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Eight Years Later...

A lot of things have changed on our food scene in the 8 years I've been preaching to you. Some of those changes have not been for the better: I mean sushi being sold everywhere but in Laundromats has hardly raised the bar for this most delicate of foods--but on the whole, there has been a sea change in how and what we eat. If you don't think so, just back:

In 1996 there were no restaurant critics in town. There was no Bellagio, Mandalay Bay or Venetian; the three hotels that finally got us on the baby-boomer gourmet food train, and our 'Chinatown' - our best location for great cheap eats - was just getting started with only four restaurants in it.

In 1996 there were only three celebrity chefs in America and their names were Puck, Pepin, and Child, and as far as I'm concerned only the remaining two deserve the accolade. Back then, the rest of those budding telegenic superstars were behind the stoves..... where then and now, they belong.

My top three restaurants back then were The Palace Court, The Monte Carlo Room in the old Desert Inn, and Spago. Close on their heels, but soon to be eclipsed were: The Coyote Cafe, Emeril's and Palm Steakhouse.

Back then it was big news when Landry's and the Macaroni Grill opened....two chain links whose mottos should be: 'We're slightly better than the Red Lobster and Olive Garden.'

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There was no good bread to be bought anywhere. Sanborn had just begun stocking our shelves with superior sourdough, and La Brea's baked goods were but a pipe dream.

Since then, a number of changes have made life tastier around here:

Bread, Olive Oil, Wine, and Cheese were around 8 years ago, but the quality and variety were awful. Now with the advent of Internet food sales, Trader Joe's and even Cost Plus, Las Vegans can get the good stuff at good prices; and one look at the cheese flying off the shelves at Whole Foods means no more driving back from L.A. or flying back from New York with the stench of Neal's Yard Stilton wafting about you. (Now who would've done that?)

In wine, the breaking of Southern Wine and Spirit's stranglehold on our wine trade-by aggressive new importers like DeLuca and Nevada Wine Agents-- has given both the aficionado and the novice a reason to cheer...and the youth movement in the wine trade, and restaurants generally, has made dining out, and drinking well, more fun and adventuresome than ever.

Yes there's been a worldwide revolution in food over the past 30 years. Las Vegas may have been slow to get with the program, but get with it, we finally did. Thank God...and Bacchus of course....and Dionysus!

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Thursday, September 30, 2004
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