Foie Gras Martini
Andre Rochat, owner of the restaurant Andre’s in the Monte Carlo, was probably the first chef to bring refined French dining to Las Vegas, having opened the original Andre’s in downtown Las Vegas in 1980. Because of that, some people mistakenly expect his current location in The Monte Carlo to be something of an anachronism. But while the restaurant respects its classic French roots, it also delivers some of the most innovative spins on fine dining you’ll find anywhere in Las Vegas. And that’s due, in large part, to Executive Chef Gary LaMorte.
Gary first came to my attention when I heard about his foie gras martini – which is officially known as the Marti Gras. As a foie lover, the idea of someone turning the rich, earthy liver into a cocktail was mind-boggling. And after tasting one, I was hooked.
Over the years, LaMorte has prepared me some excellent meals, including one that consisted of 12 courses of foie gras, and another that featured eight courses of caviar (each paired with a different vodka – which might explain why my memory of the final courses is a bit hazy). We’ve spent a few nights out drinking together after work, and many more chatting at the bar in Andre’s.
One of the most hysterically amazing things Gary ever told me was that the foie gras martini was actually inspired by one of my favorite bars, the Double Down Saloon. And the minute I heard that, I knew I had to take him there. The Double Down is the coolest punk rock bar in Las Vegas, and probably one of the coolest in America. (And trust me, I’ve been to a lot of punk rock bars in my life.)
Before living in Las Vegas, I spent a decade in New York, and spent four of those years tending bar in the infamous punk rock bar CBGB. The place became my second home, and its employees were my second family – many are still among my closest friends. When my wife and I moved to Las Vegas in 2001, a few of those friends drove cross-country with us. And on our first night, my friend Bryan told us he’d heard about a cool local bar called The Double Down. We looked it up, and headed over to christen my new life in Sin City. The minute I walked through the doors of the grungy little dive, I knew I was going to love Las Vegas.
The Double Down has a handful of signature drinks. The most popular is a fruity concoction known as “ass juice.” But die-hards know you can’t be a real Vegas punk until you’ve consumed one of the bacon martinis. When Double Down owner P. Moss introduced it, it was probably the most radical thing out there. Today, it’s become the inspiration for countless meat-flavored cocktails in cities across America. When writing a story about savory cocktails for Luxury Las Vegas magazine, I interviewed a half dozen or so bartenders from high-end Strip casinos. And nearly all of them were familiar with The Double Down’s bacon martini. In a recent episode of the Showtime series Nurse Jackie, they mention a bacon martini. And as you’ll see in the video, it was the inspiration for Gary’s foie gras martini.
For years I’ve been a punk storming the walls of the fine dining world. For this one, I got to do the opposite – bring one of my fine dining friends into my punk world. And as you can see, they really aren’t that different.