Vegas Unexpected: Martini Time at the M Resort

Chef Tina Martini<br><em>Photo by Tom Donoghue</em>
Chef Tina Martini
Photo by Tom Donoghue

Dinner and a show, the quintessential Vegas evening. Usually, one follows the other, but now we’ve got another option, where dinner (or lunch if you catch the early performance) is the show. The M Resort, which recently gained fame for hosting “America’s Top Chef,” is now putting its state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen to new use as the home of “Martini Time,” a show featuring “naturopathic” chef Tina Martini. Having just had my culinary interest whetted by viewing “Julie & Julia,” I loved the idea of watching a pro whip up something awesome and coming away with a few tips to spice up my own cooking.

You’d think that with a name that conjures up gin and vermouth, Tina Martini might have found herself drawn into bartending. But since “extra olives” weren’t her calling in life, she uses her catchy moniker to add an extra twist (sorry, couldn’t resist) to her cooking show. “It’s Martini time!” the chef cries, her long braid flying as she bounds down the aisle from the back of the room and takes her spot under the lights and cameras. If there’s one ingredient Chef Tina Martini has plenty of, it’s energy.

Studio B demonstration kitchen at the M Resort<br><em>Photo Courtesy of the M Resort</em>
Studio B demonstration kitchen at the M Resort
Photo Courtesy of the M Resort

I’ve already learned from checking out the pages that were waiting for me when I took my seat at a table in the front row, that my fellow audience members and I -– not a large crowd, because the demo kitchen seats only about 50 -– that we’re going to be observing the creation of a dish called “Portobello Napoleon.” Just reading the ingredients and directions has made my mouth water. Are we going to get a taste? I can’t help wondering.

Chef Martini wastes no time getting down to business, and she needs some help. Jack, a good sport from the audience, volunteers as Martini’s sous chef and is soon hard at work slicing up a yellow tomato.

“You wanna squeeze my tomatoes, Jack?” Martini asks between explanations of why something might be called a Napoleon (it’s the layers) and why tomato seeds are worth eating (the goo around them is the world’s best natural blood thinner). Throwing around terms like isoflavanoid and anthocyanin as easily as she wields a tomato shark and a spider strainer, Martini leaves no question as to why she’s often called the medicine chef.

Portobello Napoleon<br><em>Photo by Megan Edwards</em>
Portobello Napoleon
Photo by Megan Edwards

While Martini is demonstrating an impressive potato ricer, a crew of servers makes a Portobello Napoleon appear in front of each audience member. Interrupting her explanation of why grapeseed oil is the perfect “carrier” for other flavors -– like the carrot and ginger she has used to turn it into brilliant yellow “napping,” Martini commands us all to “Eat!” I need no further encouragement, digging right into the layered creation in front of me. Topped with a tiny “virtual egg” that looks like the real thing but is really tomato, heavy cream and mozzarella cheese, it’s a work of culinary art.

After completing all the steps it takes to create Portobello Napoleons, which involves making not only the virtual eggs but also shallot dressing and potato wafers, Martini shows us how to make a drink to go with them, a blend of pomegranate, blood orange, and sparkling pink grapefruit juices. We get our tastes of “Pom’s Blood Juice” in martini glasses.

“Anybody bring a flask?” asks Chef Martini. “A little good vodka—?” But really, the martinis were plenty good just the way they were. Pomegranates were Cleopatra’s longevity secret, Martini told us.

I’ve skipped over many of the cool tips Chef Martini mentioned in her nonstop patter while she worked her culinary magic. She passed around a silicone pad and told us to “put on our chef attitude” and buy them at a restaurant supply store for a fraction of what a department store might charge. She recounted the nutritional value of each food she demonstrated and how to enhance it by preparing it properly. I had no idea, for example, that when you cut up onions, garlic, shallots, or any other members of the allium family, you should let them sit for at least ten minutes before proceeding. Exposure to air enhances their healthful components.

After the show, we were all escorted to reserved seats in the dining room, because even though we had been plied with Portobello Napoleons and Pom’s Blood Juice, the eating part of the evening was far from over. A ticket to “Martini Time” includes dinner (or lunch, depending on the time) at the M’s legendary buffet.

To sum up, “Martini Time” is a foodie’s dream -– a dinner show with a dinner encore. In addition, it’s an enlightening class in healthful gourmet cooking and an entertaining glimpse into the world of a professional chef. The demonstration kitchen at the M is a delightfully intimate venue with beautiful lighting and state-of-the-art cameras and monitors that offer excellent close-ups of what’s going on.

I offer one important piece of advice: go hungry.


One response on “Vegas Unexpected: Martini Time at the M Resort

  1. I saw a commercial the other day for her show, it piqued my interest. Thanks for sharing your experience, it definitely sounds like something I’d enjoy.

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