Saturday, August 29, 2009

smoothest ice cream ever

Haven’t posted in a few days. Been traveling. We had to drop my youngest daughter off at college in Southern California. From there we rented a car and drove to Las Vegas. I spent the day on Thursday visiting influential Vegas pastry people. I hooked up with my buddy Chris Herrin from Bouchon. I mentioned before, he is the pastry chef there. He was my tour guide.

We stated the morning with a visit to the Ice Boutique, a wholesale ice cream business owned by Patrice Caillot. Patrice is probably the most open French guy I've ever met. Patrice was a member of the U.S. pastry team that competed in France a few years back. I don’t know much about producing ice cream, but what I tasted there was incredible. Patrice pointed out a number of interesting production points that make his ice cream so special. He blends all the ingredients, and allows them to set, at a controlled temperature for a minimum of twelve hours. Of course he uses only natural ingredients. No prepared mixes or bases. I saw a pile of dried, scraped, vanilla beans, thousand and thousand of beans. We tasted crème brulee and bananas foster ice cream, and strawberry sorbet. His ice cream is as smooth as custard. The crème brulee ice cream has shards of real caramel. He had unbelievable red colour is his sorbet. Only obtainable by using perfect strawberries. Patrice went on to explain that getting his business of the ground has been tough. Vegas is still very quiet. Food and beverage folks in town, are avoiding pricey items like ice cream from the Ice Boutique. Just like a retail bakery, since we use better ingredients, we have to charge higher prices. I am also sure, just like a retail bakery, quality will prevail.

After our meeting with Patrice we met with Jean Phillipe Maury, over at the Bellagio. Actually we met with Jean Phillipe, JP from now on, and his sous chef, Claude Escamillo. JP is a MOF, Muellier of France. Translates to “Best of France”. I think there are a hundred twenty of them, or so. Very difficult title to obtain. JP operates a pastry shop in the lobby of the hotel, and is also responsible for all pastry production for the buffet and room service as well. Sixty six people work in the pastry shop. Their work is stellar. Second to none. The pastry shop is near the registration desk in the hotel. When they came out to meet us, we walked for blocks thru the basement of the hotel. The employee cafeteria was bigger than any high school lunch room. I’m sure you can imagine, ten thousand employees. The Billagio is next to a new property called “City Center”. I understand that the pastry production will move over to that property and serve both properties. No bread baking, but they do a lot of breakfast pastry. I mean A LOT! Perfect chocolate work. All his petit gateaux, individual cakes, are just beautiful.

From the Bellagio we went to “Chef Rubber”. Chef Rubber is a unique business that supplies upscale pastry shops and choclatiers. They have a very extensive line of chocolate transfer sheets, chocolate colours, pastry tools and pastry publications. They have a showroom right there in Las Vegas. I could have gotten lost for hours. Tools and gadgets by the aisle. molds, cutters, engraved rolling pins, silicone forms, volumes of baking and pastry books.

From Chef Rubber we went to Bon Bread. A large artisan bread bakery started and operated by Carlos Pereira. They seem to be the only viable bread baker in Vegas. Typical American success story. Carlos came here from Peru, with nothing. Took classes with Didier Rosada. Strarted his bread bakery with an oven and a mixer. Worked night and day, sleeping in his car when necessary. He just took over an additional ten thousand square feet. New total is just shy of thirty thousand. Operates a whole fleet of trucks. I can’t imagine how much bread is consumed in Las Vegas daily. His bread is very nice. He has done this in ten years. Over at the Venetian hotel, home of Bouchon, they use his bread. Chris is very impressed with Carlos’ offerings.

The day ended with dinner at “The Range”. A very, very good steakhouse in Harrah’s casino. Bread there was pretty good. It wasn’t from Bon Bread. The Harrah’s group uses the Paris hotel as a baking commissary for all their properties. No room for dessert.

I’m writing this at thirty thousand feet. Anxious to get back to the bakery. We land around 10:30pm. I will be in the bakery by 2am. Weather for Saturday is predicted to be dry. Cool but dry. Got a lot to bake for the markets.


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