With the heat soaring to 100 degrees again in the Heartland, salad has been figuring prominently on our table. This afternoon represented our new typical: We dined on salad at an Italian bakery and restaurant. We felt like wilted Romaine lettuce from the heat walking from the car to the entrance door. Usually we dine on a Panini in the deli café after purchasing Italian meats, cheese, and pastries. Today we opted for its restaurant decorated with faux grape arbors, but lovely scenery overlooking voluptuous potted plants on the patio.
Salad is not the food about which I dream. Aside from an artfully crafted Caprese Salad with tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, not those tasteless hothouse ones, fresh mozzarella this side of paradise topped with fresh basil, salads do not figure prominently on my horizon. Truth be known, I indulge periodically in a refreshing Cobb Salad too. Fruit, on the other hand, quenches my thirst, and is colorful and delicious when newly plucked. Upon fruit, I may wax poetic; on salad, not even a limerick emerges.
Kelley, my multi-talented sister-in-law, makes world-class salads that are rhapsodies in themselves. Even though she willingly shares her recipes with me, I seem to lack the salad knack she possesses. Even my daughter makes salads an event, like her aunt. My talent, I like to point out, lies elsewhere in the culinary landscape.
Even though I may be left in the salad stems, I plan to continue to partake of salads my family members make, relishing with gusto each bite.
Captivating aspects of travel include partaking of the local cuisine. Prior to our journey to the land of Las Vegas, I enlisted the help of a Bellagio Concierge. Reservations were then made well in advance at Bellagio’s Picasso, Circo, and Todd English’s Olives. While the meals were all memorable, two out of the three proved to be our favorites.
Dinner at Picasso was not only superb, but a true gustatory experience. Seated overlooking The Fountains, we savored delectable creations of Chef Julian Serrano such as Sauteed Ruby Red Shrimp [shrimp stacked and surrounded with zucchini, artichoke, tomato confit and piquillo pepper vinaigrette]; Roasted Tornado Loin of Colorado Lamb [with pisto, mint aioli, and tempura zucchini flower]; Sauteed Medallions of Fallow Deer [with spring truffles, white asparagus, and Zinfandel sauce; and scallops with mashed potatoes in a divine sauce. Dessert too was pure poetry: Butterscotch Cream Cheese and Lime Tart [topped with toffee read pudding and rum ice cream]. The café au lait topped off a memorable dining experience. Pleasing to the eye too was the eclectic floral arrangements on the dark wood sideboards enhanced the beauty of the surroundings.
In addition to the cuisine, the non-edible coup de grace of Picasso is the authentic Pablo Picasso artwork that covers the walls. Large canvases watch diners feast on the French and Spanish-influenced cuisine of Picasso. The china is fraught with Picasso drawings; each piece is different and makes for an artistic experience overall. The Picasso ceramics displayed on a wall add to the aesthetic dining and art experience of the unique restaurant that bears the master’s name.
Another tremendous epicurean experience was at Circo, a Sirio Maccioni restaurant. My parents cooked Southern Italian food, specifically Calabrese style, yet the regional Italian cooking of Tuscany is one I love. My veneration of Tuscan cuisine was more than sated at Circo. The imported fresh mozzarella from Italy’s Campagna province with yellow and red tomatoes topped with chopped fresh basil, made for an ambrosial Insalata Caprese. Spring truffles were in season, and the homemade Pappardelle with braised chicken was graced with liberal amounts of the delicate truffles. The Fried Polenta Parmigiano and the piquant Insalata Misata [marinated Campari tomatoes, organic field greens, pecorino cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette] also enchanted our taste buds.
The Circo servers, Chris and Patrick, made much of Anjelia’s 21st birthday: Since we were running short on time prior to a show, they asked that we return post-show for her special dessert. We sprinted back into the restaurant after ten p.m., and our new friends served her up Panacotta [vanilla panna cotta with seasonal fruits of strawberries and blueberries] on a lovely Circo plate with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate across it. Tiramisu Tradizionale and a cup of caffe latte rounded out our desserts as we watched the enchanting Lago di Bellagio Fountains from our same table.
Circo’s charming décor brings a smile to one’s face: It is designed as a high-end European circus motif with a breath-taking big top on the ceiling. Along with the fine wine and food, Circo, like Picasso, proved to be a Bellagio haunt to which we will return.