Even if all you do in Las Vegas is walk for miles eating and drinking, laughing and talking, it’s wise to make good restaurant and bar choices when you can. No matter how long you’re able to explore and indulge on the Strip there are limits on time, energy, stomach space, alcohol intake, and spending money.
Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Open Table all offer useful insights and we give them a good workout, especially when we travel. To pull the most from those apps look for trends and shared highlights/lowlights across several reviews. They often give an accurate feel for a place pretty fast. Disregard all reviews of spoiled special events and holidays, and large group meals (“…so, it was my wife’s birthday and we couldn’t even get a glass of water…).
Once we hone in on a food and beverage plan we head out to see what will happen. Sometimes the plan blows up, a favorited spot tanks, or an underdog shines. You have to be open to it all and ready to keep moving, like a slot machine that won’t pay. For us a great time usually comes down to finding a bartender or server with the ability to connect with and care for their guests. To us, this makes a great cocktail hour or a meal. You find someone who’s in on the adventure with you. Restaurateur Danny Meyer once told us about the inherent sense of hospitality some people bring to the work; it is not something that can be taught. “Either you have it, or you don’t,” he said.
A few Vegas visits ago the bartender at Joe’s Stone Crab (now Joe’s Seafood, Prime Meat & Stone Crab) at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s turned us onto a great dish and one we’d surely have passed on. A side of grilled tomatoes to accompany the steak. A rough childhood dinner table memory featuring roasted tomatoes was the deal breaker for me. But, our trusty Joe’s bartender insisted, and not in that up-selling, huckster style. Not once did he describe them as “awesome.”
In fact, they were awesome. Not only did they provide material for my weekly outdoor cooking column in the Tennessean when we got home, they gave us a spectacular summer side dish when backyard grilling and Tennessee tomatoes are both in peak condition. A platter of these thick, juicy tomato slices topped with warm creamed spinach and melted cheddar cheese is pitch perfect for any damn thing you will pull off that grill. The key is to grill firm tomato slices over medium heat and be careful with the tongs and spatula. Overripe soft tomatoes won’t hold together, and careless flipping can wreck a slice.
Mindy’s deconstructed creamed spinach comes together in a minutes. While the spinach cooks in the microwave sauté the onion and garlic and stir in the cream.
Next, mix in the cooked spinach after pressing out as much of the water as you can. Boom, done. Delicious, not overly creamy, creamed spinach. A delicate, fulsome topping for Cheater Chef’s grilled tomatoes with creamed spinach.
- 3 large tomatoes, top and bottoms removed, each cut into three thick slices
- 1 pound spinach
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter or oil
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- Nutmeg, to taste
- Sliced cheddar cheese, about 6 slices
- Cook the spinach in two batches in a covered dish in the microwave just until wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Place the spinach in a colander to cool slightly. Squeeze out the excess moisture and chop coarsely.
- In a large frying pan, cook the onion in the butter until soft. Add the garlic and continue to cook another minute or 2.
- Stir in the cream and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Set aside while you grill the tomatoes.
- Sprinkle the slices lightly with oil and salt.
- Grill the slices over medium heat, partially covered, turning once carefully. Grill until the slices are warm and slightly soft.
- Top each tomato with creamed spinach, dividing evenly.
- Top each with cheese.
- Grill over medium heat with the cover down until the cheese is melted. Gently slide the slices onto a platter and serve to your very stoked guests. No kidding. They will be stoked in one bite. These are fantastic and should be on every steakhouse menu in the country.
- The perfect steakhouse dinner at home side dish showing off ripe summer tomatoes. The creamed spinach makes a great side dish even without the tomatoes during other seasons. No need to make a white sauce this time.