Nicole Brisson labors over the hot grills at CarneVino, a Las Vegas steakhouse considered one of America's finest. Her executive chef status there alone qualifies her to handle the hearty appetites of Big Smoke Las Vegas attendees. But she is also an avid cigar lover. That fact transforms her into a kitchen maestro for cigar smokers, someone who understands that people who love a great cigar also need early morning repasts that stand up to two days of smoking and drinking and, perhaps, having a bit too much fun.
Her Big Smoke breakfast did just that, but with a creative twist. Instead of a standard steak and eggs approach, she offered up a crespelle, a large thin pancake like a crepe, stuffed with carmelized onions, guanciale (an unsmoked Italian bacon) and a ragout of mixed mushrooms. It was placed on a bed of truffled Fontina fonduta, a creamy and savory cheese sauce, and served with crispy potatoes. The attendees had already been digging into assorted pastries while downing a spicy Bloody Mary, or a glass of orange juice, while they waited for the main course.
Noting the clean plates and the eager faces in the crowd, she said, "Maybe I should put three crespelles on every plate instead of just two." No one disagreed. Earlier she had said it was always challenging to cook for the Big Smoke breakfast. "But I find it also interesting, and a bit intimidating." After the meal, she answered a stream of questions about steak, especially the unique 120-day, dry-aging process that most steaks go through at CarneVino.
She had been given the challenge of also matching the power and flavor of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo's special offering for the breakfast: The Inch Big Smoke Las Vegas 2014, a cigar he made just for the attendees of the seminar. "You will never smoke this cigar anywhere else," Perez-Carrillo told the large banquet room filled to capacity at 9:30 a.m. with more than 500 people. "You've have to tell me how you like it. I haven't smoked it yet either."
The legendary cigarmaker said he had taken the usual blend for The Inch, and then used a sun-grown Criollo '98 wrapper from the Jalapa valley in Nicaragua, a binder from the country's Condega region then added leaves in the blend-a Connecticut Broadleaf, a Havana Vuelta Arriba from Mao, Dominican Repubic, and a leaf of Arapiraca from Brazil.
"You be the judge of how it tastes," Perez-Carrillo said.