Tag Archives: burger

From the Archives: Secrets of Holeman & Finch’s Famous Burger

Originally Posted on November 2, 2010

In a city with so many burger restaurants that you could have a favorite burger for every night of the week, Holeman & Finch Public House still manages to stand out with its hard to get, off-the-menu item nicknamed the 10 o’clock burger.

H&F’s take on the cheeseburger has earned it a cult following in Atlanta and celebrity status nationwide. In fact, it was recently named Georgia’s Best Burger and America’s Best Late-Night Burger by the Food Network.

But what exactly makes H&F’s burger so special?

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Cypress Street Pint & Plate pairing

Sublime Pairings at Cypress Street Pint & Plate

They say opposites attract. And you would think it wouldn’t get any more opposite than beer and doughnuts. This unusual pairing was the feature at a special Valentine’s Day edition of Beer Geek Tuesday at Cypress Street Pint & Plate.

Cypress Street Pint & PlateIntrigue, or maybe just hunger and thirst brought a big crowd to the Midtown bar. Even the outside tables were full – cold temperatures and the threat of ice and snow seemed to be no deterrent. My husband and I took a corner table inside and were greeted immediately by the Beer Geek himself, Rob “BrewRu” Merrick.

Talking with Rob, it’s clear how knowledgeable and passionate he is about beer. He’s also a lot of fun. If you’re new to craft beer, Rob can make it easy to understand. If you’re more experienced, you’ll likely learn about or taste something new.

We took Rob up on his suggestion to try the featured New Belgium beers of the evening. The Snapshot wheat started with sweet citrus, followed by a gentle sourness and clean finish. The Spring Blond Belgian style ale was refreshing with apple and lemon notes, and a slightly bitter finish.

Both Rob and our server Anthony were great about checking in throughout the evening to make sure we were enjoying the beer and food.

The menu looks like a typical brewpub menu, but the quality of the food is far beyond. We started with the BBQ Eggrolls, a southern take on the Chinese dish. Filled with bbq pork and collard greens and served with a sriracha ranch dipping sauce, they were unbelievably flavorful and juicy (make sure you take a bite over the plate). Before my husband and I finished the eggrolls we were planning a return visit for them.

Our main courses were equally as delicious. I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, which was topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, blue cheese and spicy mayo. Every bite was a mix of tangy, spicy and creamy. I don’t think I’ve ever had a buffalo chicken sandwich so good as Cypress Street’s.

My husband ordered the famous Sublime Burger. The ultimate indulgence, it is a half-pound burger topped with cheddar cheese, applewood bacon and caramelized onions between two Sublime doughnuts. Sublime exclusively makes the glazed doughnuts for Cypress Street Pint & Plate. As you might expect for something so over the top, it was delicious. The doughnuts, not as sweet as I had thought they would be, went surprisingly well with the savory beef and bacon. Definitely worth the guilt, or the extra time in the gym.

Sublime doughnuts and beerThen it was time for the main event – three Sublime doughnuts paired with three 4 oz. pours of beer. A Reese’s peanut butter cup doughnut was paired with Lonerider Brewing Company’s Pistols at Dawn; a heart-shaped strawberry-filled chocolate doughnut with chocolate icing was paired with Allagash Saison; and a red velvet cake doughnut was paired with Delirium Noël.

My favorite doughnut was the heart. It was almost a surprise biting in and finding whole strawberries, and they were made even better by the chocolate icing. For me, the pairing that worked best was the Reese’s doughnut and Lonerider beer. The chocolate and peanut butter in the doughnut worked well with the coffee flavors in the Pistols at Dawn.

While not every Beer Geek Tuesday involves an opposites-attract pairing, the evening is sure to include new or unique beers and excellent food.

Beer Geek Tuesdays are every Tuesday evening beginning at 7pm.

Cypress Street Pint & Plate, 817 West Peachtree Street NE. (404) 815-9243 www.cypressbar.com

Flying solo this Valentine’s Day? Check out Cypress Street Pint and Plate’s inaugural Valentine’s Day Solo Party. On February 14th beginning at 8 pm, guests will enjoy $1 PBRs and $2 SweetWater IPAs served in classic red Solo Cups. Rob has crafted a special “Love Bites” beer shake for the event, with Frozen Pints Milk Chocolate Stout craft beer ice cream and fresh strawberries, topped with vodka whipped cream and drizzled with a chocolate beer reduction. There will be music from DJ Pat O’Brien, and there is no cost to attend.

>> Connect
Twitter: @CypressStreet
Facebook: CypressStreet

photo credit Teodora Nicolae

Stillhouse: Craft Burgers and Moonshine Now Open in Buckhead

Atlanta’s destination for moonshine is now open – no lawbreaking required.

Stillhouse is the newest restaurant to open in the Andrews Entertainment District. It is a great spot for a night out, offering moonshine on its own or in cocktails, and a menu to rival any of Atlanta’s burger-centric spots.

StillhouseNot familiar with moonshine? Stillhouse proves just how versatile it can be. Drinks like the Carolina Mule and Ghostly Old Fashioned show how moonshine can be a good base for traditional and modern cocktails. Moonshine can also take on a limitless number of flavors – try one of the house made moonshine infusions that are made with regional ingredients like Vidalia onions and Georgia peaches. There is even smoked moonshine – you select a type of wood, and mixologists infuse the smoky flavor into your drink.

moonshine infusionsThe food is just as inventive (and delicious). Start with a southern favorite like the Fried Green Tomatoes or Pimento Cheese. Or try the Mussel Moonshine, PEI mussels steamed in a broth made with Troy & Sons Platinum Moonshine.

The beef burgers are filling, with double patties and a variety of locally sourced and creative toppings. The top bun is flipped up for you to add Stillhouse’s house made ketchup (both standard and spicy) and mustard.

Unusual sounding but very tasty, the PB&J Burger has already become one of Stillhouse’s top sellers. The two beef patties are topped with Georgia peanut hummus, fig jam, fresh sliced peach, blue cheese and pecans. It’s a sweet, salty, creamy and savory mix that really works.

The AG recommends the Buckhead Burger, which is beef patties topped with duck confit, goat cheese, green tomato relish, pickled beets and fresh spinach.

There are also chicken, duck, pork, crab cake, fried oyster and veggie burgers offered on the menu.

For sides try the super creamy Spicy Macaroni & Cheese, and one of the Smothered French Fries (the AG recommends the fries with the North Carolina Gouda). You’ll definitely want to order a side of the collard greens. Slightly sweet in flavor, they’re so good you and your dining companions will fight over the last bite.

If you still have room for dessert, try the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding. Topped with white chocolate and a bourbon caramel sauce, it is every bit as rich as you would imagine.

Try a new drink with dessert. As the AG found out, some of the less sweet house made infusions make a great pairing.

Stillhouse: Craft Burgers and Moonshine, 56 East Andrews Drive NW, Atlanta 30305. Open Monday through Saturday, 5pm to 2am. Live music nightly at 9pm. www.stillhouseatl.com

>> Connect:  @StillhouseATL on Twitter
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stillhouseatlanta

SMASH Kitchen & Bar Now Open

Satisfy your appetite no matter what you’re craving at SMASH Kitchen & Bar, now open in Town Brookhaven. The modern casual American restaurant is the newest concept from the Here to Serve Restaurants group, and features smash hits from owner Tom Catherall’s other Atlanta eateries.

Smash Kitchen & BarFlatbreads, steaks and burgers are the main attractions on SMASH’s menu. The flatbreads are cooked in a wood burning oven, and range from the Classic Margherita to the Diablo, a spicy mix of chorizo, coppa salume and hot chili peppers.

It may be hard to decide between the Steak Burger and the SKB Burger. Your decision will be even tougher when you scroll down the menu and see the “Smash it Down,” shaved prime rib served with BBQ sauce and horseradish slaw. For non meat eaters there’s the Veggie Burger, made in house with brown deviled eggs, bacon, pimento cheeserice, black beans, beets and quinoa.

In addition to a selection of steaks there are baby back ribs and pork chops. There’s also skillet fried chicken, jumbo lump crab cake, grilled salmon and a variety of salads and sides (we told you there was something to match any craving).

Click here to see SMASH Kitchen & Bar’s lunch, dinner and brunch menus

Brunch offers a menu that’s as fun to order as it is tasty. Try the Baked Frenchman (bread pudding french toast), the Mad Italian Skillet Scramble (coppa, mozzarella and chili flakes topped with basil, baby arugula and tomato), or the Gravedigger (chicken fried pork chop with fried egg, mushroom, sausage, gravy and a cheddar cheese biscuit). Of course you can’t go wrong with the SKB Chicken & Waffles, which comes with a decadent pecan bacon syrup.

flatbreadIf you’re in the mood for drinks or light bites, take a right past the host stand and you’ll find a great list of wines, beer and cocktails at SMASH’s bar.

The décor for the bar and restaurant is a mix of cozy and eclectic. Brick walls, red booths and SMASH burgera window into the kitchen give Smash a casual feel, while a unique mix of art, chandeliers and a larger than life ‘eat’ sign make it feel like an escape from the shopping center outside.

The Here to Serve Restaurants group includes Prime, Noche, Goldfish, Twist, Shout, Strip, Aja, Coast Seafood and Raw Bar and Cantina. Later this fall H2SR will open Shucks, an upscale oyster and wine bar, also in Town Brookhaven.

Looking for a unique holiday gift? Here to Serve Restaurants is partnering with Atlanta shops and destinations for the 5 Star Package. A $100 gift certificate to any Here to Serve restaurant will come with an additional $100 in coupons to Spa Sydell, Fab’rik clothing boutique, the Alliance Theater and the Cook’s Warehouse. 5 Star Package cards will be available for purchase at each partner location and online at www.h2sr.com and the 5 Star partners’ websites.

Smash Kitchen & Bar, 804 Town Boulevard, Suite 1010 in Town Brookhaven, Atlanta, 30319. (404) 841-4221

>> Connect: @SmashATL and @H2SRestaurants on Twitter
Facebook: www.facebook.com/smashATL

images below and of food above from Here to Serve Restaurants

A New Take on Tomato Ketchup

Looking for a new way to add flavor to your burger? Trade in your traditional ketchup for California Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup from Traina Foods.

Traina ketchupYou’ll notice the difference in taste from your first bite. The vine-ripened sun dried tomatoes add a delicious, more intense flavor. It’s sure to add a gourmet flair to any backyard barbecue.

Sixteen pounds of fresh roma tomatoes are needed to make one pound of sun dried tomatoes — that means each bottle of ketchup has the equivalent of around four pounds of tomatoes.

It’s not just for burgers. Try Traina’s Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup on eggs, tacos, meatloaf, sausages, steak and more.

Traina California Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup costs approximately $5 for a 16 oz. bottle. Click here to find out where it is sold in your area.

Disclosure: The Amateur Gastronomer received a complimentary sample.

The Varsity

Fly & Dine at ATL: Your Guide to Where to Eat at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

If your travel plans take you through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, you’ll want to arrive early. With a host of new restaurants, there have never been more delicious dining options for travelers.

The airport offers a true taste of Atlanta, including favorite in-town restaurants like Ecco and landmarks like The Varsity.

Whether you’re leaving town, returning home or just passing through, here are restaurants to check out at the Atlanta airport.

Atrium (Pre-Security)

Atlanta Bread Company
Offering pastries, sandwiches and salads.
Location: Atrium Northeast
Hours: Open 24 hours

Atlanta ChopHouse
Offering fresh cut choice steaks, burgers, drinks and more. Offers meeting rooms for business groups to rent.
Location: Atrium Northeast
Hours: 6am – 10pm

Concourse A

Brioche Dorée
A Parisian-style café bakery specializing in French urban cuisine.
Location: A Centerpoint
Hours: 5:30am – 11pm

Samuel Adams Atlanta Brew House
Get a taste of Samuel Adams’ favorite and seasonal brews, plus a menu that includes burgers, sandwiches and chicken wings.
Location: A 12
Hours: 6am – last flight on A

Concourse B

Cafe Intermezzo
A European-style coffee house offering lunch, dinner, dessert and a variety of coffee beverages.
Location: B Centerpoint
Hours: 6am – 11pm

SweetWater Draft House & Grill
The restaurant from the Atlanta microbrewery offers a range of beers and a menu of American cuisine.
Location: B 11
Hours: 6am – 11pm

Concourse C

Atlanta Bread Company
Offering pastries, sandwiches and salads.
Location: C 30
Hours: 5am – last flight on C

Brews & Blues
Featuring southern style cooking with beef brisket, pork, turkey and chicken sandwiches.
Location: C 6
Hours: 9am – last flight on C

Burgers, BBQ & Brew
A sitdown restaurant offering a spot for a quick bite to eat.
Location: C Centerpoint
Hours: 6am – last flight on C

Chick-fil-AChick-fil-A
Quick-service chicken restaurant featuring sandwiches, salads and nuggets.
Location: C 21
Hours: 5:30am – 11pm

Miller Lite Victory Lane
Offering draft beers and traditional bar food.
Location: C 12
Hours: 6am – last flight on C

Moe’s Southwest Grill
Offering fresh burritos, tacos, fajitas and nachos.
Location: C 14
Hours: 6am – last flight on C

The Varsity
One of two airport locations (with Concourse F) of the famous Atlanta drive-in restaurant, offering chili cheese dogs, burgers and Frosted Oranges.
Location: C 21
Hours: 5:30am – 11pm

D Concourse

Grindhouse Killer Burgers
The local burger restaurant offers fresh ground burgers, fries, onion rings and Boozy Shakes.
Location: D 30
Hours: 7am – 10:30pm

E Concourse

One Flew South
An upscale restaurant featuring spirited global fare and sushi, with an extensive wine and cocktail list.
Location: E Centerpoint
Hours: 12pm – 11pm

F Concourse

Ecco Atlanta airportEcco
The airport location of the European-influenced restaurant located in Midtown Atlanta features fresh, seasonal fare.
Location: F Mezzanine
Hours: 10am – 10pm

French Meadow Bakery Café
Offers upscale sandwiches, desserts and more.
Location: F Mezzanine
Hours: 6am – last flight on F

Jekyll Island Seafood Company
Featuring fresh and fried seafood dishes and southern favorites like shrimp and grits.
Location: F 9
Hours: 9am – 11pm

Lorena Garcia Tapas BarLorena Garcia Tapas Bar
Offering a selection of small bites and sandwiches.
Location: F Mezzanine
Hours: 9am – 10:30pm

Maison Mathis
Offering European-inspired sandwiches, salads, desserts and beverages, as well as Belgian beer.
Location: F 3
Hours: 9am – last flight on F

The Original El TacoThe Original El Taco
A spirited Mexican restaurant featuring fresh food, margaritas and frozen mojitos.
Location: F Mezzanine
Hours: 9am – last flight on F

Pecan BistroThe Pecan
The airport location of the College Park restaurant offers upscale southern cuisine.
Location: F Mezzanine
Hours: 6am – last flight on F

Pei Wei Asian Diner
Offering Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai cuisine.
Location: F Mezzanine
Hours: 9am – last flight on F

Pei Wei and The VarsityThe Varsity
One of two airport locations (with Concourse C) of the famous Atlanta drive-in restaurant, offering chili cheese dogs, burgers and Frosted Oranges.
Location: F Mezzanine
Hours: 9am – last flight on F

Bon voyage and bon appetit!

images provided by HMSHost

New Food at Turner Field

When the Braves take the field for their season opener on April 1st there will be several new dining options for fans:

Turner FieldH&F Burger

If you’ve never been able to secure one of Holeman & Finch’s famous 10pm burgers you’ll have a much better chance at Turner Field. A limited number of burgers will be sold each game in Fan Plaza at the base of the BravesVision scoreboard and at a cart behind section 102 (near home plate). Want to skip the line? The Braves are offering 24 tickets that will let you jump to the front, making sure your craving for the double patties will be satisfied as soon as it hits. The seats are located in the outfield (sections 148L, 149R and 151L) and can be purchased online for $32 at Braves.com/hfburger.

Dantanna’s

The Turner Field location of the upscale sports restaurant will offer crab cake sandwiches and sesame steak skewers. Located at section 216, on the Terrace Level.

Yicketty Yogurt & More

Offering self-serve frozen yogurt and slushies with a variety of flavors and toppings. Located in sections 206 and 316.

Other options to note:

The Chop House underwent an off-season renovation and will have new menu items including smoked pulled pork nachos, smoked cheddar sausage grinder and McCann’s Burger (also sold at stands near sections 216 and 231). In addition to new furniture and lighting, there is a bobblehead wall featuring more than 250 bobbleheads. The Chop House is located in center field.

Kevin Rathbun Steak, which debuted in the 2012 season, will again offer savory steak sandwiches at section 205 (behind home plate on the first base side).

Fetzer will be introducing a new line of wines that come in ready-to-serve, disposable wine glasses. The Crimson red blend and Quartz white blend come in 100% recyclable glasses developed by Zipz. Turner Field is one of seven major league ballparks to offer the single-serve wines, which are expected to hit retail stores this summer.

The Atlanta Braves open their 2013 season against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, April 1st at 7:10pm.

Secrets of Holeman & Finch’s Famous Burger

In a city with so many burger restaurants that you could have a favorite burger for every night of the week, Holeman & Finch Public House still manages to stand out with its hard to get, off-the-menu item nicknamed the 10 o’clock burger.

H&F’s take on the cheeseburger has earned it a cult following in Atlanta and celebrity status nationwide. In fact, it was recently named Georgia’s Best Burger and America’s Best Late-Night Burger by the Food Network.

But what exactly makes H&F’s burger so special?

I along with a small group of burger fans had the chance to find out at a seminar with H&F’s Executive Sous Chef Jason Paolini at Taste of Atlanta. While demonstrating how each burger is made, Chef Paolini shared some secrets to why it’s the taste that prompts people to seek out the elusive dish.

Of course, you can’t ignore the fact that H&F’s burger got its reputation in part because it’s tough to order. Claiming one of the 24 double patty cheeseburgers is a fiercely competitive game. The burgers are made at precisely 10 pm every night except Sunday (when H&F is closed). Within minutes (and sometimes before the clock hits 10), the burgers have all been claimed.

Believe it or not, the 10 o’clock burger isn’t a gimmick to increase the restaurant’s popularity. It began as a special offering for people in the restaurant industry who would order the non-menu item after they finished work, around 10pm. Word about the burger apparently spread to customers, who started requesting them. Though the burger isn’t a secret anymore, it’s still not listed on the dinner menu.

As the burger’s popularity increased, so did the crazy things people did to get one. Chef Paolini shared some amusing stories of burger dedication, from one group staking out a table at 7pm and eating a leisurely 3 hour meal just so they could claim a burger, to a person offering $100 for the last burger of the night — ten times its normal price. Even on slower nights like Tuesdays or Wednesdays, there is not one burger that goes unclaimed.

So how did H&F decide to make 24 burgers?  It’s a pretty simple explanation — that’s the way the burgers fit on the grill. There’s room for exactly 12 burgers at a time, and H&F aims to make every burger identical and perfectly cooked.

Ignoring all the hype and issues that arise with supply and demand, the burger is pretty darn good — and we were reminded of that when we tasted the burger at the seminar. It’s partly due to the use of fresh ingredients, right down to the ketchup and mustard served with it (H&F makes its own). The beef and veggie toppings come mainly from farms in Georgia, with some from farms in Alabama and South Carolina.

The meat is about a 50/50 mix of chuck and brisket, a mix that gives a good balance of fat to meat (though the exact ratio is still a secret). According to Chef Paolini, Chef Linton Hopkins tried about 27 variations to create the best patty.

The meat is ground fresh every day to preserve its quality. It is passed through the grinder twice for a fine texture. Each patty is 4 oz. for a total of 8 oz. of meat for each burger.

The bun is made fresh daily by H&F’s own bakery. It’s a spongy, French bread-style bun that is shaped to fit each patty perfectly. The buns and other breads from H&F are available at farmers markets around Atlanta.

After sharing the secrets to the ideal patty and ideal bun, Chef Paolini revealed the ideal cheese. No, it’s not the finest cheddar from a farm in Georgia, or something imported from France — it’s Kraft American cheese! Something about the creamy taste and the way the orange squares melt make them the perfect addition to the burger.

Once the main ingredients were revealed, it was time to assemble the burger:

The bun is cut in half. The insides are spread with butter, then placed butter-side down on the grill to toast. The patties are salted and placed on the grill, then seared until golden brown in color. While still on the grill, one patty is topped with onions and both with a square of cheese. Then the burger is assembled — bun, patty with onions, patty, homemade bread and butter pickles, bun — and voilà! H&F’s perfect burger.

The burgers are served with crispy Idaho potato french fries and homemade ketchup and mustard on the side. Chef Paolini recommends pairing the burger with a nice cold beer.

With these tips you can try to create your own version of H&F’s burger at home, though I’ll leave it to the experts.

As we were enjoying the last bites of our delicious burgers, Chef Paolini left us with one final, perhaps not so closely guarded secret: if you’re dying to get the burger but don’t want to be squeezed out by the 10pm rush, come for lunch on Sunday. There’s no burger limit and you’re sure to leave satisfied.

Holeman & Finch Public House, 2277 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta.
404.
948.1175

Eating Las Vegas

During my long weekend in Las Vegas, everything seemed up.  I won a few hundred dollars playing craps, boosted my tan while relaxing by the pool and managed to put on a few pounds, thanks to the many dining options that Las Vegas has to offer.

I spent most of my restaurant time at Mandalay Bay, where I was staying.  You can’t go wrong there, with more than 20 restaurants including a few by big name chefs.  I did venture off site on Sunday for the Wynn’s incredible Champagne brunch, which I fondly remembered from the year before.

Click here to read about the Champagne brunch at the Wynn from April 2009

My husband and I arrived at the hotel around 9:30pm Friday night, though it felt like well after midnight to us.  We knew we weren’t up for gambling quite yet, but weren’t ready to go to sleep either.  We decided to get a glass of wine at Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s restaurant famous for its four-story wine tower and its “wine angels” who fetch the bottles.

Click here to read “Wine and a Performance at Aureole” from April 2009

We found a comfy table in the lounge and took a look at the wine list.  Had we not been so tired it would have been fun to select a bottle from one of the thousands on the eWinelist and watch a wine angel get it for us, but we instead opted for one glass each.  Both wines were great — a big and earthy Napa Cab for me and a spicy Russian River Valley Zin for him.  We split an order of the sirloin sliders, perfect with both wines.  Juicy, with guacamole and a zesty chipotle sauce, they were some of the best sliders I’ve had.

The reason for our trip was to meet up with my sister, who was traveling to Las Vegas the following day with a group of friends during their week off from their third year of medical school.

Fresh from assisting in surgeries and other doctor-related activities that make my weak stomach turn, my sister was ready for a weekend of fun and relaxation — and of course, good food (it runs in the family).

To ensure the trip kicked off on a high note, we had booked a table for three on Saturday night at Fleur de Lys, Hubert Keller’s restaurant.

Before dinner we decided to try our luck in the casino.  We hit the craps table at just the right time, doubling our money in 20 minutes thanks to a few hot shot rollers (my sister included).

Feeling good after cashing in my extra $50 in chips, I couldn’t wait to put the money towards a nice meal at Fleur de Lys, conveniently located about a 30 second walk from the craps tables.

Though just steps away from the casino floor, Fleur de Lys felt like an entirely different world.  Through the doors that blocked the chiming of slot machines, the restaurant was smaller than I imagined, with 30 foot ceilings that helped keep the noise down.  The room was warm and inviting with its chocolate brown tones and wall of stones and fresh roses.  From our table I could look up into the wine loft at part of the restaurant’s 12,000 bottle collection.

I could have spent hours looking through the wine list, a binder with all sorts of enticing options.  Fortunately for us budget conscious diners, the list had all of its bottles under $100 listed in one section.  I chose a lovely Côtes du Rhône that cost $63.

Since we wanted to get the full experience of Fleur de Lys at our first visit, we all opted for the four course prix fixe menu that cost $89.  I didn’t take photos of the dishes because it didn’t feel appropriate in the restaurant, but suffice it to say that the presentation of all our courses was artful with a purpose.  Everything on the plate was so flavorful and could be enjoyed on its own or together.

For the first course I had the Ahi Tuna Tartare, which was chopped up and served on a bed of shaved fennel slaw with a ginger ponzu sauce.  I’m not normally a fan of fennel but I loved it in this dish.  The fennel soaked up the ponzu sauce and offered a refreshing contrast in taste to the meaty tuna.

Next I ordered the Braised Veal and Yukon Gold Potato Ravioli.  Veal is not something I tend to order at restaurants but I was glad that I did here.  The pasta itself was so light and delicate, with wonderfully flavored meat inside.  It was a toss up who had ordered better, me or my husband and sister who had both opted for sea bass that was wrapped in a thin slice of chorizo and served with barley in a savory sun dried tomato sauce.

For the main course my husband and sister ordered the Prime Filet Mignon, served with a red wine reduction.  I have never seen a steak more perfectly cooked.  Both were medium rare, with a uniform pink color from one side to the other.  The meat itself was delicious and extremely tender.

However, I won the round with the Stout Braised Beef Shortribs.  They were topped with a small bit of whole grain mustard and served with a root vegetable puree.  “Wow” is really the only thing I need to say about this dish.

Besides being by far the best shortribs I’ve ever eaten (I’m a fan so I’ve ordered them often), it was the best dish I’ve had in months, maybe years.

I couldn’t get enough of the sauce, an insanely good Guinness reduction that the waiter poured around the meat.  Beef, lamb, a piece of cardboard — I would eat anything served with this sauce.  My husband and sister agreed, scooping up the sauce on pieces of their filet mignon after I refused to share any more of my shortribs.  And the root vegetable puree!  It was silky and luscious and wonderful with a little of the sauce.

With every dish, Keller demonstrated his exceptional skill at sauces.  Like a great wine, all were loaded with flavor, and yet they were never heavy.

I had already made up my mind that my meal at Fleur de Lys was the best dining experience I’ve had in the last couple of years; dessert made it official.

I ordered the trio of desserts: a warm Valrhona chocolate cake, peanut butter milkshake and caramel corn ice cream, served with a few pieces of caramel corn.  I’ve lost track of how many warm Valrhona chocolate cakes I’ve eaten over the years but this one was the best, with a center of pure heaven.  The ice cream was a sweet palate cleanser between the cake and the milkshake, my favorite on the plate.  Served in a glass resembling a tall shot glass with a short straw, the milkshake tasted like Reese’s peanut butter cups.  Though full after the fabulous meal, I wish I could have gotten several refills!

Top Chef Masters fans, take note: Fleur de Lys offers an early evening menu based on the dishes Keller made on season one of the show.  Yes, even the macaroni and cheese he made in a dorm room shower makes the menu, though I’m assuming he doesn’t actually prepare it in a shower anymore.

During my trip I also ate at Keller’s Burger Bar.  Though I’m kind of over the concept of big name chefs opening up burger joints because they’re ALL doing it, I have to say I was a fan of Keller’s.  From my seat at the bar I could see the assortment of beers on tap and the even larger selection of bottled beer in the fridges.  I ordered an amber from Sin City Brewing Company, a local microbrewery.

As with all these burger restaurants, the meal can cost as little or as much as you’d like it to be, depending on how many toppings (and how exotic) you order.  Burger Bar offers an assortment of patties including Black Angus, Kobe beef, buffalo, salmon, chicken and a veggie burger.  You also choose your bun from five options.  Toppings range from a variety of cheeses, sauces, mushrooms and bacons, to the more expensive foie gras and lobster.  Those who’ve won big may want to skip the customization and go right for the Rossini, a Kobe beef burger with sautéed foie gras and shaved truffles on an onion bun which costs $60.

I opted for the Country Natural burger ($10.25), made from beef which comes from a family-owned sustainable ranch.  I selected a ciabatta bun, then added on cheddar cheese and oyster mushrooms, which bumped up the price by $1.85.  It arrived loaded and juicy, and was great with my amber.

Had I not ordered both the sweet potato fries and the beer battered jalapeño pickles, I might have had room for dessert.  Specifically, the Nutella milkshake.  Thinking back to the yummy peanut butter milkshake, I could imagine how wonderfully rich it would taste.  I planned to return another day just for the milkshake, but unfortunately never made it back.

For diners wanting a burger for dessert, Burger Bar offers a Chocolate Burger.  It has a warm donut for the bun, Nutella mousse for the patty and passion fruit, strawberry and kiwi as the toppings.

On my final evening in Las Vegas I happened to visit another Top Chef Masters star’s restaurant — Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, a sustainable seafood restaurant in the middle of the desert.

As we were a large group (in addition to my husband, sister and me, four of my sister’s friends joined us), we were seated at a big table just outside the restaurant which took away some of the ambiance, though we still enjoyed our meal.

For my first course I went for turf rather than surf, with the oh so good Steak Tartare ($17), which had pieces of shaved truffles, Parmesan and miso egg yolk mixed in.  For my main course I ordered the Cioppino ($35), a delicious mix of mussels, clams, shrimp, fish and calamari-resembling calamarata pasta in a light and savory tomato broth.  The shellfish was well cooked, not too chewy, and the broth was so good I wish I had more of the sourdough garlic bread to soak it up.

My second favorite dish was the Rainbow Trout ($31), which my sister ordered.  It was served on top of bacon and marble potatoes with a pecan-mustard dressing.  I loved the flavor combination of the fish and the smoky bacon.

Even before we arrived at RM Seafood, we knew we were ordering dessert.  And we knew which dessert we were ordering: Rick’s Tasting Game.  Sixteen different ice creams and sorbets are served blind, with the diner guessing the flavors.  As our waiter informed us, no one has ever gotten all 16 correct.

Armed with my experience tasting wines, I was ready for the challenge.

How did we do?  Click here to find out.