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Pub 1842, Las Vegas NV

The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is way bigger than we thought.  Once inside, it’s labyrinthine.  Don’t be afraid to ask your way around, though, because Pub 1842 is worth the maze.  Chef Michael Mina’s gastropub has a completely different vibe than the nearly solemn San Franciscan Bourbon Steak, but his signature style and demand for quality are on par.  More finger foods and casual yet inventive takes on classics cry out to the younger Vegas partying crowd, especially if paired with one or many of the alcoholic libations available; the place is named for the year pilsner beer was invented, after all, so beer plays a big role here.

Try a sampling of the more than fifty beers on hand with a beer wheel.  “Wild World” crosses the globe with eight ales, stouts, and lagers, which our server and beer enthusiast Will described as being a more malty selection.  Because August likes hoppy brews, we went with “Born in the USA.”  PBR Lager, Anchor Steam CA Common, Batch 19 Vienna, Blue Moon Witbier, Deschutes Pale Ale, Ommengang Abbey Ale, Dogfish Head Double IPA, and Speakeasy Porter represented a broad range of brewing styles and tastes, and coincidentally when tasted in order alongside our food, there were some serendipitous pairings that surprised our palates.

crab louie deviled eggs

crab louie deviled eggs

Zach had been studying the menu since Pub 1842 opened not even two weeks ago, and knew immediately that he wanted to try the deviled eggs.  The tender egg whites were not overcooked, perfect vessel for the super creamy yolks.  Thankfully the tangy and somewhat sweet filling wasn’t overly spiced, or else we might not have been able to appreciate the crab.  Each egg had a large lump of Maryland blue crap with a sprig of dill and a sprinkling of paprika.

duck spring rolls

duck spring rolls

The spring rolls, extra light and crispy, were made with wonton wrappers rather than phyllo dough or egg roll wrappers.  Zach almost thought they were wrapped with what they weren’t, since the wonton wrappers were deceptively thin.  Tender, well seasoned duck was rolled with cabbage, mushrooms, and cilantro.  An orange sauce was more tangy than sweet with a touch of mild warmth from chili pepper (we won’t call it spiciness), and the cilantro made the sauce more earthy to balance the tangy.  At this time August was sipping the Batch 19 Vienna, and she found it to accentuate the duck very well, and vice versa.

avocado kale caesar

avocado kale caesar

This might be one of our most enjoyable Caesar salads ever.  Avocado makes nearly any dish better in August’s book, so we liked the fresh, ripe slices for garnish here.  Instead of croutons, artichoke chips served as a playful interpretation.  They were lightly crunchy and helped to round out the mix of flavors.  A garlic streusel with sugar made the salad sweet, but the bitter kale mellowed that.  Freshly shaved Parmesan added that cheesy, salty bite necessary for Caesar salads, so in that regard tradition was honored.  Otherwise, this was a modern and almost scientific experiment kind of way to present a Caesar.

the "2 pound" lobster roll

the “2 pound” lobster roll

Tender, hand picked lobster was buttery and sweet, nestled in a crisp buttery roll.  It was accented by jalapeño, tarragon, green onions, creamed corn, and popcorn.  The jalapeño provided flavor with no heat, acting as a seasoning like the tarragon and green onions.  Popcorn is not usually our thing, but here we had a decreased likelihood of getting it stuck in our teeth because there was so much more involved with each bite.  Zach particularly liked the roll; as a pastry chef, he felt that it complemented the filling quite well, and whoever grilled it did an impeccable job.  The fries, prepared from a frozen state but handled well, were herbed with variety but sage was the most predominant flavor.

peanut butter crunch burger

peanut butter crunch burger

Wagyu beef, creamy peanut butter, ruffled potato chips, bacon jam, and pimento cheese combined for what our server Will described as most patrons’ “amazing burger” or “best burger ever.”  We have to agree, never would we have considered peanut butter with beef but it was in fact amazing.  With creamy, salty Jif instead of sweet, the savory quality worked well with the juicy Snake River Farms patty.  Zach doesn’t typically go for potato chips, but here they provided an essential crunchiness.  The bacon jam was smoky, tangy, and very slightly sweet, while the pimento cheese gave a little kick and gooeyness to the burger.  It came on a potato bun baked with cracked pepper, adding flavor as well as an interesting visual appeal.  We liked that the fries here were distinct from the lobster roll’s; like the others these were previously frozen but well handled, but with a different cut and different seasoning.

big chocolate layer cake and chocolate malted

big chocolate layer cake and chocolate malted

Peanut butter was the star a second time in our final course of a tasty dessert and milkshake pairing.  Will told us that some customers are dumbstruck after already having such rich flavors in the appetizers and entrees, so he simplifies it for them, asking if they like chocolate, lemon, peach, or coconut desserts.  That’s a tough choice, but the chocolate one’s description with “peanut butter, pretzel, delicious” lured us.  Moist chocolate cake with a medium chocolate flavor was layered with smooth, creamy, chocolate butter cream.  Dollops of delectably smooth peanut butter ganache dotted the cake, while salty, crunchy, chocolate-dipped pretzels offered a contrasting texture, as did a kind of candied nut.  A simple yet delightfully malted shake was not overly malted but just right, for another kind of chocolate to pair and share.

Foodies, families, and fraternities alike can all find something here.  With modernized variations on classical themes, Chef Mina is a master at taking something known and making it new and vibrant.  It would seem that Pub 1842 has had an excellent opening, and we hope they continue to tantalize the palates of many Vegas diners.

The Peasant And The Pear, Danville CA

We found ourselves a hidden gem this evening, almost literally.  The hidden part is what’s almost literal, since the address for The Peasant And The Pear is on one street but the parking lot and main entrance is off the next street over.  Once you find it, though, you won’t be disappointed.

pear burrata

pear burrata

We dined here tonight with another couple, which meant it was easy to justify getting multiple appetizers.  Most impressive was the pear burrata: house made burrata cheese with pear honey compote on a toasted baguette, and drizzled with 18-year-old balsamic vinegar.  The cheese had the texture of a fresh mozzarella with a subtle extra creaminess to it, and the fresh cream flavor came through.  The compote was mildly sweetened with the honey so the sweetness to pair with the cheese wasn’t overpowering, but it was still rich in flavor.  Zach liked this appetizer so much, it’s something he will try to recreate for future dinner parties.

fondue

fondue

It was Zach’s first time having fondue tonight.  Pear slices, grapes, and hunks of crusty bread came with a garlic-rubbed pot filled with melted New York white cheddar.  The fondue itself was good – creamy, gooey, and cheesy.  The fruit was fresh, and the bread was a good quality sourdough.

caesar

caesar

Zach got (and August nibbled on) a Caesar salad featuring whole romaine hearts, croutons, shredded Grana Padano cheese, and classic Caesar dressing with real anchovies.  The romaine was super fresh and abundant, house made croutons added a great crunchiness, and the dressing was very, very real – creamy, tangy, and mildly anchovy-ie.

italian lamb shank

italian lamb shank

On a bed of creamy provolone polenta sat August’s osso buco-style Sonoma lamb shank that had been slow-braised in Chianti.  The polenta was surely one of the creamiest August and Zach had tried, and it soaked up the lamb demi-glace marvelously.  The lamb itself, she’s happy to report, passed the fork test and required no knife.  It was a huge shank, too, making for an all-around amazing entree.

chicken madeira

chicken madeira

Zach got the chicken Madeira, a boneless half chicken in Madeira wine sauce with sauteed green beans and fingerling potatoes.  He’s usually not a fan of dark meat, however this half chicken had both white and dark and he ate just about all of it, as both were equally juicy and seasoned well.  The skin was rendered perfectly leaving it crispy.  The Madeira sauce was not overly sweet which was a good thing; Zach says he’s had some in the past that were way too sweet.  He soaked up a little bit of sauce with each bite of chicken.  The vegetables on the plate were cooked well and it was obvious from the flavor that they were very fresh.

prosciutto-wrapped prawns

prosciutto-wrapped prawns

One of our friends ordered the special of the evening, which was prosciutto-wrapped prawns with asparagus, sweet potatoes, and an orange carrot sauce.  We’re not 100% sure on the flavors, but it was a pretty picture and we wanted to share it with you.

pear tart

warm pear tart

The final round that we all split, because we were so full, was this warm pear tart.  The pastry shell was buttery, flaky, and scratch made (not from a freezer).  The caramel sauce wasn’t overly sweet; August thought it had more of a mild burnt caramel flavor.  The pears were tender and refreshing, and the ice cream was exceptionally creamy and added a nice element to the plate.  The struesle gave this just an extra little oomph that made it a delight.

Our server Kim was friendly and attentive, and even walked by us with dishes that other tables had ordered so that we could take a peek.  Just as impressive as the service is the fact that this restaurant supports “sustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices” such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium‘s Seafood Watch program.  We arrived at an early-ish dinner hour and quickly the other tables filled up, including several large parties, attesting to the popularity.  For a romantic dinner or a celebratory evening, find your way to The Peasant And The Pear.