For about four years of my mid-20s, living in Las Vegas, I was a vegetarian, with two exceptions: Thanksgiving and Craftsteak. Thanksgiving is understandable–I have a weakness for my mother’s gravy, no matter how much the idea of body-part-meatjuice disgusts me on other, more rational days.
Craftsteak, too, is understandable. This is Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, yes, located in the StudioWalk of MGM Grand, but more importantly, this was my friend, Jaff Hom’s restaurant. He was a chef here, and everything his knives touch turn to foie gras. Some nights, I would have the pleasure of accompanying Deny here, and occasionally other friends. Other times, Jaff would have the night off and we would all go together. Every meal became the best I’ve ever had.
The first thing I learned, when eating under Jaff’s tutelage, was that you don’t order. You just eat. And that’s what I did. Our table filled with food–quail, Kobe, short ribs, New York strip, scallops, salmon, Brussels sprouts with bacon—and we ate. This is how eating should be. And who was I, a mere grass eater, to turn up my nose at such a wonderful offering, prepared with love, expressly for our table?
Year-round, I would forgo meat. But on nights like these? Well, I wasn’t quite a vegetarian. I was a Craftetarian. I ate what was served and I loved every single bite.
Today, years later, our old group of friends has all moved on, splaying across the country. Now that I live in Chicago, hog butcher to the world, I’ve gone back to meat-eating year-round, or, at least, when the urge arises. Jaff’s moved New York, where he recently got a gig as Executive Chef at The Lambs Club, a swanky new(ish) restaurant in the Chatwal hotel in Midtown. I hadn’t seen Jaff in more than four years, and Tuesday night I loved getting the chance to catch up at The Lambs Club. He worked. I feasted.
The meal was a lovely throwback to old times, and Jaff’s chef knives are sharp as ever. I told him I was simply interested in a snack, and he went to it, planning a personalized repertoire, starting with a delicious scallop ceviche, which was further freshened by morsels of sweet watermelon, and served in dainty shells. That was followed by a perfectly seasoned tortellini with field-fresh peas. Then came a salmon I would consider selling my soul for. And it was all topped off with a turtle sundae–piled high with butterscotch ice cream, peanut brittle, amaretto caramel and fudge sauce.
By the end of the four courses, I was relieved I specified “snack” and not meal. But more than anything, I was pleased to now be a Lambatarian. Just like old times, I loved every single bite.