A Foodie Experience By A Non Foodie ~ Jaleo Spanish Tapas Restaurant
Jaleo Is Located Inside The Cosmopolitan Hotel Here In Las Vegas...
Having had a foodie experience recently, I have to say first, I am NOT a foodie. I do have a lot of respect for those who are. Those people who are fascinated by every aspect of food, from taste to aroma to how it is prepared to ambiance in the restaurant, all coming together to create this ultimate foodie experience are known quite appropriately as "foodie's".
It was definitely an interesting experience, though. We went to a Spanish Tapas restaurant in the Cosmopolitan Hotel here in Las Vegas, called "Jaleo". Walking through the Cosmopolitan is a wonderful experience. From the stunningly beautiful, sparkling, elegant and draped chandeliers that are in some cases two to three stories high, to the classy escalators to get to your destination, the Cosmopolitan is a beautiful hotel. We were out that night on a business dinner for my husband's employer.
My husband did a lot of international traveling when he was in the Air Force, but the farthest I have ever been away from the United States mainland was to Hawaii. We lived in Hawaii for three years, and that was a wonderful experience that I will always cherish. Hawaii is a beautiful place, and one that I look forward to going back to again.
My husband had been to Spain, so he had an idea of what to expect in Spanish cuisine, cooked incidentally in the Jaleo restaurant by a Spanish Chef. This experience was so fascinating to me, almost bordering on sensory overload... the combination of the very loud atmosphere that got louder as the night went on, to the "IPad" type device that was brought to our table (I have NO idea how to work an IPad, we don't have one.) I was supposed to choose the drinks from this thing... we ended up with the wine that was suggested by the waiter. WHEW! I escaped that one!
THEN, there was the menu, written about half in Spanish and half in English. Upon perusing the menu, there was something that caught my attention. It was the "ham" selection, called "Jamon Iberico de bellota fermin" ~ underneath that title was this description "cured ham from the legendary acorn-fed black-footed Iberico pigs of Spain."
First of all, how do you know that this stuff is actually from "acorn-fed black-footed pigs"? That was the question I had... my husband's answer? "I don't know!" One of the diners we were with did tell us that in Spain they take food very seriously and the way that animals are treated is very important. As a result, they take great care of the animals so the food will taste better. I'll have to take her word for it! I just found it interesting the way it was described on the menu. See? When I said I am NOT a "foodie" I was not kidding!
One of the diners we were with told us that Las Vegas is renowned throughout the world as a foodie paradise due to the large number of restaurants here, as well as the famous chefs who have their well-known restaurants here. We have walked past restaurants by Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and Todd English to name a few... and have been amazed by how many people they attract.
I learned a lot that night. A lot of the menu threw me for a loop, so I just decided to let everyone else pick the dishes and I would sample a little of each (that is the idea behind "Tapas" dining anyway, big plates brought out with samples on them, and each person takes a bit.) It seems to be a very "social" way of eating. It's a way I thought was kind of neat. It certainly created a fun foodie experience as far as I was concerned.
So, we ended up ordering some bread with tomato on it (called "Pan con tomate") described as "Rustic bread brushed with fresh tomato"... while I was expecting something bordering on "soggy" it was a delight to find it was actually VERY good and not soggy at all. It was nice and crunchy with a very light tomato taste on top.
We also ordered a ham platter called "Seleccion de jamones Fermin por Jose" that was good, too. It looked like a scattering of prosciutto type slices of meat on a wooden board, with the slices of bread placed at the end of the board. I'm guessing someplace on there was the ham made from the acorn-fed black-footed Iberico pigs, but I sure couldn't tell you which one it was! Tasted a bit like bacon... bacon.... BACON!!!! (Picturing the commercial with the dog going crazy over the taste of bacon treats.) See? I told you I am NOT a "foodie!"
Another dish that was brought out with the ham was a "Queso" plate. That consisted of cheese samples. It was an interesting selection of about four slices (small slices) of cheese. Three of them were made from sheep's milk and one from cow's milk. Along with that was a handful of almonds, a few raisins still on a stem... and some... apricots I think they were...it was another interesting sampling.
Next came a "salad"... it kind of looked like hollowed out celery but it wasn't, it was called Endive and inside of that was goat cheese, an orange slice, and almonds. Fascinating stuff... but this is "salad?" I think along with the salad, a plate came out with about 12 olives on it... these were green olives stuffed with what looked like pimentos. There was also something called "liquid olives"... strangest thing I have ever eaten, I have to admit.
There was an olive type "skin" on these liquid olives, but the center was liquid and tasted something like olive. I found out that the name of this is "Aceitunas rellenas y aceitunas Ferran Adria", and the description was Olives stuffed with anchovy and piquillo and "Ferran Adria" ~ liquid olives. Alrighty then. Chalk that one up to a BRAND new experience!
My Adventures With Foie Gras, Truffles, and Liquid Olives...
Next to come out of the kitchen were a couple of seafood dishes (now everything brought out was in small quantities, with things like "reductions" on the side, a little drizzle of sauce)... very interestingly presented! Not huge portions by any means, but very tasty. The first seafood dish was garlic shrimp called "Gambas al Ajillo" described as "very famous tapa of shrimp sauteed with garlic"... why it tasted sweet was a mystery to me, but it was very good!
Everyone looked at me when we were ordering (I think to laugh at the new kid... nah, I'm totally kidding. Everyone was VERY nice.) Anyway, they wanted ME (the NON-FOODIE mind you) to select one of the dishes... ok, so I was kind of sweating making a choice, until I saw this thing called "Vieiras con salsa de romesco" described as "Seared scallops with romesco sauce." When it came to our table, it was TWO scallops (but they were BIG scallops that we cut into pieces so everyone could try them!) with a delightful sauce... I have to admit, it was the one dish that everyone seemed to like BEST. We had to cut them up into small pieces and share. Not a bad choice for this NON-FOODIE! I was kind of proud of myself for choosing something... edible.
And the last dish to be brought out was Paella... you can't go wrong with a great Paella. And in this restaurant, it is cooked in the traditional Spanish cooking style, over an open wood fire. How they got the fire marshal's here in Las Vegas to let them cook it this way was a mystery to us, but this is how it is cooked. And it is FABULOUS! This Paella kitchen is very unique, and according to the article I read, it is the first of its kind in America.
The Paella we tasted had duck liver in it, known as "foie gras" and had a sprinkling of "truffles"... I guess truffles are a huge culinary deal. They are VERY, VERY expensive, hard to obtain and therefore they are very pricey. They were very good, I was sure to put just a piece of truffle into my mouth, so I could be sure I only tasted that... tasted like mushroom. VERY good though, since I like mushrooms.
I have to admit, the dessert we shared was the BEST part... a chocolate "cake" that was more like pudding with a little cake on the bottom, with hazelnut flavored "ice cream"... I'm not sure if it was really ice cream. Very good nonetheless, and a great way to end a fantastic meal.
I don't think this experience exactly turned me into a foodie... but it was a fascinating and fun night out, and a treat for the senses. It wasn't something I would want to do every night, even if I had the means to do that.
But for a special night out, it was an unbelievable experience, one that I will remember for a long time. I guess that must be the point of becoming a foodie ~ the continual search for these wonderful new culinary experiences, along with the making of great memories with friends. If you ever get the chance to have a foodie experience, I would advise anyone to go for it. You learn a lot along the way and experience things you might never have experienced otherwise.