When and where to plant are other questions that come up with herb gardening. Las Vegas and Phoenix deserts have two growing seasons, Eide explains. You can put herbs out in fall, once summer’s heat has abated, and then again in later winter or early spring, when the threat of freezing temperatures is over. As far as location goes, some herbs thrive in full sun, while others require afternoon shade or dappled light. A good nursery is a font of herbal advice.
Rosemary is one herb that does well in arid climates. “They plant rosemary by freeways,” says Eide, “so you know it’s very hardy in this climate.” Basil, chives, parsley, mint, thyme, oregano and other common herbs also do well in the desert–but, as Eide points out–they often behave as annuals, dying out once it’s too hot or too cold.
Fennel, dill and cilantro can be tricky, she says, more adapted to cooler weather and tend to bolt, or set seeds quickly. “Borage and comfrey also don’t do well in the desert,” says Eide, “but there are always exceptions. Some people have just the right microclimate and they thrive.”
Eide’s personal favorites? “I like desert oregano. It’s native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, but it has sharper scent and taste than other oreganos.”
Want to learn more? The Springs Preserve offers gardening classes, tours and a new teaching garden, where you can learn about growing–anything–from the ground up.
“Thanks for coming early,” Johnnie Mundell said, handing us two NEAT glasses with amber whiskey. Hibiki 17 year old from Suntory of Japan. Hibiki means ‘Harmony’ in Japanese, and the 17 year old is arguably the finest offering from the 93 year old firm.
Harmony, indeed. Mundell, along with Mixologist SeongHa Lee, was presenting a seminar on the latest from Suntory, Whisky Toki, made with a blending process that represents the Suntory organization in an exceptional (and harmonious) product. Toki is blended from whiskys produced in three of Suntory’s distilleries: Hakushu, Chita and Yamazaki. Each distillery’s offering was sampled before the Toki was tasted. Hakushu, aged in American White Oak, represent the floral and fruity notes in the blend. Chita adds viscous filler, while two Yamazaki malts with red oak aging add the bottom spice. Toki is quite different from the more traditional Suntory whiskys, which are generally dependent on Yamazaki ingredients.
Toki is designed primarily for Highball use. Highballs are extremely popular in Japan and generally consist of 3 ingredients: spirit, mixer, and ice. The term is generally thought to be train related, as ‘highballing’ may be related to steam output or an early railroad signal concerning clear tracks ahead. Whatever the case, Highballs are generally light and refreshing, and excellent to serve at cocktail parties or meals. Think of drinking and hydrating at the same time.
The Japanese have a strong belief in the beauty of imperfection, or wabi-sabi. The pursuit of perfection is therefore something that is innate in the culture. The presentation from SeongHa Lee exemplified such a pursuit of perfection, allowing participants to make their own Toki-based Highballs using different mixers and ice. The making of a highball changed from bartending to ceremony in an instant.
Making a Proper Toki Highball
The ingredients for the presentation were as follows:
Ice- Regular Ice vs. Slow Freeze Clear Ice
Mixer- Canada Dry Club Soda vs. Fever-Tree Club Soda
Results: As usual, the maxim of using the best quality ingredients applies. Maintaining the carbonation of the club soda is directly related to the flavor of the Highball. Better club soda=Better carbonation. Smoother ice-Less loss of carbonation. All of the highballs were quite enjoyable- but the premium highball (clear ice & Fever-Tree Club Soda) was an eye opener. Refreshing, cold, and full-bodied.
A few general rules:
Use a highball glass. Make sure all glassware is super clean. Soap residue ruins Highballs.
Chill the glass with ice. Keeping the glass cold reduces loss of carbonation.
Remove ice. Add clear ice. Allow the ice to warm slightly at room temperature to reduce roughness; bubbles form on rough surfaces resulting in a loss of carbonation. Ice should fill 25% of the glass.
Add 1.5 oz Toki Whisky (or to taste). Stir 12.5 times. Stirring 13 times will result in disqualification. Maybe.
Add three times spirits volume of mixer (~4.5 oz) down the side of the glass. Pouring over the ice will result in a loss of carbonation. Stir 2.5 more times.
Adding a bit more intrigue to the ceremony/process, two styles of Highballs were described. Once again, the emphasis is on maintaining the carbonation of the drink.
KOBE STYLE: No ice used. All ingredients are chilled and mixed in a chilled glass.
NINJA STYLE: Uses clear ice cubes. Why ninja? Because the ice is invisible in the glass when mixer is poured.
As Mundell states, “Suntory will spend their entire life in pursuit of perfection.” Enjoy your pursuit.
_________________________________________________________ Want a proper Highball but can’t measure liquids? Momofuku in Las Vegas has proper Suntory Highballs on draft. I would suggest picking up your own bottle ($36.99 at Total Wine) and do some experimentation. A highball in summertime sounds fantastic. But why wait?
The Suntory event was part of Xania Woodman’s Now Drink This LIVE!, a series of events where hand-selected industry experts immerse attendees in all bottled things great and wonderful. Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2017 schedule.
Another fun event at Amusespot as we celebrated the election and the debut of Uber Bar Tools from Australia. The full line of Uber Bar Tools is now available at Amusespot and online here. Take 10% off with the code UBERDUBER for a limited time.
Uber Bar Tools are a professional and complete line of bar tools comprising everything from shakers to ice picks.
There is a lot of booze in Sin City. I would guess we consume more alcohol per capita than any place on the planet. Sure, we are helped out by those 41 million or so ‘guests’ that show up on our doorstep expecting an evening from The Hangover. It is those of us that are looking for hard-to-find experiences in Sin City, however, that make the actual selection of alcohol in Las Vegas completely astounding.
Xania Woodman has been writing, editing, and musing about nightlife and bar life for quite some time. Recently she began Now Drink This LIVE!, a series of events where hand-selected industry experts immerse attendees in all bottled things great and wonderful.
The real secret about great product is that every great product has a great story. Great products are generally driven by passion. Passion in turn, generates all of the twists and turns on the road to greatness. That makes a story great- and understanding the context of a particular bottle makes it even more enjoyable when you drink it.
But what about that ballerina?
Fizz at Caesar’s Palace is an elegant and somewhat opulent Champagne bar featuring (what I would assume is) a small portion of Elton John’s husband’s photography collection. David LaChapelle’s stuff is everywhere. Which makes sense, considering that LaChapelle was involved in The Red Piano at Caesars. The bar is gorgeous. Think of a private quiet nook right off of the gaming floor with expensive but hip art and you have a perfect place for an evening of whisky education.
The featured speaker of the evening was Joe McCluskey, brand ambassador for Brenne Whisky. A brand ambassador’s job is to increase brand awareness. It helps if you have good brands and a personality. Joe is lucky and has both. He also has a penchant for comfortable shoes and well-placed interjections of curse words. “Forgive my French,” he says, before launching into some excellent Old English. Vegas Artisanal Spirits Specialist Tony DeMaria greeted everyone with a drink developed for the evening (The Caterpillar’s Cardigan) and we began.
Scotch is a mystery only if you wish to master it. Fundamentally Scotch comes down to barley and a barrel, however. It is what happens to that barrel and in that barrel that defines the scotch. One of the hot areas of scotch (lowercase) is World Whisky. This is generally an attempt to make a Scotch-style product in an area other than Scotland.
A World Whisky, Brenne Whisky is made in Cognac, France. Like most good things French, terroir must be mentioned. Terroir is (simplistically) how a local environment affects a wine’s flavor. Brenne is fascinating because it is more than likely the only whisky with a bonafide terroir- everything involving the production is found within 30 miles or so of the facility.
Brenne is a fairly new brand- we were treated to the first 10 year expression. Distilled in a copper alembic still, then aged in virgin Limousin Oak barrels and finished in wet cognac casks (what else?), the product is bottled per barrel. Since there is no blending of the whisky the flavor of every bottling of Brenne will vary. Aging is about 7 years.
How does it taste? This is where it gets very interesting. The flavor of the batch we tried was almost sweet with a cherry and fruit scent. Think of a good manhattan with just a hint of vermouth and an orange. This is due to the use of wet barrels for the final steps of aging. Your palate is being hit with a good dose of French Cognac.
There are a lot of Scotches and Scotch-styled liquors out there. This is a completely unique product. A good addition to your bar with a great story.
And about that story?
Allison Patel is a ballerina who, upon retirement, pursued wine, whisky, and cheese. On her travels she found a 3rd generation cognac producer who was making a unique scotch using barley from his farm. The rest, as they say, is Brenne.
A World Whisky, Brenne bottles are about $60. One of the coolest things about Now Drink This is that you get to learn from experts while you try liquors. At a fraction of what it would cost to own the bottles. Try before you leap. Insecure about your knowledge base? The events are geared to the level of the participants. You will learn. You will also enjoy. You may even be in front of the group learning how to make one of the evening’s cocktails. And you could win a door prize.
The next Now Drink This Live! Event is at Fizz in Caesars Palace, Wednesday November 30, 2016 from 6-8 PM. It will feature Atlantico Rum founder Brandon Lieb and Ryan McGinnis with the topic “The Rum Resurgence.” Tickets are $40 and are available here.
The Caterpillar’s Cardigan
2 oz. Brenne
Dash of Bittermens Boston BIttahs or Similar
Add absinthe to glass and swirl. Add sugar, zest and a dash of bitters to a mixing glass. Crush the cube. Add whisky and ice to mixing glass. Stir until cold and diluted; 20 seconds or so. Dump absinthe and strain into glass. Add lemon garnish.
Based on the variation in Brenne from bottling to bottling I would suggest going easy on the sugar and using it to taste. This could become a ‘too sweet’ cocktail rather easily and the sweetness would overwhelm the liquor.
Food from The Chefery will be featured during our Father’s Day Shopping Event on Wednesday June 15th from 4-7pm.
Please RSVP at (702) 857-8212 or email@example.com.
Limited space is available.
Here’s a bit of background on the firm:
Order dinners from Chefery, the Henderson, Nevada-based online restaurant, and chances are good that founding partner Brian Skenandore will deliver it personally and spend some time schmoozing with you, suggesting heating tips for the freshly made, partially cooked gourmet meals and how to best plate the food for visual appeal.
“Our customers are educated,” says Skenandore, a chef and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, with many years of restaurant and hospitality experience. “We have an incredible pool of fine-dining opportunities here in Las Vegas, run by internationally acclaimed chefs. Our clients know these places, and I like to spend time talking to them about food. It gives me menu ideas.”
This hands-on meal-delivery service started in 2015 when Skenandore landed back in Las Vegas after working at fine-dining establishments in Minnesota for several years. Previously, he had received his bachelor’s in hospitality at UNLV and had worked at Wynn as a management trainee, where he also became a Level 1 Sommelier. “My wife didn’t like driving in the snow in Minnesota,” says Skenandore, 36, “so we came back to the Las Vegas Valley.”
Cooking for friends back in town, it dawned on Skenandore that there was a niche market for nutritious, Michelin-quality fresh meals, delivered to a customer’s doorstep. “If you want food delivery here, it’s pizza, Chinese food or paying a lot of money for someone to deliver a restaurant meal to your home,” he says. “I thought of Chefery as having a personal chef, but not as intrusive.”
He enlisted the aid of several partners, including chefs Suzan and Ryan Alday, whose combined culinary chops include stints at the Mandarin Oriental and Waldorf Astoria hotels, as well as with chef Alain Ducasse in New York.
The trio moved into a low-key, 500-square-foot commercial kitchen in Anthem Village Center (that’s right–Chefery is Amusespot’s neighbor), sans retail storefront, as the business is online only.
Inside the kitchen, the magic happens. Chefery’s emphasis is on nutrient-dense, healthy ingredients, sourced locally and regionally, much of which is organic. The meals are par-cooked and delivered packed in minimum-waste, biodegradable containers. Nothing is frozen, and the meals take only a few minutes to finish cooking with a microwave, oven or stovetop. Orders, which are made online 24 hours in advance, are delivered Tuesday through Friday in Henderson, Summerlin, the Strip and other area locales.
What’s on the menu? Entrées that meld French, Asian and American influences. Right now, that includes jap chae, Korean sweet potato starch noodles stir-fried with marinated beef and vegetables, topped with dried seaweed (featured main image); chicken breast served with Tuscan farro, citrus segments, olives and spinach (above); and, for vegetarians, a beet burger topped with arugula, horseradish and house-made pickles. “We like to use seasonal ingredients,” Skenandore says, explaining the monthly menu updates. “Right now is ramp season, so we’re doing pickled ramp bulbs and ramp coulis with a pan-seared chicken leg and thigh.”
Chefery is also on top of the bone broth trend, rich in protein and collagen, which is said to promote good health. Their chicken and beef bone broths are made with a 10-hour stock base to which more protein, vegetables and aromatics are added, cooked and strained.
Healthy kids’ meals, salads, sides and a dessert or two round out the menu.
Who’s been using Chefery? Working professionals who want a nice meal without having to leave the comfort of their homes. Doctors, lawyers, fitness professionals, gym owners, retirees–there isn’t a single profile, says Skenandore.
He’s also fine with clients pretending they made the meal themselves to impress guests. “I don’t care if they take all the credit,” he says. “Hide the evidence. You can bury the packaging in the back yard. It’s biodegradable. Be the hero of Friday night dinner. It’s okay with us.”
Interested in making The Chefery’s Bone Broth?
Check out the recipe here.
Or order online at cheferylasvegas.com
USE CODE NEIGHBOR1 at CHEFERYLASVEGAS.COM for Buy One Meal Get One Free Offer ($15 credit applied at checkout). Tax not included. Offer good through August 31, 2016
The Chefery was founded by Culinary Institute of America graduates. They offer chef-prepared meals delivered to your doorstep in Henderson and Las Vegas.
Broth has become very popular with more people trying the Paleo diet. A traditional food rich in protein, collagen, and minerals, broth is excellent alone or used as a base for other entrees. Cooking takes a long time, including some who simmer for 24 hours or more, but the end product yields incredible flavor.
The Chefery will be featuring their Bone Broth during our Father’s Day Shopping Event on Wednesday June 15th from 4-7pm.
Please RSVP at (702) 857-8212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Limited space is available.
Here’s their recipe, adapted for home use:
10# Veal Bones
2 G water or enough to cover everything
5 Stalks Celery
3 Sprigs Thyme
1 Bulb Garlic
2 Bay Leaf
1/2 bunch Parsley
2 Tbs Tomato Paste
Roast veal bones in preheated 500 degree oven in a shallow pan for 45 minutes.
Add to stock pot with the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.
Deglaze the bone roasting pan by adding water and scraping away the fond with a wooden spoon. Add to stock pot.
Do not boil the stock.
You will notice a bunch of undesirable foam like particles rising to the top of the stock. It is important to skim these off every hour or to ensure a pure flavor.
After 12 hours or so, strain and quickly cool the hot liquid.
Then to make the broth, add beef knuckle, more fresh mirepoix and fresh aromatics of your choice.
Simmer for 4 hours or until your desired strength.
Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy your rich, meaty bone broth.
May be frozen for later use.
Or order from The Chefery and they will deliver it to you.
Johnny Church has a TCB Lightning Bolt Tattoo. Church and other Vegas chefs in the brotherhood wear the same ink. Taking Care of Business like Elvis did. A nod to Vegas, and a nod to the fast paced workplaces local chefs inhabit. Johnny has been in the industry since he was washing dishes for his mom as a kid back in Flint, Michigan.
Moving to Vegas, he worked graveyard line chef and moved up from there. Folks that are talented in this last chance Texaco of workplaces are under heavy demand, and Mr. Church honed his skills under a who’s who of notables: Van Staden, Joho, Rispoli, Palmer, Ogden, Kauth, Mina, Rochat, Ramsay and more. The magic touch, perhaps, came under Rick Moonen, whose restaurant is a crucible for some of the nation’s greatest chefs-to-be. Johnny developed the RX Boiler Room steampunk-esque culinary concept while designing the MTO comfort food joint in DTLV.
Brett Ottolenghi is another interesting character in Las Vegas. Engaging and passionate, Brett is the kind of guy you would expect to win Jeopardy for a few rounds before politely excusing himself to catch up on the latest Sri Lankan tea harvest reports.
Named the Caviar King by CNN, Ottolenghi made his name in caviar, foie gras, and truffles. Times changed with the economy, however, and when he recently moved to a larger location, Brett diversified his product selection and built his ‘Test Kitchen,’ integrating Johnny as partner and chef.
Artisanal Foods new location is around the corner from the old digs near Sunset Road and Eastern. The new location has high ceilings and a bright, airy atmosphere. There is a small dining area with access to a large kitchen that Johnny inhabits. The largest area, however, is designated for retail with many of Ottolenghi’s primo and more curious selections present, as well as the new additions of three circular fish tanks.
The fish tanks are there to place emphasis on Brett’s older passion, sturgeon, and a newer one, Lionfish. Lionfish, if you need some refreshment of those grey cells, are those gorgeous yet odd-looking fish that swim around waving venomous tentacles looking like something from a McQueen (Alex, not Steve) dream. Brett is pleased to feed them for us. The little guys swallow unsuspecting little shrimp whole. I feel sorry for the prey. The Lionfish don’t even mess their manes a bit.
Passionate people run the gamut from crazy to logical; luckily, Brett is one of the more logical ones, and I get a quick education on the reasoning for the Lionfish display. Lionfish aren’t a native species to the Americas. They’re from the Indo-Pacific; few predators want to mess with the pretty things. After a few were released in the wrong hood they’ve become much more dangerous as an invasive species from Maine to South of Venezuela down to a depth of about 150 feet. It’s estimated that over 80% of the invasive species in the Western Atlantic is Lionfish. A lack of predators makes them the fatties of the area, and they easily can top out at four pounds or so with 18-20” length.
What can you do to help?
Picky as well as pretty, the Lionfish doesn’t go for hooks and can only be caught by spearfishing. Tough cookies. Brett has a source for the fish, however, and Johnny Church prepares them so they are light and tasty. Don’t worry, the venomous spines are removed. They taste kind of like Orange Roughy, says Ottolenghi. An explanation is bound to follow. Roughy are very slow to grow and mature, and some of those tasty filets may be from a 150 year old fish. Definitely a no-no purchase if you want sustainable catch. We all do. So make sure to order the Lionfish (you’re in the know).
Artisanal Foods business plan is rather complex. As previously blathered about, Brett sources some of the finest and some of the most unique (and sometimes both) food products on the planet. Need some FRESH (and REAL) wasabi from a Japanese farmer with centuries of wasabi farming experience? Call Brett. Need freezers full of caviar? Ditto. Artisanal has branched out from the Strip clientele, however, and with Johnny Church on board the firm can now do almost anything for the public at large- from catering to gift baskets to amazing, unique delicacies in a small café setting. The best part, however, is that not only does the new location feature more intimate dining, but their lower food costs result in a lower bill- and you can probably purchase some goodies to ‘try that at home’. The result is a rather amazing experience in a venue that has tremendous possibilities.
Lunch at Artisanal Cafe is Tuesday-Saturday 11am-3pm. There is somewhere around 12 seats available. With a projected two turns you are looking at a need for reservations.
The menu is small, as expected- I would also expect it to change seasonally, if not sooner. Think quality comfort food. Everything was very good- which is what you should get from a top notch chef with top notch ingredients. I would recommend this for the important business lunch where you want to get to know someone by placing them just a bit out of their element into an experience they will remember.
Here are a few notes:
Charcuterie and Cheeses: while this dish is often a softball at most restaurants, the key here is the variety of product available at Artisanal Foods. Certain to be interesting.
Pancakes with Seared Sonoma Foie Gras– another continuation of the trend that never ends, Church adds enough of a twist on this dish to keep it interesting.
MontAmore Grilled Cheese– This is a good example of what Church can do. A very simple dish, perhaps, but when combined with brioche, honey, and Artisanal’s MontAmore cheese this dish is even better than it looks. Piedmontese Truffle and Foie Burger– Piedmontese beef was a relative unknown in the US until the 1980s and still reasonable rare (no pun intended). The breed, originating in Italy, has a mutation that results in more muscle and less fat. I find the beef appears significantly different when cooked and has a decidedly creamy texture when compared to Angus. Probably my favorite burger locally, this beef was also used in another one of my favorite burgers in Detroit- at the Redcoat Tavern on Woodward. In my opinion the Foie and Truffle just add trendiness to (but do not detract from) this fantastic burger.
Som Drinking Vinegar- Don’t judge it by its name. Produced by PokPok, the Oregon-based-but-growing Thai concern, the ‘drinking vinegar’ is a tart yet sweet fruit based syrup. Mixed with soda water, the result is unique and refreshing, with varieties running the gamut from pineapple to turmeric. Call it a shrub and call your local bartender. Or try this at home. Best Bet: Thai Basil
A Note about Shopping at Artisanal Foods
I can’t say enough about shopping at Artisanal- Go there at least twice a month.
There are two reasons:
1) Brett is always getting interesting product. Some is new to the firm and some is restocking fairly rare and hard-to-find product. Odds are the more you go, the more likely you can experience something new and wonderful. Some of these items are next to impossible to find, such as the previously mentioned Japanese wasabi.
2) Prices. Brett has always been concerned about his pricing. Good things generally cost money. I picked up Benton’s bacon for a bit over $11 a pound. Which is cheaper than a grocery store but more than Benton’s 4-pound pack (sans shipping). You can buy authentic purebred Japanese Wagyu beef here for close to Prime at Whole Paycheck. Save some cash and support some local dudes doing good.
And buy this cheese. It’s a ton of fun on the plate and palate.
Artisanal Foods Cafe Open Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 3pm
Store Hours: M – Sat 9:00 am – 6:00 pm Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm 2053 Pama Ln Las Vegas NV 89119