| Sustainability on the Strip |
If you have an appetite for eco-sumptuous dining on the Las Vegas Strip, the odds of discovering such soulful cuisine amid the gargantuan-but-questionably-sourced, all-you-can-eat buffets are about as good as winning at the slots … and I should know, having learned that lesson the hard way! Fortunately, though, it is possible to beat the odds. One sure way is to make for B&B Ristorante—the creation of star chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (of TV’s MasterChef fame) at The Venetian—where the food is as dependably good as the back-of-the-house environmentalism.
Batali and Bastianich, you should know, have created a green culinary empire. A total of 25 restaurants in New York, L.A. and Vegas. And at the center of the B&B Hospitality Group’s green initiatives stands Elizabeth Meltz, a dynamic and determined director of food safety and sustainability who, since 2009, has ushered in wave after wave of eco-friendly initiatives. Not least of her accomplishments: successfully accrediting 18 B&B locations as certified green restaurants via an independent rating system that evaluates water efficiency, waste and chemical reduction (check out B&B’s “report card”).
When it comes to actual food sourcing, however, each restaurant’s culinary team makes its own decisions. In Las Vegas, that would be B&B Ristorante’s Culinary Director Jason Neve. Over many years, he has become intimately familiar with the challenges of buying sustainable ingredients in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
If not local, at least sustainable
But think about it. Compared to the eco-farmer scene in, say, San Francisco or New York City—where fields of biodynamic greens and pastures grazed by organic cows are close at hand—Las Vegas has relatively slim pickings nearby. And demand threatens to outstrip supply, as restaurants and local shoppers embrace the eat-local mantra. Even here, there’s a burgeoning farmers’ marketscape.
Vegas Bets on Farmers Markets
Downtown3rd Farmers Market
Fridays 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
The newest in town, this market is helping to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area. The 10,000-square-foot market showcases local farmers, food truck vendors, art shows and cooking demonstrations from local chefs.
Location: take US-95 S, exit at Casino Center (75B); market is located at Casino Center and Stewart
Market Gardens Park Farmers Market
Tuesdays 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Location: west on Interstate 215 West to Town Center Drive; right two blocks to 10401 Gardens Park Drive
Bruce Trent Park Farmers Market
Wednesdays 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Co-Sponsored by The City of Las Vegas and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services
Location: north on I-95 towards Reno to Summerlin Parkway; two exits to Rampart; turn right and go two blocks to Bruce Trent Park, 1600 N. Rampart Blvd.
Floyd Lamb Park Farmers Market
First & Third Saturday of each Month 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Location: 9100 Tule Spring Rd. Las Vegas
fresh52 Farmers & Artisan Market
Saturday & Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
fresh52 is an open air market featuring organic & pesticide/chemical free seasonal produce, freshly baked goods, gourmet olive oils, salsas, spices, sauces, nuts, handmade modern craft, artisans & more.
Location: Saturday @ Tivoli Village, 302 S. Rampart, Las Vegas
Sunday @ Sansone Park Place, 9480 S. Eastern, Las Vegas
Source: A version of this article originally appeared in NetworkinVegas Magazine.
“I’m almost at the point of having to fight to get some products from the farmers and producers because they’re getting so successful with the rise of farmers markets in town,” says Neve, who is always on the lookout for new options.
Wryly noting that seafood, sustainable or otherwise, isn’t so plentiful in the desert, Neve says he likes to work with small boat, line-catch fisherman from the Gulf of Mexico. When possible, B&B simply removes non-sustainable seafood from the menu altogether. For example, rock shrimp were eliminated in 2011 because of shrimp trawlers’ notoriously destructive drag-netting techniques, catching and discarding upwards of 44 pounds of non-target seafood for every pound of shrimp caught.
“I wouldn’t say we have more sustainable seafood on our menus now, but I would say that we have less unsustainable seafood,” Meltz tells me in a phone interview, adding that she arranged for screenings of the documentary End of the Line, with its powerful message about the impending collapse of ocean fisheries, at all the B&B restaurants. “The menus changed after that.”
The Mmmmmm factor
You’ve probably guessed by now I enjoy geeking out over sustainability issues, but how about a word or two about flavors at B&B Ristorante? Okay, one word … of sorts. Mmmmmm.
But to dine here is to engage more than your taste buds and your eco-sensibilities. It’s also an aural experience. Mario Batali believes his food—and you—deserves the perfect sound track. And so at all his restaurants he curates the tunes, too.
Our highlights: the burrata, a delectably soft Italian cheese of fresh mozzarella and cream (from artisan cheese maker Di Stefano of Southern California), accompanied, aptly, by Guns n’ Roses’ “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”; crimson turnip mezzalune with pomegranates and apple chips with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and bruschetta with a chickpea, sage, basil, black olive tapenade, to Dave Matthews’ “The Space Between.” Tempted yet? Check out the current dinner menu.—Michael Straus, Senior Editor
The Reality of Green Restaurants, a TED Talk by Elizabeth Meltz